We’re two weekends into the season and people are already worried about England’s stars with less than 100 days to go before the World Cup.
John Stones has not played a single minute of Premier League football. Kalvin Phillips and Conor Gallagher barely had a kick. Phillips took a hit so he didn’t play yesterday. Ben White plays out of position. Harry Maguire’s place in Manchester United’s defense is in jeopardy.
If I were Gareth Southgate I wouldn’t be panicking just yet. I would still have faith in my players and accept the challenge. I’d love to see how Raheem Sterling does at Chelsea, now he’s playing every week. I look forward to seeing Harry Kane lead a Tottenham side that could have their best season in years under one of the best managers out there in Antonio Conte.
Gareth Southgate doesn’t have to worry about his World Cup squad in Qatar for the time being
For me there are only three players in the squad who are irreplaceable. Two are Kane and Sterling. The other is Declan Rice. Rice has it all. His athleticism and sense of danger. He covers, he fills in gaps, he intercepts. He has a lot more to offer offensively than he did two years ago.
He added a great ability to stride forward with the ball and run past players. He would probably like to add more goals to his game but that will come when he plays for a side that dominates the ball more than West Ham. He has the potential to become a full No.8. For England, you only realize how good he is when he’s not there.
Out of everyone else, I don’t think there is a player to eliminate and his potential replacement would weaken the team significantly.
With the World Cup approaching and there are still some big names who have barely played, Gareth has some big decisions to make. In the past we have chosen players to our detriment based on their reputation and favoritism. He wants players who perform regularly.
West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice is one of three indispensable English players
Our strength in depth means I’m not worried. We have an immense competition for places.
We may not have two Kyle Walkers, but we do have the best attacking right-back in the world in Trent Alexander-Arnold. And we have Reece James. Kieran Trippier also impresses for Newcastle.
Luke Shaw had nailed the left-back spot at the Euros but Trippier has played there ever since. Ben Chilwell looks fit and sharp again while Ryan Sessegnon flies at Spurs. He looked great last weekend: strong, direct and scored his first goal.
There’s always someone showing up, someone willing to step in. We are blessed with an abundance of talents. If Maguire plays regularly for United then he will be in Gareth’s team. He had a great euro. He is also a player who is so resilient that he never allows events at his club to affect his international performances.
I’m also confident that Stones will get a good run around town. But if the worst-case scenario happens and they don’t play regularly, we still have power at depth. Eric Dier is now thriving under Conte in the back three. He’s been playing good football for a long time. Fikayo Tomori is a key player at AC Milan.
John Stones hasn’t played a minute yet, but the Three Lions have other good options
Conor Coady will play every week since joining Everton. Tyrone Mings appears to be back in the squad under Steven Gerrard.
In midfield, it looks like Gallagher is back on loan and playing football regularly.
The question is will Phillips make Pep Guardiola’s best XI? The answer is probably no. But you can see with Pep that he gives new signings a good chance in the team.
What I do know about Gareth is that he and Steve Holland will be clear on everything. They leave no stone unturned. He won’t stress himself too much. And these are problems that top managers want. The competition for places forces top players to perform at their best.
There is still time, though not much, for those on the outside looking in. Someone like James Maddison who is a great talent. Only Kane has scored more goals and assists since the start of the year – and he has scored another goal against Arsenal this weekend. If he continues, Gareth can’t ignore it.
England have excellent attacking talent but would struggle if they lost Harry Kane
Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham, Maddison, Kane. We have so much attacking talent. Two in each position.
Gareth’s side have just nine days between their final Premier League game and their opening game at the World Cup. I know there are concerns about equipment overload and the short time it takes to adjust to the heat, but I see the quick turnaround as a positive.
Players will already have rhythm and momentum. Normally, before a World Cup, managers need almost a mini-preseason to get back on track.
Another advantage for England is that Gareth has been in the job for a long time. The players know his philosophy. They know what he expects, they know their roles, make or take one or the other change in form or system. Some other managers won’t have that luxury. England’s stars will be ready to play.