The 2022 World Cup is just around the corner, and despite their relegation form of late (literally), England are among the favourites to go all the way in Qatar.
After getting so close at Euro 2020, Gareth Southgate’s men have to be considered one of the best teams at FIFA’s showpiece event next winter regardless of their recent cold streak.
But who should be in the 26-man squad to go to Qatar?
26. Kalvin Phillips (Down 4)
The only thing that is likely to keep Kalvin Phillips off of the plane is injury, but that sadly is a real possibility if not probability.
For that reason, his spot is most in jeopardy.
25. Ivan Toney (New Entry)
Southgate called Brentford menace Ivan Toney into the England fold for the first time in September, and while he didn’t get to make his Three Lions debut, his familiarity with the setup means he will now definitely be in the manager’s thinking when it comes t naming his 26, particularly if his club form continues.
24. Nick Pope (-)
Nick Pope squandered his chance to cement himself as England’s best alternative to Jordan Pickford in September, but his club form should just about see him edge a place on the plane.
23. Jordan Henderson (Down 12)
Father Time and injuries may be catching up with Jordan Henderson – which explains his notable tumbling down this list – but Southgate still depends on him as one of his most senior options in a young England team.
22. Marcus Rashford (Re-Entry)
Only injury prevented Marcus Rashford from returning to the England setup in September, but now that Erik ten Hag is getting a tune out of him at Manchester United, the forward stands a good chance of heading to the World Cup if healthy.
21. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Down 4)
There is still a debate over whether Trent Alexander-Arnold should even be in the England squad.
The right-back was back to his best last season though has had a rather rough start to this one. Southgate does not play to his strengths, sure, but he’d be mad not to take him to the World Cup. If anything, the backlash would create a dark cloud over their preparations.
20. Aaron Ramsdale (Down 2)
If you saw Aaron Ramsdale’s Arsenal renaissance coming, you’re a liar. Bloke’s been playing out of his skin after conceding about 200 goals in the last three seasons.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t really impressed for the national team just yet and is now in a scramble to solidify his spot as Jordan Pickford’s deputy.
19. Fikayo Tomori (Up 3)
After being overlooked for a criminal amount of time, Fikayo Tomori is finally in the England squad.
Admittedly, he’s not quite in the full picture yet, but his soaring reputation across Europe means he simply has to go to the World Cup.
18. Kieran Trippier (Up 6)
It’s a shame that a large part of Kieran Trippier’s 2021/22 season with Newcastle was disrupted with an injury, but he has looked like the player Southgate knows and trusts since returning to the Premier League.
His versatility and big game experience will come in handy with an extended squad permitted.
17. Eric Dier (New Entry)
His resurgence under Antonio Conte at Tottenham and fit in a back-three means Eric Dier now has a great chance of heading to his third major tournament with England.
16. Harry Maguire (Down 3)
Despite enduring a terrible 2021/22 season and still showing signs of incompetence this year, Southgate continues to stand by Harry Maguire.
His spot should be safe.
15. Ben Chilwell (-)
Luke Shaw may have wrestled the England left-back spot from Ben Chilwell last year, but the Chelsea man took it back after a superb start to the 2021/22 campaign.
The battle remains on for that role in the starting XI.
14. Jack Grealish (-)
Remember when Jack Grealish seemingly couldn’t do anything to impress Southgate? Funny how times change.
13. Luke Shaw (Up 9)
Luke Shaw’s stock at the time of his goal in the Euro 2020 final had soared to Jupiter – there was a genuine case that he was the best left-back in the world.
He was brought crashing back to earth last season with poor form and injuries, but the recent internationals have proven he is still among Southgate’s favourites.
12. Tammy Abraham (-)
Scoring goals for fun in Serie A, Tammy Abraham looks a cut above England’s striking options (bar one) and his place on the plane should be pretty secure.
11. John Stones (Up 2)
John Stones isn’t always first-choice at club level, but he remains one of Southgate’s best options at centre-back.
10. Kyle Walker (Up 1)
Kyle Walker’s experience, recovery pace and versatility in a back three mean that he has to be on the plane.
9. Bukayo Saka (Up 3)
Bukayo Saka is an international manager’s dream, being able to play in various positions across the pitch to a high standard.
Memories of that penalty miss are strong, but wrongfully gloss over how useful he was at the Euros as a whole.
8. Mason Mount (Down 1)
It doesn’t usually matter what role Mason Mount is playing – he’ll find a way to make teams better and make the players around him fit together.
7. Phil Foden (Down 3)
In terms of talent, Phil Foden could be mentioned in the same breath as Wayne Rooney and Paul Gascoigne.
Hell, he’s even building a CV to compare with them, too. One of the Premier League’s best players that can play anywhere in a forward line and in midfield. He just needs to start showing it in an England shirt.
6. Jude Bellingham (Up 5)
Away from the harsh Premier League spotlight, Jude Bellingham has established himself as one of the very best players in the Bundesliga.
England have been disappointing in 2022, but the teenager has proved himself to be a key figure in Southgate’s system.
5. Reece James (Up 1)
Reece James’ all-action 2021/22 campaign has seen him draw comparisons to Steven Gerrard.
He’s a right-back. Unbelievable.
Ahead of Alexander-Arnold at present due to the way England like to set up.
4. Jordan Pickford (Up 3)
A stunning Euro 2020 – which may have seen him win the Player of the Tournament award rather than Gianluigi Donnarumma if the penalty shootout went the other way – elevated Jordan Pickford in the eyes of England fans.
His absence for the September internationals only made it more obvious how important he is to the side.
3. Raheem Sterling (Down 1)
His finishing is sometimes frustrating, but Southgate relies on Raheem Sterling like few others in his squad.
Hopefully Graham Potter will have him fit and firing ahead of the World Cup.
2. Declan Rice (Up 1)
While he didn’t set the world alight at the Euros, Declan Rice has quietly been one of the best players in the Premier League since last summer.
Whether he’s at West Ham or a club competing for the top honours, he needs to be on the plane.
1. Harry Kane (-)
England captain – whether you like it or not – and the first name on Gareth Southgate’s teamsheet.
Hard to argue with that, in all honestly.
Potential England 2022 World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Newcastle)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Man City), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle)
Midfielders: Declan Rice (West Ham), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Kalvin Phillips (Man City), Jack Grealish (Man City)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Phil Foden (Man City), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Tammy Abraham (Roma), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Ivan Toney (Brentford)