Following the England men’s team’s poor showing at home in the 1-0 loss to Denmark, I wonder what England’s strongest possible XI is, as surely it cannot be the team that lost this week.
Gareth Southgate clearly likes the five-at-the-back formation, presumably for the extra defensive stability and the license to roam free for our attackers. But that really is key to having a successful tournament next year, utilising possibly the best group of attacking talent that England has had in many years. Kane, Sterling, Sancho, Rashford and Grealish can all be considered the best players in their team at current and using these attackers effectively will be crucial if Southgate wants to keep his job.
The goalkeeper is the first position under scrutiny by England fans, as Jordan Pickford hasn’t been in great form for club nor country recently. Surely Dean Henderson is going to push him for the number 1 shirt into next summer. I think Southgate will have to choose between them two going into the European Championships next year, especially if Henderson can move ahead of David De Gea in the Manchester United pecking order.
The three centre backs are also difficult to predict given Harry Maguire’s sub-par run of form. Joe Gomez must start, but alongside him the two other positions are hard to choose. Against Denmark, one of the only England players who made himself look good was Connor Coady, who also plays that role week-in-week-out for Wolverhampton. Kyle Walker offers the pace necessary for catching players on the counter, plus can overlap with the wing backs if another man is needed in attack, so he must also start.
In midfield, England struggled against Denmark being outnumbered by the three the Danes play and barely being able to progress the ball to the attackers. Therefore, I think a midfield pivot will be used, whether that be Jordan Henderson or Declan Rice, who can get stuck in and win the ball back, and a more progressive midfielder in the likes of Mason Mount, who is one of Southgate’s favourites at current.
The wing-back positions could be hard to predict, but under current rumours that Aaron Wan-Bissaka could declare for DR Congo, that makes Southgate’s choices a lot easier. I think Trent Alexander Arnold will start at right-back and play more as an attacking threat with Walker behind him offering cover if needed, and on the left, I think it will be Bukayo Saka who will get the nod over Ben Chilwell. This is because he plays as a wing back for Arsenal and Chilwell plays a more traditional left back role for Chelsea, although I still think he will travel with the squad.
The front three picks itself in my eyes, with Kane being both team captain and talisman, alongside being one of the best strikers in the world and supporting him would be Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho. All three are world class players and if Southgate can get them to play together effectively, England may have the best attack at the tournament.
On the bench should be in that case: Pickford, Chilwell, Maguire, Rice, Grealish, Rashford, Calvert-Lewin. This bench would give back up for all positions, with Rice, Grealish and Rashford all being capable in multiple positions.
So, my opinion on Englands strongest XI right now would read as:
Walker – Coady – Gomez
TAA – Henderson – Mount – Saka
Sancho – Kane – Sterling
By Sam Hutchison