As England continue to look towards the future, one position in particular continues to produce elite talent no matter the club.
The nation have currently got top quality options out wide in attack, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford backed up by Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Greenwood and Bukayo Saka. After having problems for years with their full-backs, they now have a plethora of talent in the right-back position too.
Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the current occupiers of the shirt in the senior national team. But with Walker now 30 and Trippier turning 30 this week, England are likely to look to the future sooner rather than later. Alexander-Arnold looks set to be given the opportunity to make the shirt his own, and rightly so considering his performances for Liverpool. But there are several others out there currently putting their name in the mix.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been one of the best defenders in the league over the last two campaigns and being the first choice right-back at Manchester United will certainly be doing him no harm. At 22 years old, the former Crystal Palace man has seemingly mastered the defensive side of the game but going forward he lacks quality. As an ex-attacker that may come as a surprise, but his gangly frame sees him struggle to dribble and beat men on the ball and then his technical ability is in question with the ball at his feet. He is however quite comfortably the best pure defender England have.
Another option for Gareth Southgate is Chelsea’s Reece James. At 20 years old and younger than Alexander-Arnold, he will be licking his lips at the battle. After going out on loan for Wigan where he often found himself playing in midfield, James is somewhere in the middle of Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka in terms of attributes. He’s very comfortable on the ball and good in both directions off it. He’s not quite as good going forward as Trent Alexander-Arnold and not quite as good defensively as Wan-Bissaka, but he’s better than both in the opposite aspect of the game which puts him right in the mix.
A wildcard option is Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey. After coming through the Chelsea academy, Lamptey found himself behind James in the pecking order under Frank Lampard. He made his Chelsea debut as a substitute against Arsenal and put in a stellar performance but then made the decision in January to pursue regular first team football at the Amex Stadium. Since signing, he has been a regular at right wing-back and performed impeccably well. At 19 years old, he has plenty of room for improvement and the fact he’s playing in a different formation will help him. Southgate has shown a willingness to use wing-backs on occasion and that could provide an advantage for Lamptey with the others not experienced in the role. With quality on the ball, ability to beat a man, pace, defensive ability in one-on-one situations and good reading of the game, he has all the tools to be a huge success.
England’s future is bright in the wide positions in attack and they’re now developing insane, elite talents defensively too. Now it’s time to turn their attentions to central midfield.