Another international break, another dodgy team selection from Gareth Southgate, another not-so great performance from England as they were beaten 2-0 by Belgium in Brussels.
First half strikes from Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens put the number one ranked team in the world into a comfortable lead as they cruised to victory with England struggling once again overall to turn in the type of performance that should be expected with the squad they have at their disposal.
Southgate once again opted to start the game with a back five and two holding midfielders, meaning the team struggled to get hold of the game in attacking positions until Belgium allowed them to do so.
As criticism came in post-game about Southgate’s team selection the obvious options the squad has are coming to light more and more. So what is his best XI right now?
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Dean Henderson (GK): The Manchester United stopper isn’t getting regular first-team football right now, but he is the best goalkeeper they have. He’s much better and more reliable than Jordan Pickford and his distribution is a big edge he has over Nick Pope. He shouldn’t be punished for not starting over David De Gea yet.
Reece James (RB): The Chelsea youngster has forced his way into the England squad following great performances for Frank Lampard’s side this season. He’s excellent on the ball, good going forward and defensively and is versatile enough to play in different positions too if needed. He fits the system that little bit better than Trent Alexander-Arnold and the other right-back options for me.
Harry Maguire (CB): If you know me, you know I’m not his biggest fan. England however are bereft of quality options at the back so experience is needed. Maguire is good in the air, decent on the ball and organises relatively well. He’s arguably the best of a bad bunch, so should start.
Joe Gomez (CB): His place in the side is up for grabs right now after a knee injury ruled him out for the next few months but when fit he should be an automatic starter. The 23 year old is quick, good on the ball, strong in the air and has all the attributes needed to help form a partnership with Maguire at the back.
Ben Chilwell (LB): Much like at centre back, England aren’t loaded with quality options at left-back right now. The Chelsea man‘s greatest competition is arguably Bukayo Saka, a natural winger, or Luke Shaw who hasn’t been in an England squad since 2018. He’s got good attributes but isn’t quite at the top level with any of them. Still, good enough to be starting for England.
Jordan Henderson (DM): He’s arguably at his best in a box-to-box role but Henderson has shown with Liverpool that he is capable of holding the fort defensively too. With his experience and leadership qualities as well as his ability to read the game means he can do that job for the national team too. Henderson can win the ball back and pass it off to the better, more technically tidy players in the team and let them focus on attacking.
Phil Foden (CM): Foden hasn’t broken into the England squad on a permanent basis just yet, but on ability he should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Foden is knocking on the door to be a regular in the Man City tea and his creativity is exactly what England are missing in midfield. He adds technical quality, goals, a killer pass and a little bit of x-factor to the centre of the pitch and would be a shining light.
Jack Grealish (CM): While his best form has come out on the left wing, Grealish is most dangerous when drifting into central positions. His dribbling and willingness to always show for the ball and create is much needed if England are to dominate games in the way they want to. He showed in the defeat to Belgium that he is more than ready for this level of football and he is one of England’s best players. He must start.
Raheem Sterling (RW): Sterling has spent the last 18 months playing primarily as a left-winger for Man City but prior to that he was just as effective from the right hand side. His pace, directness, ability to beat a defender one on one and eye for goal make him a world class attacker and one that must start for England.
Marcus Rashford (LW): The Manchester United poster boy has established himself as an England regular since making his debut as a striker back in 2016. Much like Sterling, he has untold amounts of ability out wide. Pace, strength, vision, passing ability, ball-striking technique and skill mean he is the best option out on the left right now.
Harry Kane (ST): England’s best player. A world class striker and the captain of the side, Kane has proven time and time again that when he plays he scores goals. He’s showed for Tottenham recently that having lethal runners either side of him brings out a new side to his game too so the potential of that front three is frightening, especially with Foden and Grealish supplying and creating in behind them too.
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