England’s 2022 World Cup squad: Who should Gareth Southgate take to Qatar?

Gareth Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate won’t have the usual lengthy pre-tournament preparation with his squad

England manager Gareth Southgate names his 26-man World Cup squad on Thursday – so what are the main talking points?

Unlike previous World Cups, there are no pre-tournament friendlies where you can cut things back. The squad named on Thursday afternoon will be final for Qatar – even if announced ahead of the final round of Premier League games this weekend.

The World Cup runs from November 20 to December 18.

There are plenty of puzzles for Southgate to solve; we highlight some of its big issues and you can have your say.

Who will benefit from lateral back injuries?

Kyle Walker injured while playing for Man City
Will Kyle Walker be fit in time?

Gareth Southgate initially named four right-backs in his Euro 2020 squad – although Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was subsequently ruled out with injury.

Alexander-Arnold’s spotty form this season means he could be in danger of being sent off for Qatar.

His fate could hinge on the injury status of Manchester City’s Kyle Walker and Chelsea’s Reece James, who have both been out for some time.

Walker hasn’t played in over a month and has had groin surgery, while James was virtually ruled out with a knee injury last month but has since started jogging and could still be in shape.

Newcastle United’s Kieran Trippier is the only right-back who can be fairly certain to be on the plane. Ben White, who has spent much of his career in central defence, has been playing at right-back for Arsenal all season which could also be an option.

Southampton right-back Kyle Walker-Peters, who has won two caps this year, is also ruled out.

The left-back is also a problem following Ben Chilwell’s exclusion from Chelsea with a hamstring injury.

That leaves Manchester United’s Luke Shaw as the only regular option in the position.

Leicester City’s James Justin, Crystal Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell, Brentford’s Rico Henry, Tottenham’s Ryan Sessegnon, Newcastle United’s Dan Burn and West Ham United’s Aaron Cresswell are options to provide cover.

Crystal Palace centre-back Marc Guehi can also play on the left, boosting his hopes of being called up.

Harry Maguire, despite struggling to get a game for Manchester United this season, and Manchester City’s John Stones are certain to go.

The other central defensive candidates are Tottenham’s Eric Dier, Everton’s Conor Coady and AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori. Roma’s Chris Smalling and Everton’s James Tarkowski are said to be bolters.

Who could be a wild card in midfield or on the wing?

Jude Bellingham
Can Jude Bellingham become a teenage World Cup star?

Several midfielders are automatically on the plane – Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, West Ham’s Declan Rice, Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

Who else could become a central midfielder? Southampton captain and set-piece specialist James Ward-Prowse, or how about Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher?

Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips could still be on the plane if he recovering from a shoulder injury in time, even though he hasn’t played since September.

With a 26-man squad allowed instead of the usual 23, Southgate has the chance to bring in a wild card or two. A 2022 Theo Walcott if you will.

Taking Walcott would really be a surprise…

Among those generating the most noise are Leicester attacking midfielder James Maddison, who won his only cap in 2019, and Crystal Palace uncapped winger Eberechi Eze.

Another candidate could be West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen.

On the wing, Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling is sure to leave despite his uncertain form this season. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka is also expected to be on the plane. Manchester City’s Jack Grealish looks more likely to get the nod than Manchester United’s Jadon Sancho.

Who will go with Kane up front?

Harry Kane
Harry Kane goes to Qatar, but who will be the other attackers?

The big question is who will replace (or perhaps play alongside) Harry Kane up front?

England captain Kane, who won the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot, is a guaranteed starter.

Marcus Rashford’s revival at Manchester United this season has made him a strong contender, despite not having featured for England since Euro 2020.

Brentford striker Ivan Toney is making a lot of noise at the moment, with a Premier League goalscoring charge in 2022 and a magnificent penalty record. He recorded all 20 penalties he took for the Bees.

Newcastle’s Callum Wilson and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin returned from injury in time to be in contention – although Calvert-Lewin received a knock last weekend.

Tammy Abraham has only scored three goals for Roma this season which may be a problem.

Who will be the substitute goalkeeper?

Jordan Pickford
Jordan Pickford will start in goal for England barring injury – but who will be on the bench with Nick Pope?

Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Newcastle’s Nick Pope are undoubtedly England’s first and second choice goalkeepers in that order.

But the question is who accompanies them?

Aaron Ramsdale, who helped Arsenal win the Premier League title, is hoping to be on the plane to Qatar.

At the other end of the table, Dean Henderson is finally getting regular playing time on loan at Nottingham Forest from Manchester United. However, he has conceded more goals than any other Premier League goalkeeper this season.

Fraser Forster and Sam Johnstone were both named in the England squads earlier this year but with no Premier League appearances this season neither player will go to Qatar.

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