England’s World Cup 2022 Hopefuls
A final loss in the 2020(21) European Championship (to Italy) does not take away from England’s achievements, during this recent international tournament. The hope is that another stumble so close to the line will give the three lions manager, Gareth Southgate, the desire to make that last giant step at next summers World Cup.
With any generation of footballers, the regeneration of players is only just around the corner. As football fans (especially of the older variety), it can still be a wonder as to how quickly these footballing hero’s can come and go. Through the 90’s, England fans were dazzled by the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle, Gary Lineker, John Barnes & Alan Shearer. The late 90’s saw the emergence of the phenomenal Michael Owen, who should have risen and remained at the top of the game for a decade, if not for cruel injuries. Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard & Wayne Rooney were just some of the forward thinking players to grace the next phase of players through the 2000’s and into the 2010’s, a group who also fell short in the race for silverware.
The last ten years have seen almost a stutter of production, with Karry Kane clearly excelling, Raheem Sterling adding class, and Deli Alli showing sprinklings of greatness. For the most part, the golden generation had failed to be replaced, until perhaps now. The raft of English players that have emerged over the past few seasons, and those that sit on the cusp of brilliance, is fairly broad. There is a genuine class of excellence that has added excitement and ultimately, expectancy to succeed.
The golden generation was a group of world class individuals, who never fulfilled the international heights to mirror their various club achievements. That period in football saw a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 rarely utilised, and perhaps the Gerrard / Lampard conundrum could have been solved with today’s formation flexibility. Nowadays we see inverted wide men, false 9’s, overlapping full backs and systems shifting drastically when in or out of possession.
England’s next stage of development is to phase out certain players, and bring a generation of talent into the side that can make that difference.
At right back Kyle Walker has been very good and consistent, but his inability to fully compliment the attacking phase of play should be moved on from. Trent Alexander Arnold is a gifted & elite attacking right back that can service forwards at will. As soon as he is fit and able, the right side should be an area dominated by this young man. Ahead of him should sit Raheem Sterling to form a devastating side hand side. Reece James & Kyle Walker would offer depth here, and good variation when needed. The left back role is now fully in Luke Shaw’s hands, with his early potential now being realised after some infamous club mismanagement. His back up should be Ben Chillwell, and this offers good competition for the next few tournaments.
If Southgate is smart, he should look to integrate a continuing back four, with Harry Maguire, John Stones, Ezri Konsa & Joe Gomez the key men to fill these two positions. The variation and quality of these players can often produce elite defensive performances, and much like Italy’s victorious back line, a consistent formula must be found.
The central midfield has been solid if unspectacular, based upon the current group of Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips & Jordan Henderson. The back four should see a three man midfield formed, with Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Deli Alli and perhaps even Harvey Elliott entrusted to add creation and flair when in possession. The need for two holding midfielders should be passed over for a more progressive style, and thus more capable possession based players.
The forward line is top heavy with options, and should be moulded to extract the best of Harry Kane. Harry Kane operates best with runners either side, and this next year we have to see Jadon Sancho involved more. Raheem Sterling is elite, and this should be the front three moving forward. Jack Grealish is of course a talented option, but we must first see how his role unfolds under Pep Guardiola. Bukayo Saka is a huge talent, and Harvey Barnes could gatecrash this tremendous group. As far as Harry Kane alternatives go, Dominic Calvert Lewin’s form could well see him push for more inclusion, under the guidance of new Everton manager, Rafa Benitez.
Gareth Southgate has been gifted a pool of talent to match that of any team in world football, and this year will be a vital period of time if they are to promote themselves from bridesmaid to bride. With France stumbling, Spain & Germany in transition, Italy ageing & the South American giants inconsistent, there is a window of opportunity, if the correct alterations are made. This period is the most interesting of Southgate’s reign, and all England fans will be hoping it ends in the ultimate success.