I keep seeing many doubt the current England team. Pundits and fans say that this is the worst group of players England have had in years. I disagree completely. I think this is the most balanced England team I’ve seen. It has quality and versatility all over the pitch. So let’s go through what team I would start on the first game of the season. The formation will be a 4-2-3-1, to make sure the best players are able to fit in.
GK: Jordan Pickford
Strangely this is the best group of goalkeepers I think I’ve seen England have. So let’s go through the four obvious candidates and why I’ve chosen mine. Many would choose Butland, but I’m still not so keen with his positioning. Joe Hart has not played enough minutes this season to warrant a start, but would definitely be on the plane, and Forster has not been good enough either, compared to his performances a couple of seasons ago. Pickford gets my pick. He’s shown this season, that even in a very poor Everton team he can still come out as the best player, again. He’s a vocal young keeper, who has an incredible shot stopping ability. The criticism I have of his game is his distribution isn’t at a top level. But this tournament is still a stepping stone. He’s a young player, with plenty of years left. He won’t be able to understand the big occasion unless he plays in one.
RB: Kyle Walker
Even though he does has some competition in a surprisingly consistent Kieran Trippier (who is definitely getting on the plane), I think Walker has this position nailed down. He has definitely been the best full back this year. He’s continued his great form from his days at Tottenham, by also adding a much better player on the ball. Walker has improved in his decision making in the final third. Walker still has a few mistakes in him, but England couldn’t really ask for a better right back.
CB: John Stones
The player that definitely gets on the plane. Stones has not only improved on the ball, but he’s finally solved his defensive issues, being used as the sitter next to Otamendi (the destroyer). Otamendi has a tendancy to run out to receive the ball. It does win him a lot of tackles, but on the small chance of him mistiming the tackle, having Stones next to him to clean up is vital. This is perfect for the player I’m playing next to him, who also has a tendancy to do this. Having someone with such a high ceiling is always beneficial.
CB: Gary Cahill
If I was choosing this based on talent, he wouldn’t be on the plane. I’m not the biggest fan of Cahill. I tend to believe he has been gifted as a player, being partnered next a great defender in John Terry and a great players in David Luiz and Azpiliqueta. It has made him look more capable than he is. He seems to struggle in one on ones, and consistently looks nervous on the ball. Talent wise I would rather have Harry Maguire or Phil Jones. Both have shown this season that they are more than capable of performing at a high level. Cahill does have a lot of experience in winning and playing in these tournaments. England need at least a few players who understand how to get through those tough games where not everything is going your way. If the manager does not have faith in him however, I would gladly pick Maguire instead.
LB: Danny Rose
Strange how this position does not have as many good performers as right back. Danny Rose starts because of talent. Ryan Bertrand has not performed well this season in a very poor Southampton side. Rose has not been near as good as he has been in recent seasons, but is slowly finding his feet after a lengthy injury. Having both Walker and Rose on each side will guarantee England have full backs who are willing to push up. Easy choice in a position that doesn’t have many.
RDM: Eric Dier
Even though I do not believe he should be at another top club, I still do like Eric Dier. He has kept his place in a team where his competition are clearly more talented than him. The manager clearly sees something in him that helps him get a start. I like his aggression and the conservative style he brings. Every teams needs a player who isn’t too fancy.
LDM: Harry Winks
Winks is a sort of player that England haven’t had since a young Michael Carrick. The issue with most of England’s midfield options is rather they’re too defensive, or have injury problems. Winks has an incredible passing ability for such a young player. The more I watch him the more I notice him learning and improving his game. Having Eric Dier next to him means a guaranteed short pass, while also someone who will able to recover if by any chance he loses the ball. He reminds me of a younger Tony Kroos. Someone who is able to move his team further up the pitch. He should play for England because it seems that the three lions want this current crop of players to win something. England should do what Germany did, which was make this current crop learn each others style with a similar team and system, until they look ready to win. For spurs this season he has a 90% pass accuracy while making 3 long balls per game. With the powerful and direct full backs England have, Winks could easily take advantage of one of England’s biggest assets.
RM: Raheem Sterling
A shoehorn into this side. Sterling is easily the second most inform player for England. He has stepped his game up to a level I never thought he could reach. Sterling is currently City’s second top goalscorer. He has contributed with 20 goals and 6 assists for the soon to be champions. He’s averaging around 2.4 shots per game, which is nearly as much as a striker usually has. Sterling has fixed one of my biggest issues with him, that being his finishing. He is currently taking 1.6 of his shots in the penalty area, meaning he is getting in very good positions. Pep has made Sterling into one of the best wingers on the planet, and England have to take advantage of it
AM: Dele Alli
No matter how much I would love to say Jesse Lingardino ( who has improved so much this season), Alli is the best option here. Overall Alli has definitely taken a step down from last season, but he should still be in this squad. Alli is still a young player and this always happens. Young players from time to time will run into these blips in form. But he is still an incredibly talented player. This England side needs player who remain in the squad, to ensure that the squad has guaranteed starters, so the team will function the same way. At Spurs, one obvious tactic that they play is strangley long balls into the channels. Alli has been excellent when these balls are played in. Alderweireld is key to this, and with Stones having a similar passing ability, it could be replicated. Lingard has his purpose, but Alli is key for this team.
LM: Marcus Rashford
Not including the centre backs, the wide positions could be argued as the another position without much options, Rashford is picked here based on his work rate. Successful sides always have a player who is willing to the do the hard yards, and Rashford can fit into that category. The forward line here also excel on the counterattack. Rashford has pace to burn, and with the amount of stamina he has, he will ensure keep running at defenders, and causing a nuisance for the opposition full back. We have seen before that Rashford is good to have when your full backs overlap. He is unpredictable, and it gives the full back enough space to take advantage (as seen with Blind and Young in previous years). Mourinho playing him on the wing has actually turned beneficial. England now have two young wingers with pace to burn. It’ll cause a real pain for the defences. A must start.
ST: Harry Kane
The best striker England, the premier league and the world have to offer. Kane is a must starter and key to the team. Kane has now turned into an elite forward. He is a guy who takes a lot of shots, roughly 5 per game. That’s Messi and Ronaldo numbers. The only difference here will be the creativity behind him. While Winks and the full backs will give him chances, it won’t be near as useful as what Eriksen can give him. Kane will have to make sure to keep possession much or often and attempt to hold the ball more. England have such quality players around him and need to give them chances as well. No debate he should start, but definitely in how he should play.
Kieran Trippier: having an incredible season and has an excellent cross. Could be useful for a plan B
Jack Wilshere: very good in the ball. It will give England a good option if they need a midfielder to move the ball forward
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlein: a player who is available to play in a number of positions. Very useful if a good press is needed.
Jesse Lingard: as mentioned before he does have a place in this squad. He can play all around the front line and has incredible off the ball movement.
Jamie Vardy: offers something different to Kane. A good finisher and a real poacher.