England: Picking Gareth Southgate's 23-man squad for the 2022 World Cup

  • Kobe Tong

England are just a few months away from competing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Before we know it, millions of fans across the country will be sitting with a beer in hand and a bucket hat on their head eagerly anticipating the prospect of football finally coming home after 56 years.

As such, the time is ticking for England internationals to prove to Gareth Southgate that they’re deserving of a seat on the plane with competition for places at its fiercest since the ‘Golden Generation’.

A tough task for Gareth Southgate

You only have to look at the fact that Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Reece James and more are all scrapping it out for the right-back position to see the sort of selection headaches that Southgate will face.

Nevertheless, with the Three Lions dusting off their winter cobwebs to prepare for the tournament in Qatar with friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast, the time is now to imagine what the squad might actually look like.

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And trust us when we say that actively sitting down and drawing up your own World Cup squad for England with only 23 players is incredibly difficult with some top, top performers forced to missed out.

It was easy to feel spoilt at Euro 2020 with squad sizes expanded to 26 slots, but the anticipated return to the traditional 23, of which three must be goalkeepers, means that some ruthless calls are simply unavoidable.

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Picking England’s World Cup squad

So, to give you both an idea of how Southgate’s World Cup squad might shake up later this year and just how difficult it is to even attempt the task, we’ve constructed our 23-man cohort for the sport’s biggest tournament.

Based on current form, but with one eye on how the next eight months might unfold, our squad is ultimately based on the opinion of yours truly and therefore isn’t necessarily the only viable solution.

Nevertheless, we’ve given it our best shot and feel confident that our England squad for the 2022 World Cup is the optimal one to ensure that football comes home, so be sure to check it out in all its glory down below:

Goalkeepers

  1. Jordan Pickford (Everton)

2. Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

3. Dean Henderson (Manchester United)

Pickford and Ramsdale would be in everybody’s squad and for the record, we’d stick by the Everton shot-stopper as the number one for never letting England down at major tournaments.

Then, on the proviso that Henderson leaves United and seeks pastures new for the 2022/23 season, we’ll die on the hill that he’s a superior all-round goalkeeper to Nick Pope and Sam Johnstone.

Soccer Football – World Cup – UEFA Qualifiers – England Training – St George’s Park, Burton upon Trent, Britain – November 9, 2021 England’s Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale during training Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Right-backs

4. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

5. Reece James (Chelsea)

6. Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Look, at the end of the day, there simply aren’t enough seats on the plane to take Trippier, which is crazy when you consider that he started the Euro 2020 final, with Alexander-Arnold and James proving absolute shoo-ins.

And Walker is the pragmatic choice to round off the trio of right-backs due to his outstanding defensive work, incredible recovery pace and ability to operate as a centre-half when playing five at the back.

Soccer Football – UEFA Nations League – League A – Group 2 – England v Belgium – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – October 11, 2020 England’s Reece James comes on as a substitute to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold Pool via REUTERS/Neil Hall

Centre-backs

7. Harry Maguire (Manchester United)

8. John Stones (Manchester City)

9. Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan)

10. Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Arguably England’s biggest weak spot, the simple fact of the matter is that Maguire and Stones remain the nation’s strongest centre-back partnership and they functioned in absolute harmony at Euro 2020.

Personally, I think Tomori is a superior option to Tyrone Mings, while Coady narrowly bested Ben White based on his leadership within the squad and proven track record of thriving in back fives.

Soccer Football – Euro 2020 – Semi Final – England v Denmark – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – July 7, 2021 England’s Harry Maguire and John Stones celebrate after the match Pool via REUTERS/Andy Rain

Left-backs

11. Ben Chilwell (Chelsea)

12. Luke Shaw (Manchester United)

Probably one of the most straightforward positions within the squad. Chilwell has overtaken Shaw in our personal rankings based on their 2021/22 seasons, but either way, they’re still the nation’s best two left-backs.

Soccer Football – Euro 2020 – England training – St. George’s Park, Burton Upon Trent, Britain – June 28, 2021 England’s Ben Chilwell during training REUTERS/Carl Recine

Central midfielders

13. Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund)

14. Declan Rice (West Ham United)

15. Mason Mount (Chelsea)

16. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

We feel so cruel leaving Kalvin Phillips back at home, but the stage is set for Bellingham to become the main man in England’s midfield as Southgate hopefully upgrades the double pivot we saw at Euro 2020.

And sadly, that simply means there’s not enough room for Phillips with Rice, Bellingham and Mount all proving absolute certs, while Henderson’s leadership and experience is too valuable to jettison.

Soccer Football – International Friendly – England v Republic of Ireland – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – November 12, 2020 England’s Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice on the substitute bench before the match Pool via REUTERS/Carl Recine

Wingers

17. Phil Foden (Manchester City)

18. Jack Grealish (Manchester City)

19. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

20. Jadon Sancho (Manchester United)

21. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

We take absolutely no pleasure in leaving out Marcus Rashford and we’ve love to see the likes of Jarrod Bowen and Emile Smith Rowe get their time in the sun, but there’s just too much competition out wide.

Sterling is always incredible for England, Saka can be deployed in a whole host of positions, Foden is a must in the squad and the electrifying Grealish hasn’t been anywhere near as poor this season as some fans have made out.

Then, Sancho rounds off the options out wide not only due to his competence on the right-hand flank, but also because his United form is gathering pace towards what could easily be a crescendo in Qatar.

Soccer Football – Euro 2020 – England Training – St. George’s Park, Burton Upon Trent, Britain – July 6, 2021 England’s Jack Grealish and Phil Foden during training REUTERS/Lee Smith

Centre forwards

22. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

23. Tammy Abraham (AS Roma)

We’re not even going to waste our breath explaining Kane’s selection, but picking his striking deputy is no easy task with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins, Danny Ings and Ivan Toney all missing out.

However, the electrifying form of Abraham is simply too great to ignore with his 23-goal haul for AS Roma proving that he’s the standout centre forward when it comes to making an impact off the bench.

Soccer Football – World Cup – UEFA Qualifiers – Group I – England v Albania – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – November 12, 2021 England’s Tammy Abraham comes on as a substitute to replace Harry Kane REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

So much talent misses out

Are you starting to feel just how difficult Southgate’s task is going to be?

It’s staggering to think that the squad is so littered with talent that Rashford, Phillips, Calvert-Lewin, James Maddison, Smith Rowe, Trippier and James Ward-Prowse are all twiddling their thumbs back at home.

However, that’s just the reality of what is really starting to feel like a new golden age of English talent that the nation will be hoping delivers yet another strong tournament under Southgate’s stewardship.

Soccer Football – Euro 2020 – Final – Italy v England – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – July 11, 2021 England manager Gareth Southgate looks dejected after the match Pool via REUTERS/Paul Ellis

And picking the perfect 23-man squad later this year will be absolutely critical if football is indeed coming home.

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