How should England line up at the 2022 World Cup?
While there are still eight months to go until football’s biggest tournament gets underway in Qatar, fans are already imagining how their England’s squad and XI should shape up for the big stage.
Besides, give or take the odd player who might either flop or thrive over the next half-season, we’ve got plenty of evidence to get a good idea of how the majority of Gareth Southgate’s outfit will look.
How will England line up?
However, it’s one thing to name a squad, it’s another thing to pick a starting XI and an entirely different thing to conjure up an exact tactical model with the line-up that you think will bring football home.
The moral of the story is that it’s an incredibly hard thing to do, but one that’s always fascinating to work through nonetheless as hype for the World Cup builds up towards a crescendo.
And none other than former England and Manchester United hero Rio Ferdinand has been one brave figure to nail their colours to the mast with a Three Lions XI that, erm, we really weren’t expecting.
That’s because the 43-year-old went seriously off piste when he was asked how his England side would line up right this second if they were to go to the World Cup with no less than three right-backs starting.
Ferdinand names his wild England XI
Speaking on the latest episode of Vibe with Five this week, Ferdinand has raised eyebrows for picking an England XI where Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Reece James are all on the team sheet.
Ferdinand, who had already given his backing for Jordan Pickford between the sticks, broke down his line-up by explaining: “I’m gonna go three at the back as I think that’s our best chance.
“[Harry] Maguire on the left, Kyle Walker central and Reece James on the right. Trent [Alexander-Arnold] at right wing-back and [Luke] Shaw left wing-back.
“I’m gonna go Declan [Rice] and [Jude] Bellingham. Foden in the hole and then two strikers [Raheem] Sterling and [Harry] Kane.”
However, once it sunk in for Ferdinand’s co-hosts how the United icon had postured his XI, the surprise started to manifest itself with the accusation of playing “fantasy football” proving particularly amusing.
But Ferdinand defended his selections by adding: “Imagine that defence. Reece James coming out with the ball coming into midfield, because he can do that, he played midfield as a kid.
“Trent out on the right. Walker centre, he’s covering the whole backline on his own. My midfield, Declan, Jude and Foden dropping in as a No10 and coming back into midfield.
“Free role for Sterling, he can go where he wants, Kane holding the ball up and running behind.”
Four full-backs make the cut
Now, to be fair to Rio, it’s hard to look at the line-up and not at least feel childishly giddy for a second at the prospect of just how wild it would be.
However, when you shake off the romanticism and really stew on the fact that Walker would be facing the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as a central centre-back, the panic starts to set in.
Yes, Walker can thrive as a right-hand centre-half in a back five, but that’s because it’s at least a halfway house between his natural position as opposed to being completely at sea in the middle of the action.
As such, we’re regretfully jumping on the bandwagon of shaking our heads at the wildest aspect of Ferdinand’s England XI, even if there’s plenty to like about his tactics in attacking areas of the pitch.
Otherwise, the only thing missing was Kieran Trippier at left-back for good measure. Am I right?