To repeat, as ever, this is not our opinion but our estimation of Gareth Southgate’s thoughts. It’s also not his squad now, but the one he will pick in eight months to take to Russia (should we qualify). And yes, it is a tad depressing…
1 (1) Harry Kane
So very far ahead of his rivals for the England striker position that he is just a slack-jawed dot in the distance, forever trying to make space for a shot just inside the area. Since he returned from injury to international duty in June, Kane has scored five of England’s ten goals. Thankfully, international tournaments are never played in August.
2 (4) Dele Alli
Infuriatingly ‘not quite’ in an England shirt, even though pundits, fans, journalists and coaches are so desperate for him to be world-class that they laud every feint, even if it ultimately ends with him losing the ball. Two goals in 21 games while basically playing as a second striker is pretty appalling; England are rarely afforded the space he needs for that ghost run to the back post. Substituted quite early against Malta but unlikely to be dropped any time soon.
3 (3) Jordan Henderson
We are now 34 caps into Jordan Henderson’s England career and we are yet to see him play well in an England shirt. And he is England captain. Every day we cry for what Jack Wilshere should have been were he not a) brittle and b) a plonker.
4 (2) Adam Lallana
His deftness of touch and vision were sorely missed against Malta, when his lack of raw pace would not have been an issue. Offers something a tad different and that is a precious commodity in this shallow England pool.
5 (5) Gary Cahill
Being over 30 could well be Cahill’s best asset in this England set-up; it’s certainly not his pace or his decision-making. The Chelsea man has started every England game for which he has been available since May 2016 and Gareth Southgate is not the man to end that unedifying sequence, regardless of a tiny detail like performance.
6 (11) Kyle Walker
I wrote in June: ‘Walker is still England’s first choice right-back until we see clear evidence otherwise. And a potential move to Manchester City can only help.’ And there you go. Alli has a middle finger for anybody who thought Walker might be usurped by Kieran Trippier.
7 (7) Eric Dier
So very limited. Not even first-choice defensive midfielder for his club and yet England’s only real option in that position. And that pretty much sums up the English central midfield crisis. He has scored more goals for England than Alli, mind.
8 (9) Marcus Rashford
‘For all the skill of Alli, there is nobody more exciting to watch in an England shirt than Rashford. He streams forward, beats his man and scores goals,’ wrote Daniel Storey in his match ratings for England’s win over Slovakia. There will be mistakes, there will be false starts, there will be bad days, but he is 19 and we need him.
9 (6) Raheem Sterling
Once again with Sterling, his impact against Scotland and his effervescence against France were forgotten in 45 poor minutes against Malta. Once again, he was the designated fall guy, but Southgate is clearly a fan; it was telling that he was the first man off the bench against Slovakia.
10 (8) Ryan Bertrand
It still feels a tad odd to think of Bertrand as England’s first-choice left-back but he has started their last six games so that No. 3 shirt must be feeling like a second skin now. The longer Danny Rose is missing, the smaller the chance that he will walk back in that team.
Oh and he scored…
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) September 1, 2017
11 (10) Joe Hart
I wrote this in June: ‘The narrative after the Scotland game was that Hart’s race is run, but a) we have been here before and b) Southgate is not a man to throw the giant baby out with the bathwater. Hart will still be England’s No. 1 if he can find a club ready to treat him as such. West Ham? He will certainly get plenty of practice.’
We’re not saying Southgate is predictable but…yes, yes, we are saying he is predictable.
12 (16) Phil Jones
Gareth Southgate said this weekend: “Not just this season but there was a long period in the middle of last season where I think he has been the best defender.” And for as long as Phil Jones is starting for Manchester United, he is starting for England.
13 (17) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
‘Just don’t ever, ever pair him with Dier again. On pain of actual death,’ I wrote after the debacle of his 90 minutes against France; Southgate was clearly listening. He wasn’t a whole lot better on the right against Slovakia but at least he can do less harm there.
“I’m not sure if Oxlade-Chamberlain would get in Liverpool’s midfield three if everyone is fit,” said Jamie Carragher last week. Neither are we. This is going to be fascinating.
14 (20) Danny Welbeck
As we said in March: ‘The ladder stood by Welbeck through injury and won’t lose faith now. Southgate left him out over fitness issues, but Welbeck’s record of 11 goals in 20 competitive international appearances is the best in the squad with Rooney gone. Add in the ability to play as wide forward, and Dat Guy makes Dis Squad.’
As we said in June: ‘This time around, Arsenal asked nicely that he not be included; they won’t get away with that again.’
We say in September: Bloody told you so. And it’s now 12 goals in 22 competitive international appearances.
15 (13) Jack Butland
Yes, it is ridiculous that he has to play second fiddle to Joe Hart. But at least it is now second fiddle and not third or fourth.
16 (12) John Stones
It was telling that when Pep Guardiola switched to a back four, it was Stones who made way. After hanging his hat on ‘the future of English defending’ during his first months as England manager, Southgate has picked him just once in his last four selections. And you really cannot blame him.
17 (26) Jake Livermore
Jesus, these are bleak times…
I had a £10 bet when my son was born that one day he'd play for England. Jake Livermore gives me hope that this bet will come off one day
— Michael Barton (@mrmichaelbarton) September 1, 2017
18 (14) Danny Rose
It’s been almost ten months since Rose last played for England and, really quite bizarrely, he has fewer England caps than Bertrand. A lot will depend on whether he walks back into that Tottenham side or Mauricio Pochettino makes him pay for his very public insolence. What we do know is that Bertrand and Rose are both way ahead of Aaron Cresswell.
19 (15) Chris Smalling
I wrote in June that ‘a lot will depend on his next move; a place in an Arsenal back three would almost certainly keep him in contention’, but that move never materialised and Smalling has dropped behind Jones for both England and Manchester United. To be fair, being behind Jones is probably the safest place to be.
20 (19) Jordan Pickford
Third-choice goalkeeper. Which was good enough for Chris Kirkland.
21 (21) Michael Keane
We predicted that a ‘summer move (preferably to Everton) will establish him further up this list’ but standing still right now is just fine for Keane, who will move ahead of Stones and Smalling if he is the only one playing actual, real football.
22 (23) Jamie Vardy
The second man off the bench when England needed another goal against Malta. It was his 17th England cap. Yes, that does say 17.
23 (18) Nathaniel Clyne
Ruled out for an indeterminate period but (we think) he is still Liverpool’s first-choice right-back while Kieran Trippier has a Serge Aurier-shaped problem. The alternative is a return to the ‘take one right-back because Dier/Smalling/Jones/Ox can all ‘do a job’ there’. But it’s not as if we have such a plethora of attacking talent that it’s worth sacrificing a defender…
24 (25) Kieran Trippier
His status as Tottenham’s first-choice right-back looks set to end with the arrival of Aurier, which means he is unlikely to be considered for England. Now we are sobbing a little that we stared at the attacking options and decided that a third-choice right-back should be No. 24.
25 (29) Daniel Sturridge
Really, he needed to move somewhere mid-table, stay fit and score 15 goals. Instead he stayed at Liverpool, where he will not start nearly enough games to be a shoo-in for England. Remember when he started the first three matches of Gareth Southgate’s reign…you probably don’t, why would you?
26 (NE) Nat Chalobah
And that’s what happens when you leave Chelsea and start the first three Premier League games of the season for a side that has yet to be beaten. Only James Milner has won more England Under-21 caps, and who doesn’t want to be the next James ‘potato masher’ Milner?
27 (45) Harry Maguire
England’s sixth-choice centre-half. Only two uncapped Englishmen have cost more.
28 (22) Jack Wilshere
This hurts. It really hurts. We have stuck with him like Coleen stuck with Wayne, but it is time to admit that Wilshere is out of the World Cup reckoning. He has not played for England since Euro 2016 and the only way to reverse that decline was a summer move. Instead he has spent his time being sent off for Arsenal’s Under-23 side and hoping he gets a rare chance against FC Koln. And watching Jake sodding Livermore play for England. The black armband is donned.
29 (42) Danny Drinkwater
Bizarrely, simply moving to Chelsea will help his cause, even if he plays much less than at Leicester.
30 (24) Ross Barkley
We may never know why he snubbed that move to Chelsea, but in doing so he probably snubbed an England recall too. He has not played for England since before Euro 2016. Remember when Alli v Barkley was A Thing?
31 (27) Jermain Defoe
Clinging on to a place in the squad, but only because there is a massive lack of options. If he is in Southgate’s next squad, it will be because Andre Gray, Jay Rodriguez, Dominic Solanke and Tammy Abraham have all failed to put together a run of goals.
32 (28) Jesse Lingard
It was telling that Lingard – along with Defoe and Maguire – was axed from the squad to face Slovakia. After 15 minutes of Premier League football this season, he probably shouldn’t have been in the squad in the first place.
33 (35) Aaron Cresswell
Has at least been in five England squads. Which is nice.
34 (33) Tom Heaton
Has at least been in 27 England squads. Which is nice. And absolutely mental.
35 (33) Theo Walcott
It feels like an awful long way back.
36 (30) Luke Shaw
Slide away, and give it all you’ve got.
37 (NE) Joe Gomez
Captain of England’s Under-21s and currently Liverpool’s right-back. He has a chance.
38 (38) Dominic Solanke
‘By far the World Cup winner most likely,’ we said in June. And even more so now he has moved to Liverpool and has forced Divock Origi out of the club.
39 (39) Nathan Redmond
He will always have a cap. But will he ever get a second?
40 (NE) Ruben Loftus-Cheek
The move to Crystal Palace earned him an England Under-21 recall; anything other than a relegation battle could earn him a senior call.
41 (36) Fraser Forster
42 (31) Rob Holding
43 (37) James Ward-Prowse
44 (RE) Jay Rodriguez
45 (47) Tammy Abraham
46 (49) Kieran Gibbs
47 (46) Andros Townsend
48 (NE) Dominic Calvert-Lewin
49 (NE) Andre Gray
50 (50) Phil Neville