A look at Gareth Southgate's strongest starting XI for England
It's a topic of intense debate that is sure to heat up as the summers' European Championships draw ever nearer. But what is Gareth Southgate's strongest starting XI?
Gone are the days of Roy Hodgson, England's 'yes man' as labelled by a disgruntled country after the embarrassing exit from Euro 2016, which led to the subsequent resignation of the former Liverpool boss. Southgate has instilled a belief in his side that they can go on to win a major trophy for the first time since 1966, and his group of fearless young lions only have one goal now that qualification is secure.
Laying aside the ghost of 1996, some might say Southgate has earned legend status in England, leading the Three Lions to a World Cup semifinal for the first time in many persons' lifetime. But it's not just on the pitch where his presence has been refreshing.
Behind the scenes he has cast his recruitment net a lot wider than the previous regime, where if you played for a top six side you were a shoe-in for a call-up. We've seen the inclusion of players like Declan Rice, James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Nick Pope to name a few, who ply their trade for clubs outside the stereotypical 'big six'.
But with so many options at his disposal now, just who will Southgate call upon come the summer?
This could be Southgate's biggest selection headache. Jordan Pickford has been his go-to man, but is he the answer? I'm not convinced. He's probably England's best keeper with his feet but that's not a keepers primary job, right?
Yes, he makes some fantastic saves, and Mr. 'Short back and stomping' is a fan favourite. But for me, in Nick Pope England have a safer pair of hands. He should be handed the number one shirt in the summer.
The defense almost picks itself now. Trent Alexander-Arnold is a shoo-in at right back, as is Harry Maguire at centre half and Chilwell at left back. But who partners Maguire?
We've seen a few players have a go recently, with John Stones and Tyrone Mings lining up alongside 'slab head' in the last two internationals and Fikayo Tomori chomping at the bit for a chance too.
Stones is struggling for game time at Manchester City and if truth be told he isn't convincing in the slightest. The same goes for Tomori, who certainly doesn't instill us with much confidence while watching him on the ball.
I would go with Mings. He brings a balance to the side with the left-foot right-foot combination, and his presence shouldn't be underestimated - he really is a giant. Fans were quick to criticize him last night but don't forget, he's still learning the ropes as an England international and is only going to get better.
Midfield is a difficult category as there are so many options in this area of the pitch. Declan Rice hasn't done enough to stamp down a holding midfield role and Harry Winks has impressed since playing that role, so he probably takes that.
Southgate is likely to play with a 4 and two 8's, which almost discounts James Maddison, who is more of an orthodox number 10. I would go with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mason Mount either side of Winks. If Chamberlain can stay fit then he starts, without a shadow of a doubt.
Mount has some way to go to secure the other spot but I don't really see what competition he has. Jordan Henderson isn't creative enough to play there, Maddison is a 10 and Rice certainly can't play there.
Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are nailed on starters, so who takes the last position? For me, Marcus Rashford.
I think his best performances come in an England shirt. Jadon Sancho hasn't done enough to earn a shirt in my opinion. I don't think he's done anything in his appearances that tells me he's better than Rashford. Yes he is flying for Dortmund in the Bundesliga, but let's not forget it is the Bundesliga and not the Premier League.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has tried to stake a claim but he doesn't come close to the aforementioned Sancho and Rashford.
Here's how the final XI should look:
Pope, TAA, Maguire, Mings, Chilwell, Winks, Ox, Mount, Sterling, Kane, Rashford.
Published 18 Nov 2019, 23:35 IST