World Cup 2018: Analysing England's 23-man squad
The perennial under-achievers of International football have one more opportunity to set the record straight in the biggest arena of world football. Gareth Southgate has finally put out the 23-man squad that he will be taking to Russia in June.
Unlike most of the other squads, the players aren't distributed across multiple trades - all of them have been plying their trade in the Premier League this season. Most of the squad is along the expected lines, as Southgate has opted for a mostly young and untested squad instead of players with mere experience.
Other than this, there is a list of players on standby in case one of those in the main squad drop out due to injury and will consist of: Tom Heaton (Burnley), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Jake Livermore (West Brom) and Adam Lallana (Liverpool).
That being said, here's a look at how the English players on the plane to Russia have fared so far:
A big question going into the FIFA World Cup 2018 was whether Southgate will opt for the international experience of Joe Hart over seasonal form and the answer has been a resounding "No". The veteran West Ham goalkeeper is not even on the standby squad and England will take with it three goalkeepers who have had fantastic seasons by themselves.
Nick Pope is certainly the stand-out performer in goal this year, and not a lot of keepers managed to have a season as good as his. The Burnley shot-stopper burst onto to the scene after Tom Heaton's injury and has filled the boots to perfection.
His save percentage in the league is the second highest (75.3 %, second only to De Gea), and has kept 11 clean sheets (114 saves) in the PL. If the selection is solely based on current form, Pope will be the one to don the No. 1 jersey. But a lack of international exposure will plant doubts in the manager's head as England cannot expect a goof-up once more.
Jack Butland might have gotten relegated with Stoke City, but very few can claim that he isn't an excellent goalkeeper. Chances are that he will come back to the PL with one of the newly promoted sides, or even with one of the top sides that are looking for a younger keeper.
Butland leads the charts in saves made (144) and has a 68.8% save percentage in the league this season. While he has managed only 6 clean sheets in the process, it speaks more about Stoke's defense as a whole.
However, from the looks of it, Jordan Pickford seems most likely to don the gloves come June. After a transfer from a shockingly bad Sunderland in which he was the sole bright spot, Pickford has once again had a stellar run with Everton this season.
With 10 clean sheets to his name in the PL, Pickford has truly transformed into a complete keeper under Sam Allardyce. His 65.8% save percentage (121 saves) might be lower than the others, but his distribution is far better than the other two and might be the reason he gets picked first.
His weakness in dealing with crosses will be a concern for England though, but with all said and done, Pickford will be the best bet to be part of the starting XI.