World Cup: South­gate’s ver­sa­tile squad of­fers him op­tions

Eng­land boss now must make the most of lim­ited op­tions avail­able to him

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Matt Mon­aghan @mattmon­aghan360 mattmon­aghan@sport360.com

Now that an un­usu­ally in­dif­fer­ent na­tion knows the iden­tity of Eng­land’s World Cup 2018 squad, the de­bate now moves on to how head coach Gareth South­gate will get the best out of his dis­parate bunch.

A ros­ter top heavy with cen­tre­backs and full-backs points to a con­tin­ued use of a five-man de­fence. The con­ver­sa­tion now fo­cuses on how the dif­fer­ent pieces come to­gether with the var­ied chal­lenges pre­sented in Group G against Tu­nisia, Panama and Bel­gium – plus an ex­pected run into the knock­outs.

Bold

Only two mem­bers of South­gate’s 23-man ros­ter have scored more than 10 goals for their coun­try, but this doesn’t mean there are a lack of at­tack­ing op­tions.

When min­nows such as Tu­nisia and Panama must be put to the sword, a pos­i­tive line-up emerges.

John Stones is a pro­gres­sive passer and fel­low cen­tre-back Harry Maguire is will­ing to re­peat­edly drib­ble past mid­field.

At­tack­ing mid­fielder Jesse Lin­gard has been utilised be­fore by Manch­ester United as wing-back, pro­vid­ing as­tute dove­tail­ing with club-mate Ash­ley Young.

Tot­ten­ham anchor man Eric Dier would be deemed su­per­flu­ous, al­low­ing close pal Dele Alli to probe from the cen­tre along­side Manch­ester City’s elec­tric for­ward Raheem Ster­ling.

Up top, Jamie Vardy’s pace would pro­vide a will­ing foil for Harry Kane. The for­mer has seven goals in his last nine games for club and coun­try.

Con­ser­va­tive

With premium cen­tre-backs such as Rio Fer­di­nand and John Terry an in­creas­ingly dis­tant mem­ory, Eng­land will need to en­trust the en­tire line-up to keep­ing out the World Cup’s finest.

A mea­sured XI should need to be se­lected by South­gate for Group G’s de­noue­ment against star-stud­ded Bel­gium on June 28.

With this in mind, the de­fen­sive mid­field pivot of skip­per Jor­dan Hen­der­son and Dier is es­sen­tial.

At the back, the ad­ven­ture of Le­ices­ter’s Maguire must make way for 58-cap Gary Cahill – the squad’s most-ex­pe­ri­enced mem­ber.

If Alli is given the nod over City util­ity man Fabian Delph in cen­tre mid­field, it would mean Kane and Vardy can still play to­gether.

But the for­mer would carry out the deeper role utilised at Euro 2016 to mid­dling ef­fect, while Vardy would scurry af­ter any long balls.

Bal­anced

South­gate’s half decade spent within the Eng­land coach­ing sys­tem means his knowl­edge of the cur­rent crop is with­out peer.

With the lim­ited re­sources avail­able to him, nearly 70 per cent of Premier League play­ers are for­eign born, he is best placed to find a so­lu­tion.

Ever­ton’s Jor­dan Pick­ford is the ob­vi­ous choice in goal.

Ex­pect South­gate’s March friendly ex­per­i­ment of play­ing world­class City right-back Kyle Walker at cen­tre-back to be re­peated. If fit, United’s Phil Jones will add bal­last.

The Hen­der­son/Dier axis was be­moaned when used for half of the Three Lions’ 10 qual­i­fiers. But the duo pro­vide es­sen­tial se­cu­rity.

To ac­com­mo­date Kane and Ster­ling, who was in­volved in 36 City goals last term, Alli may need to drop into cen­tre mid­field. It is key that he pros­pers there, un­like Euro 2016.

Lion tamer: Eng­land head coach Gareth South­gate faces a defin­ing test this sum­mer.

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