England historically take seven or eight defenders to a tournament. More specifically, they always take exactly two right and left backs and four options for centre half.
World Cup 2014
Glen Johnson, Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw went to Brazil. Kyle Walker missed out through injury, while Jon Flanagan and John Stones were put on standby. None of the players who made the squad have since retired, though Johnson, Baines, Jagielka and Jones have struggled to make the squad since.
Below we profile the players currently in contention to go to Russia as defensive options.
Kyle Walker (Manchester City, 27 caps)
27-year-old Walker approaches the world cup largely undisputed as England’s first choice. Versatile enough to play in a back four or as a wingback ahead of a back three and off the back of a £45 million move to Man City where he will compete for the number two jersey with Danilo, only an injury or an incredible loss of form will stop him making his world cup bow next year, after missing out in 2014.
Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool, 14 caps)
After a brilliant season for Liverpool, missing only one league fixture all season, Clyne will be feeling hard done by to have not been given an England run out in 2017 up to now. He will be confident of a good season ahead for Liverpool, realistically he must focus on his own form to take him to Russia.
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur, 1 cap)
Trippier’s progress has been steady but quick over the last three years. Now at Spurs, the former Burnley man forced Kyle Walker out of Tottenham’s starting 11 at the end of the season, but remains behind Walker in the England pecking order. A good season will make Southgate’s decision very difficult.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea, 55 caps)
Cahill goes into 2017/18 on the back of a title winning campaign with Chelsea. He is one of the most experienced heads around the camp and having recently captained the three lions in Wayne Rooney’s absence, he is almost certain to go next summer.
Chris Smalling (Manchester United, 31 caps)
The consistent but uninspiring united defender needs games to stake his claim for a starting spot, but realistically his involvement over the last few years says he should go. His starting place is under serious threat though.
John Stones (Manchester City, 18 caps)
£47.5 million man Stones remains England’s future as well as present. At 23, he will go on to get many more caps. At this stage, he must focus on his Man City form and hope that he convinces Gareth Southgate that he should be starting.
Michael Keane (Everton, 2 caps)
A lot of eyes will be on Keane after a £25 million move to Everton. Having made his England debut with an assured performance in Germany earlier this year, Keane will be looking for a continued taste of international football as he challenges in the top half of the table.
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur, 12 caps)
27-year-old Rose has been in brilliant form for Spurs and England over the last two years. He was one of few players to return from Euro 2016 with any credit and will go to Russia as England’s first choice.
Ryan Bertrand (Southampton, 14 caps)
Bertrand performed consistently for the Saints in 2016/7, but will need a huge season to displace Danny Rose. He is well established as back up at this stage.
Luke Shaw (Manchester United, 7 caps)
Since breaking his leg in 2015, Shaw has struggled to regain the form of his first season in Manchester. He will need to force his way into Jose Mourinho’s plans to mount a late challenge.
Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United United, 1 cap)
Former Ipswich man Cresswell made his debut last November against Spain but has yet to add to that solitary appearance. Will need an outstanding season to displace either Rose or Bertrand.
Outside bets: Phil Jones, Leighton Baines, Ben Gibson.
The defensive options available to Southgate are arguably stronger than ever, though which midfielders are attempting to impress Southgate for inclusion and selection in 2018?
Written by Sam Hanys.