Harry Maguire and Mason Mount dropped, Eric Dier and Phil Foden in… How England would line-up if World Cup started now

    It is almost time to set Three Lions as your alarm and start moaning about Jack Grealish being on the bench.

    The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a matter of weeks away, nine to be precise, and conversations about Gareth Southgate’s squad have begun.

    Southgate is preparing for a unique winter World Cup

    Getty

    Southgate is preparing for a unique winter World Cup

    Ahead of the upcoming international break, Thursday’s squad announcement for Nations League games against Italy and Germany will provide supporters their first big clue.

    Do Ivan Toney and Eric Dier deserve a coveted seat on the plane? Should Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho be recalled? And what on earth to do with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harry Maguire?

    FIFA has announced an increased squad capacity, from 23 to 26, which could save Southgate a number of difficult phone calls.

    However, his starting XI is sure to be the subject of intense speculation, particularly given England’s recent slump.

    Despite reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020, questions persist over Southgate’s tactics and a perceived rigidness with selection.

    The Three Lions boss has been accused of favouritism when it comes to out-of-form players, such as Maguire, who appear to live with a constant guarantee of starting for England.

    Maguire has found himself dropped from the United starting XI

    Getty

    Maguire has found himself dropped from the United starting XI

    Southgate has often moved to separate domestic and international form, sticking with the men who have delivered success for him in the past.

    No amount of world-class saves and clean sheets would see Aaron Ramsdale or Nick Pope displace Jordan Pickford in goal.

    But some players are banging on the door so hard, they might just knock it down before November.

    Brentford striker Toney has never been called up to the England squad, but he is arguably the nation’s second-most prolific striker behind Harry Kane, on current form. And he is nails from the penalty spot.

    Dier has not played for England since 2020

    Getty

    Dier has not played for England since 2020

    Dier has emerged as one of the first names on Antonio Conte’s Tottenham team sheet, thriving in the middle of a similarly-pragmatic back three to the one Southgate plays.

    A recall for the Spurs man appears such a certainty that many consider him an automatic starter, given an alarming lack of depth at centre-back.

    Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi and AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori will also be looking to take advantage of doubts around England’s options at centre-back.

    Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham and Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott will be asking the question about Declan Rice’s partner in midfield, given Kalvin Phillips has appeared just twice since signing for Manchester City in the summer.

    Alexander-Arnold faces a real challenge to make it into Southgate’s squad

    Getty

    Alexander-Arnold faces a real challenge to make it into Southgate’s squad

    At wing-back, Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw have both lost their starting places at Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, which could see Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier used on his weaker side again.

    Meanwhile, with Man City’s Kyle Walker is often utilised in the back-three and Blues full-back Reece James currently has the edge over Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold on the right flank.

    Then, in attack, Southgate may have to be ruthless with another one of his favourites: Chelsea forward Mason Mount.

    Only injury would prevent Kane and Raheem Sterling from starting – but City’s Phil Foden has begun the season in electric form, making an unarguable case for the final spot.

    If Rashford and Sancho continue their resurgence at Man United, Grealish and Mount may slip even further down the pecking order.

    So without further ado, assuming everybody was available and Southgate was forced to pick his England XI tomorrow, here is how we would expect the Three Lions to line up…

    Is this the XI to face Iran in England’s World Cup opener?

    Build Line-up

    Is this the XI to face Iran in England’s World Cup opener?

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