It’s not long before England travel to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. With that comes one of the most hotly discussed topics within the sport: who will make England’s squad?
Gareth Southgate’s two tournaments as England boss have finished with fourth-place (2018) and second-place (2021) efforts. He can only go one better – and England fans would love nothing more than victory in Qatar.
We and our friends at PickGuru have had a go at predicting the England squad that will board the plane in November. Nations were allowed squads of 26 in the Euros during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it will be back to 23 for the World Cup, making the job even harder.
How will Southgate pick his squad?
Gareth Southgate has been at the helm for over five years now, so there’s a substantial amount of data on how England are likely to set up and how he might go about picking his squad.
The former Middlesbrough coach has taken a pragmatic approach to the role and will change his formation based on the quality of the opposition. As Euro 2020 showed, he’s more than willing to play a 4-2-3-1 when England are favourites, however, when the opposition has a lot of attacking talent, he’s happy to switch to a five-man defence.
This has worked for him so far. He played a 4-2-3-1 in every match apart from the clashes against Italy and Germany in the European Championships and they conceded just twice throughout the tournament.
While England do not possess some of the world’s best central defenders, a solution to this is to play with three centre-backs. Consequently, versatility is an important factor; having the depth to accommodate three central defenders and players that can operate at wing-back seems crucial.
When Southgate adopted this England team, it was lacking experience and leaders. With two major tournaments behind his back, he now has a plethora of players he can trust to perform on the biggest stage.
Due to Euro 2020 being delayed to 2021, it left less time for inexperienced players to blend themselves into the squad. It’s why a player such as Harry Maguire – who performed superbly at the Euros less than a year ago – is likely to be backed by Southgate despite a turbulent Premier League season.
Three goalkeepers have to be selected, leaving 20 players to make up the rest of the squad.
Previous tournaments suggest that Southgate will take at least nine defenders to the World Cup. That scenario occurred in 2018 when he had to select a 23-man squad, while he took 10 defenders to the 2021 tournament (but that was from a wider pool of 26).
Presuming that happens again, it leaves just 11 players in midfield and attack to take on the plane.
England World Cup squad predictions
Without doubt the easiest place to start.
Jordan Pickford is guaranteed to be on the plane to Qatar as long as he is fit; two stellar performances in 2018 and 2021 are proof that he can do it on the biggest stage – and the England manager will value his experience.
Given Aaron Ramsdale‘s performances for Arsenal this season, it would be a shock not to see him go. Mikel Arteta was criticised by many for bringing him in at the start of the campaign, but he’s proven many wrong. He’ll be knocking at the door for a start.
Mikel Arteta on Rodgers calling Ramsdale England’s best goalkeeper: “I think Aaron has to take those words to give him confidence. I always said he’s been exceptional since the day we signed him, not only on the pitch, but what he transmitted.” #afc pic.twitter.com/tce9MAn2bZ— afcstuff (@afcstuff) March 15, 2022
The final position will most likely go to Nick Pope, who, for all of his England call-ups, still has under 10 caps. He’s the most experienced out of the other options at this level.
Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone or Fraser Forster could all earn their place with a run of good form, but Pope is the likely candidate at this stage.
The Guru’s selection: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope
Now it gets a bit trickier. England’s defence at Euro 2020 was superb; in their seven matches, they only conceded on two occasions – both of which came from set pieces.
We think Southgate will stick to form and select nine defensive players again.
Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker were the first choices at the back when playing with a four and it would be a surprise to see if any of these were dropped for the World Cup, unless it was for injuries.
Stones has been third-choice for much of the campaign and Maguire has been poor. However, they’ve performed admirably in both tournaments under Southgate and he’ll depend on them next time around. Shaw hasn’t had the best season either, but still remains in England’s top two left-backs, while Walker’s ability to play at right centre-back gives him a definite edge.
Gareth Southgate on why Kyle Walker is missing from the England team: “I had a chat with him, we felt this was an opportunity to look at the two younger full-backs. We know all there is to know about Kyle, he'll be back in June…"— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) March 17, 2022
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James are also likely to get picked given their obvious qualities, meaning England could take three right-backs to the tournament. Kieran Trippier‘s ability to play at left-back gives him hope, but Ben Chilwell is likely to be the final full-back within this England squad.
Conor Coady, Marc Guéhi and Tyrone Mings were all called up to England’s latest squad, but we don’t think any of these will be going to the World Cup at this stage. Instead, Ben White, who has shown the ability to play in a number of different positions and formations, could get the nod.
We’re also backing recent omission Fikayo Tomori to do enough. It may seem too little too late for the 24-year-old, but with AC Milan the current favourites to lift the Scuddeto and with legends of the game such as Franco Baresi tooting his horn, Southgate can only avoid him for so much longer.
There's absolutely no way that Harry Maguire or Tyrone Mings deserve to be in this England squad over Fikayo Tomori. I could understand if it was a tournament but these are friendlies, they give you a chance to experiment.— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) March 17, 2022
In fact, Dan Burn has done a lot better than both.
The Guru’s selection: Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Ben White, Fikayo Tomori
Best friends Declan Rice and Mason Mount look nailed-on picks for Southgate. Not only was Rice brilliant in the Euros, but he’s gone from strength to strength at West Ham since then. Mount’s qualities are obvious, being a key player in a successful Chelsea side. He can also play as a 10 or an 8, which suits England depending on which formation they choose to employ.
Kalvin Phillips has had a bad season with injuries, but it’s probable he’ll keep his place for the World Cup. He was England’s most recent player of the year, and his partnership with Rice was a key component in the team’s solid defensive display at the Euros.
Jude Bellingham is yet to turn 19, but already has over 100 competitive appearances under his belt. The young midfielder was at the top of the GOAL’s NXGN list for 2022, which is proof of him being one of the best players on the planet within his age group.
He has the ability to play deeper or more attacking if needed, chipping in with a goal or assist around every five games for Dortmund since joining. He became the youngest ever player to play at the Euros in 2021 – it would be a surprise to see him losing his position.
It’s a tough call for the final central midfield player in the squad. James Ward-Prowse has had another brilliant campaign for Southampton and offers a lot when it comes to set-pieces. Conor Gallagher is another possibility, and if he can find a way of getting into the Chelsea team and replicating his Palace form, he could well get on the plane.
Ultimately, we think it might come down to experience. Based on that, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson seems the sensible choice. His know-how at the top of the game is second to none in this squad, so his presence in the dressing room could be crucial.
The Guru’s selection: Declan Rice, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson
Harry Kane is already closing in on being England’s all-time top goalscorer, so barring an injury, it would take something cataclysmic to see him not turn up in Qatar.
Raheem Sterling has been in double figures for Premier League goals for five campaigns on the trot now. People were doubting him before the Euros, and they were soon made to eat their words. Fellow City compatriot Phil Foden is also likely to be there, with Pep Guardiola showing even more trust in him this season.
That leaves us with three.
At least one more number 9 is a necessity. We’ve gone for Tammy Abraham. The Roma forward has been prolific in Italy this season, with fans taking to the 24-year-old. Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be hoping he can find some form between now and November, but for now, we think he’ll be watching from Liverpool.
Two more spaces are up for grabs on the flanks. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford haven’t had the seasons they would have hoped for, and resultingly, could well miss out. Ollie Watkins and Emile Smith-Rowe are others that Southgate has fancied in friendlies, but we also think they’ll be left at home.
After missing the decisive penalty at Euro 2021, Bukayo Saka has shown immense maturity and has had his best season to date. He’s one of the first names on Arteta’s teamsheet and also provides versatility. His consistency for a player so young is fantastic and that will only encourage Southgate.
The final space in the squad we believe will go to Jack Grealish. After moving for £100m he’s not had the most amount of joy in terms of goals and assists, but his footballing ability is there for all to see. Again, he can play in a number of different positions – a factor that will be taken into account.
The Guru’s selection: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Tammy Abraham, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish
Predicted England 2022 World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Reece James (Chelsea), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Ben White (Arsenal), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan)
Midfielders: Declan Rice (West Ham), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Raheem Sterling (Man City), Phil Foden (Man City), Tammy Abraham (Roma), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jack Grealish (Man City)
Other World Cup info
If you’re not sure where the World Cup is taking place, check out our piece which looks at all of the stadiums that will be used at the tournament and what stage they will be used at.
Also, have a read about when the 2022 World Cup will be played, including information on what times kick-offs will be.