Despite going 38 games unbeaten in World Cup and European Qualifying game, the equivalent of a Premier League season, there is still mounted pressure on England suggesting they are still nowhere near good enough. The Three Lions just scraped through with a 1-0 win over Slovenia last night thanks to 90th minute winner from Spurs striker, Harry Kane and once again there was a heap of criticism over the performance by England and also the tactics from Gareth Southgate. England are now qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia so here we are going to take a look at who should start in the first game.
GK: Jack Butland (Stoke City)
The young Stoke City stopper certainly has a bright future ahead of him and I think it has got to be time now where Joe Hart is stepped aside. Joe Hart hasn’t seen the best of form since leaving as first choice ‘keeper from Manchester City so I think it is Jack Butland’s time to be nurtured in as the new number one. Southgate did acknowledge last week that the pressure is on Joe Hart but the only concern for Butland is that he only has 5 international appearances to his name which isn’t great going in to a major tournament.
RB: Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
At the end of the day Kyle Walker is starting for a Man City side that is a contender for the title this season and if he is part of that side and playing well he is going to be starting for England come the first game of the World Cup. The lightening quick full back does offer a lot going forward and has been in good form this season with just his defensive vulnerabilities that you could question.
CB: John Stones (Manchester City)
Similarly to Walker, I feel if John Stones is going to be part of a very strong City side this season, then he’ll warrant a place in the side. Centre-back is a very weak position for England but the ball playing skills of John Stones I think will provide England with a useful option when it comes to the World Cup.
CB: Phil Jones (Manchester United)
People have a bit of a predisposed opinion when it comes to Phil Jones these days, myself included, but there is no doubt that so far he’s had a stellar start to this campaign forming a solid partnership with Eric Bailly in a United side that look to be serious contenders. The 25 year-old centre back, if he stays fit, could be a crucial part of Jose Mourinho’s side this season and if it continues I think he warrants the partnership with Stones.
LB: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
It is a tricky one with left-back because in honesty I would probably prefer Danny Rose in this position but Bertrand is proving over again why he is just as capable with good performances for Southampton and there is talk a to whether Danny Rose will even regain a place in the Spurs side over Ben Davies. If Bertrand keeps his performances with Southampton at this level this season, then depending on whether Rose regains his place at Tottenham then I believe Bertrand will start come the first game.
CM: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Again…another weak point for England is the centre of the park. We really are lacking a top quality centre-midfielder. Jordan Henderson isn’t awful but unfortunately that is the most I can complement the lad. As a more senior player of this young side, I do think maybe his experience and leadership is something that could provide very useful in the squad. He needs to put in some inspiring performances for Liverpool this season but I think it’s a full gone conclusion that he will start.
CM: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
There is no part of me that thinks ‘Wheelchair’ will start in the World Cup in fact I think he’ll be lucky to be on the plane. Trouble is, I think a fully fit, fully focused, Jack Wilshere is one of the best talents we possess. At 18 years-old, Wilshere was likened to Paul Gascoigne, 7 years later, at 25, he is probably the biggest waste of potential since…well Gascoigne. But if I could have the best Jack Wilshere available then he would be my first name on the team sheet.
CAM: Dele Alli (Spurs)
There is no doubting the talent that Dele Alli possesses and he has some incredible stats for his age including 30 goals in 77 appearances for Tottenham at just 21 years of age. If we can see the Dele Alli that performs at the top of his game for Spurs, then England are in for a treat at the World Cup because he is the game changer that is going to be the difference between a draw and a win for us in Russia.
RW: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Inconsistent is probably the best word to stick on Raheem Sterling. I do think people forget Sterling is still just 22 years-old but he’s a man who can frustrate you to the core, or pull off something spectacular. He has had a super start to the season netting 5 goals in 6 appearances, just 2 goals shy of last years league tally so form like that will see him firmly on the team sheet come June next year.
ST: Harry Kane (Spurs)
Not only is he the first name on the team sheet, we could potentially be looking at our captain for the World Cup. There is no doubting Harry Kane’s talent, he’s scoring goals for fun in the most competitive league in the world. After his breakthrough season he was deemed a one season wonder by many, but here we are 2 golden boots and over 100 goals later. Even in a completely uninspiring England performance against Slovenia last night he came up with the goods to pounce on Kyle Walkers goal and send us to Russia.
LW: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
I believe personally, that Rashford is wasted on the wing. I think he’s got a lot of talent and a bright future but unfortunately for Rashford, at United he isn’t getting in the team above Romelu Lukaku and for England he isn’t getting in over Harry Kane. That said there isn’t exactly anyone else that stands out as a viable option for left-wing and the pace and trickery of Rashford may actually come good for us in Russia.
So that is our England XI for the first game in Russia. It was always going to be tricky and it is purely hypothetical. Let us know your thoughts below! (Unless your opinion is Jesse Lingard).