Gareth Southgate has no more opportunities to test his England options – and his next job is to name the World Cup squad.
Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Italy was the last chance for the Three Lions boss to hone his tactics and thinking before naming the travelling party for Russia.
With the provisional 35-man squad due in with FIFA on May 14 and the final 23-group required to be finalised by June 4, Press Association Sport’s Simon Peach looks at those called up during Southgate’s reign and how likely they are to head to the finals.
On the plane: Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Joe Hart
Waiting by the gate: Nick Pope and Tom Heaton
Looking at holidays: Angus Gunn and Fraser Forster
Joe Hart is far and away the most experienced member of the squad and Southgate said the 75-cap goalkeeper has shown his value to the squad as a leader this week. The West Ham goalkeeper is set to head to Russia as back-up to Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland. The latter has long been expected to become England’s number one, but Pickford underlined his superior composure and quality on the ball in Friday’s defeat of Holland.
On the plane: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones and John Stones
Waiting by the gate: Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose, Joe Gomez, James Tarkowski, Gary Cahill, Michael Keane and Fabian Delph
Looking at holidays: Chris Smalling, Alfie Mawson, Ben Gibson, Aaron Cresswell, Nathaniel Clyne, Phil Jagielka, Kieran Gibbs, Glen Johnson and Luke Shaw
Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier look shoo-ins for the right-back berth, especially as they also performed so well together as the former slotted into the back three. Ball-playing John Stones has been key to that system and Harry Maguire has impressed the coaching staff with his displays. Southgate called Phil Jones the country’s “best defender” earlier in the season and would have called him up this time was it not for a fitness issue.
Performing well for Manchester United does not necessarily bring a place in the squad, though, as Chris Smalling can attest after being overlooked for the last two meet-ups. Gary Cahill – not only a regular under Southgate but a previous captain – and Michael Keane were notable omissions from March’s squad, while talented Joe Gomez’s early injury in Holland could prove costly. James Tarkowski was solid on his debut against Italy despite giving away a penalty, but uncapped Alfie Mawson’s watching brief makes his place unlikely.
Southgate’s desire for versatile players means resurgent Ashley Young is well-placed to go to Russia after impressing, while Fabian Delph looks a similarly adaptable option – albeit one that could be held back by not having played for the England boss. The fight to be out-and-out left-back is an interesting one, with rusty-looking Danny Rose boasting a strong relationship with the manager and Ryan Bertrand, forced to pull out of the squad this time, a dependable option.
On the plane: Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard
Waiting by the gate: Jack Wilshere, Jake Livermore, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah and Lewis Cook
Looking at holidays: Jack Cork, James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond, Andros Townsend, Ross Barkley, Michail Antonio, Danny Drinkwater, Theo Walcott and Harry Winks
Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier skippered England this week and are surely certainties for the squad. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, overlooked in November, has bolstered his chances with impressive March displays, while Southgate’s admiration of Adam Lallana is well documented and could mean fitness concerns are overlooked. Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling have surely booked their place with this week’s performances. Dele Alli is set to join them despite not playing a minute in the March internationals.
Jack Wilshere had looked ready to seal his place on the plane, only for a knee complaint to rule him out of both friendlies and deny him a first England appearance since the Euro 2016 exit to Iceland. Ruben Loftus-Cheek – man-of-the-match on his debut in November – and uncapped Nathaniel Chalobah are other midfield options facing a race for fitness.
Lewis Cook made his debut on Tuesday and reliable Jake Livermore’s poor campaign at West Brom could cost him. Southgate has tried a variety of midfield options during his tenure and Harry Winks impressed on his debut in Lithuania, but a lack of minutes for Tottenham after injury saw him drop to the under-21s squad.
On the plane: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy
Waiting by the gate: Danny Welbeck
Looking at holidays: Jermain Defoe, Daniel Sturridge, Dominic Solanke and Tammy Abraham
Southgate is sure that Harry Kane will return from injury in time for the World Cup – a good job given the Spurs striker will be spearheading the attack and perhaps also captaining the side. Marcus Rashford will come in and Jamie Vardy offers an interesting alternative, while Danny Welbeck’s versatility could see him break into the squad if able to prove his fitness. Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge are set to miss out despite doing their bit in qualification.