Trent Alexander-Arnold, England v Scotland U21, 2017
Trent Alexander-Arnold, England v Scotland U21, 2017 | Photo by Paul Thompson/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

5 Thoughts On England’s 23-Man World Cup Squad

By Niall Clarke and Neil Leverett

  • Niall and Neil give their five thoughts on England’s 23 man World Cup Squad
  • Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere left out
  • Uncapped Trent Alexander-Arnold called up to the squad
Following Gareth Southgate naming his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia, the Britwatch football team have given their thoughts on the selection.



Axe falls on Joe’s Hart

Niall: I personally feel this was a good decision from Gareth Southgate. Joe Hart is a goalkeeper who can win you matches when he is firing – we have seen that for club and country a few times over the years – however he is also culpable for many mistakes too.

This season has not been the best for the 32 year old. He could not even establish a place as West Ham’s number one never mind the top goalkeeper for the national team. Hart has been a good hand for the Three Lions for many years, but to me this is a tournament where England have to look forward and as good as he can be, Hart is a reminder of past failures.

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Neil: Absolutely the right choice, although I expected him to go for the experienced head in the group. Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland will now battle for the number one spot and whilst neither and flawless right now, both are young and still yet the reach their peak. Nick Pope also wins a deserved call-up – ironically in the stead of team-mate Tom Heaton.

In terms of when the Three Lions kick off their campaign, Pickford is amongst the best shot-stoppers in the Premier League and in a penalty scenario I would back him between the sticks.


Wilshere does not make the cut

Niall: Whist I feel leaving Hart out was a good decision, I do not agree with not including Jack Wilshere in the squad.

Some will say that Wilshere is injury prone and is susceptible to letting his emotions get the better of him, and those points are true, but the fact is England have an extreme lack of creative players in this squad.

A midfield of Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier will provide a lot of stability, but they do not have the creativity that Wilshere possesses. The 25 year old can split open defences with passes and make runs from midfield which opens up spaces and goal scoring opportunities for the likes of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling up front.

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England have some good goal-scorers in the squad, but it feels like their opportunities will be sparse with the lack of creativity coming from midfield. I think Wilshere will be a big miss for England when they head to Russia.

Neil: Whilst I agree Wilshere is one of most creative players in the country, that is not enough for me to include him. I’d like to state at this time as an Arsenal fan, I am in the minority when it comes to Wilshere, but really we all to need to move on from the myth that is the former player that was.

Yes, he capable of changing a game in the blink of an eye, but I don’t see that to be the case in this moment and certainly as a player still not fully-fit. For what it’s worth I would have taken Jonjo Shelvey as that individual to throw on in the final 20 minutes to unlock a defence, but his well-publicised discipline issues continue to dog the player and I can see why Southgate has not gone for him.


Alexander-Arnold gets nod

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Niall: After an impressive season at Liverpool where he made 33 appearances for the Reds, I absolutely feel that Trent Alexander-Arnold deserves a chance at the World Cup.

It may be a little early for him to be the first choice right back, especially coming up against world class players such as Eden Hazard and potentially Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar on that side, but this is all about tournament experience and looking ahead for the future, where I am sure the 19 year old will be a regular starter.

Alexander-Arnold may be uncapped, but he has been one of the stand out young players this season and deserves his chance in Russia.

Neil: Once the Reds reached the UEFA Champions League final, there was little choice for the England boss to include the teenager in the squad.

Having had a taste of the first-team squad last summer, Alexander-Arnold has grabbed his chance with both hands in the absence of Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez at right-back. Impressing with his electric pace but also defensive nouse, the Liverpudlian has won rave reviews in the latter half of this season, in particular against Manchester City and his overall showings in Europe.

His biggest test is yet to come against Real Madrid in nine days time in Kiev, but with Kyle Walker now seemingly set for a role on the right of a back three in defence, even if Kieran Trippier would be deployed at at wing-back, the 19-year-old could even line up on the right of midfield such is his versatility.

I just get the feeling this young man could have a major impact in Russia.


Is there the right balance?

Niall: Young players such as Rashford, Alexander Arnold, Dele Alli and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are on the plane and this is good to see as they will need tournament experience for the future. In my opinion though, there are a few young names that could have also made the cut.

This tournament is not about winning the World Cup because England stand little to no chance of doing so, it is about building for future tournaments. The aim is to become contenders in 2022 and 2026 where the promising players will be closer to their prime.

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I would have liked to have seen call-ups for Ryan Sessegnon and Phil Foden so they can get some World Cup and International experience. I mean, what is the harm?

Neil: Whilst I agree about Sessegnon, it way too soon for Foden having barely played for the senior Citizens as I shall dub them.

Loftus-Cheek I am very happy is in after having a excellent outing versus Germany in a friendly earlier this season and is a commodity that could be very hard to tie down in this England side.

Overall, I like the balance of youth and inexperience, which is why I am okay with the selection of Gary Cahill even though the Chelsea man does not fill me with confidence. Fans normally complain about the presence of the old guard at major tournaments; something that they really cannot this summer.


How do we rate England’s chances?

Niall: Before the squad announcement I could name at least eight nations that have a better chance of going all the way than England, after the squad announcement I can still name those same nations.

With their draw, England have a good shot at making the quarter finals, which is a respectable result and should be the aim. There are some promising players in this team, but they will not be ready to go all the way yet. I also look at the lack of creative midfield players compared to other nations and feel that it could be a big factor when the latter stages come around.

England do not have the players of a Brazil or Spain, they do not have the squad depth of a France or Germany, and they do not have the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who are capable of almost single handily carrying their nations to World Cup glory.

But what England do have is some promising players for 2022 where I feel their chances will increase if these players can continue their progression.

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Neil: I am cautiously optimistic of our chances. The draw is likely to pit us against either Colombia or Poland in the last 16 – should the Three Lions advance from the group stages – and that will not be a cakewalk.

This team however is starting to sparkle a bit, and after the successes of both the U-17 and u-20 in lifting their respective World Cup’s the seeds of hope are being sewn in the same way that both Spain and Germany have climbed the ladder to the top in recent years.

Whilst I am not saying that this team is going to Russia to become World champions, there is something here that has been woefully bereft in recent tournaments. These players want to play for the shirt and indeed the manager and I see a real team spirit that could take them far. I could be wrong.


Final 23-man squad:

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley).

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Kyle Walker, John Stones (both Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose (both Tottenham Hotspur), Phil Jones, Ashley Young (both Manchester United).

Midfielders: Eric Dier, Dele Alli (both Tottenham Hotspur), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).

Forwards: Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Harry Kane (Tottenham).

Standby: Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski (Burnley), Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Jake Livermore (West Brom), Adam Lallana (Liverpool).


Britwatch Sports will be covering the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with our team building up to the tournament over the coming month. England play their opening game of Group G against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday June 18th at 7pm UK time.