In a continuation to our World Cup build up for the English national side, we now turn our attention to the centre back pairing! (We are assuming Southgate will go with three CBs and two wingers). So who are the contenders? There’s surely only room for 4 dedicated CB’s on the plane, with the added adaptability from Eric Dier who will feature as a defensive midfielder. So, will Southgate bring only 3 CBs? This was arguably the toughest and most open contest to be decided.
This time last year the Chelsea club captain would have been a dead-cert for the plane. He is one of the most experienced players on the shortlist with 58 caps and having been mentored by arguably the best English defender of this generation in John Terry, I would have fancied Cahill to lead the English defense in Russia.
However, Cahill has not enjoyed the best season at Stamford Bridge, having regularly been forced to warm the bench while watching Rudiger & Christensen start ahead of him for the Blues. But this may actually be an advantage for the towering defender as he will be fresher and hungry for the game time this summer! If England do decide to deploy three at the back then his lack of pace can be covered by a more speedy defender but his lack of pace may be an issue if left isolated. Pairing him on the same side of the pitch as Kyle Walker might be a good idea!
Smalling is a curious character! Arguably the most physically gifted defender on this list, he often dominates his opponents with ease, but a lack of concentration can be his downfall! For all the physical ability he possesses, if he cannot stay focussed then he becomes a liability! This is something Manchester United fans will testify to!
Smalling has arguably had one of his best seasons at Old Trafford with some even suggesting he could be their Player of the Season. Well, that’s not going to happen! That award should really be renamed the David de Gea annual appreciation award!
But joking aside, I do believe Smalling has had a good season and would deserve a call-up!
Speaking of curious characters; I give you the curious case of Phil Jones! Jones, on his day, can be the best player on the pitch. But sadly, due to injury, we don’t get to see that enough! Jones is a tenacious and physical defender who loves getting down and dirty! He would fit in well in a system with three CB’s as his pace and ball playing ability could be a real strength.
Another string to the bow of Jones is his adaptability. Jones can play CB, RB and even defensive midfield although sometimes being so versatile can be a hindrance in trying to secure regular football in his preferred position of CB.
Stones has fallen down the pecking order at Manchester City and is now behind Kompany, Otamendi & Laporte for a starting position at the Cityzens! Guardiola will let Stones leave in the summer as he feels Stones is not progressing enough for the Spaniards liking!
Stones is still incredibly young considering his position, and while he may not be at the level required for Man City right now, it’s likely he will develop to that player in the future. Southgate is also a big fan, having coached him at underage for the national side so as long as Stones is fit I think he’ll always be close to the squad. Consistent football should see him being a starter in the not-too-distant future.
Harry Maguire is an enigma! A player who could arguably play anyplace on the pitch such is his comfort on the ball. Defensively, he has come on leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. After excelling with Hull last season he moved to the King Power stadium and has formed a strong partnership with Wes Morgan.
There is a bright future in store for Maguire if he continues this upward trend with a potential move to Arsenal on the cards! He is an outside bet to be on the plane to Russia purely based on his lack of experience at this stage. However, I fully expect him to be involved in the Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
Keane should have really pushed on this year after a fantastic campaign with Burnely last year however his form has been inconsistent at best since his switch to Everton! Not sure if you could put all that on Keane however as there appears to be some cultural issues at Goodison which is affecting all the players attempts at finding form!
Keane has all the attributes required to be an international centre back but needs to show that week-in and week-out and take his opportunity or he’ll be left behind by the likes of Stones & Maguire!
Plenty of options should England need to down the depth chart but these gentlemen will require an awful amount of fortune to make the plane to Russia!
Based on previous squad selections, Southgate will probably select Stones, Maguire & one of Smalling/Cahill/Jones. I can’t see England playing a 4-4-2 with Stones & Maguire playing together, due to a severe lack of international experience! A more likely scenario is to play with three centre backs with either Smalling/Cahill/Jones in there with the youthful duo of Maguire and Stones.
With Dier providing cover from his midfield role, Southgate might just bring 3 dedicated centrebacks. Experience counts for a lot in tournament football so if it is only 3 CB’s then I would think Cahill will get the call along with Maguire & Stones.
Who do you think will be starting for England this summer? Make sure to let us know!