With the European Championship drawing ever closer, I discussed Gareth Southgate’s various goalkeeping options earlier this week. Logically, the next point of call is his defenders, and he’ll no doubt have at least one injury concern to ponder in the build-up to the summer’s tournament.
England’s latest squad named as many as nine players, but Southgate won’t be able to accommodate that kind of numbers in the Euros squad. He’ll need to cut a few for sure, so competition for places will be fierce.
On the plane
Only one or two spots in the squad are likely to be up for grabs this summer, depending on injuries. He has plenty of defenders on the fringes but some are for sure on the plane.
Harry Maguire (Man Utd), Kyle Walker (Man City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) and Ben Chilwell (Chelsea) will be pretty sure of a seat on the plane.
They’ll likely be joined by Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings, whom Southgate has taken a liking to as a left-sided centre-back; while Eric Dier (Tottenham) will be a shoo-in based on his versatility.
Southgate will also want to reserve a place for Liverpool’s Joe Gomez, so long as he can prove his fitness in time for the tournament. The 23-year-old has missed much of the season with a knee injury, but if there is a chance he can feature, he’ll be included.
That should give Southgate and England their two first-choice full-backs, and four centre-back options to pick from.
An outside chance
This is where it gets more interesting because there will be a lot more competition for places than in the goalkeeping ranks.
John Stones could be rewarded for a strong season with Premier League leaders Man City with a first international appearance since 2019. I’d expect him to be part of the squad, more so if Gomez isn’t passed fit.
Fighting Stones for a role in the squad will be Michael Keane (Everton) and Conor Coady (Wolves). Any one of them could feature, but my pick would be Stones.
As for England’s depth in the full-back position, it’s also pretty fiercely contested. There’s both Kieran Trippier and Reece James to consider, not to mention Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Tariq Lamptey and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Back of the queue
The next few names aren’t all that far behind, though it might be too late to convince Southgate to hand them a role this summer. Fikayo Tomori will hope that his loan move to AC Milan last month will grant him the first-team opportunities to force his way back into Southgate’s thinking.
Meanwhile, James Tarkowski, Ben Godfrey, Mason Holgate, Axel Tuanzebe, Rob Holding, and Luke Shaw will have hands-on the ladder, but they’ve probably got too much still to do to climb high enough.
As for the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, their time has passed.
One final name to consider will be Leicester’s James Justin because I think his case, in particular, is an unfortunate one. He’s been brilliant for Leicester this term, but his ACL injury pretty much ended any hopes of breaking into England’s senior team anytime soon. I think he could have made the cut otherwise.