The big World Cup decisions Southgate needs to address

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Gareth Southgate (right) addresses the England players during the 3-3 draw with Germany
England avoided a third straight defeat by drawing with Germany on Monday
Dates: Sunday, November 20 – Sunday, December 18 Place: Qatar Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app

England’s pre-World Cup playing time ended with the drama of a fluctuating Nations League tie against Germany at Wembley.

The game may have been irrelevant in the context of that tournament, but a meeting with Germany in the final 90 minutes before Gareth Southgate named his squad for Qatar meant it would always matter.

England showed real spirit to come from 2-0 down to advance only for Germany to make it six games without a win for Southgate’s side with a late draw.

The England manager must now finalize the 26 players he will take to the World Cup and then select a squad for the opener against Iran on November 21, and there are significant issues to address.

Can Maguire be trusted to start?

Southgate has been solid in his support for defender Harry Maguire despite mounting evidence that he should not be in his starting line-up.

His faith in the Manchester United captain, dropped at club level by manager Erik ten Hag after a run of poor form that began long before the Dutchman’s arrival at Old Trafford, was seen undermined by Maguire’s calamitous performance against Germany.

He made two mistakes for Germany’s opener, a poor pass that led to him conceding a penalty for a foul on Jamal Masiala, and then gave possession up the pitch, allowing the visitors to break away for the second .

Watching Maguire was an uncomfortable experience, but it also raised the question of whether Southgate’s loyalty to a player who served him well as England reached the World Cup semi-final in 2018 and the Euro final 2020 is now stubborn and self-defeating.

Maguire is starting to look like a liability, with his confidence shattered, and his exile at United means he is unlikely to get a chance to rebuild before the World Cup.

Fikayo Tomori has been impressive for Italian champions AC Milan but hasn’t had a chance this international break.

He clearly rates Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi while Everton’s Conor Coady is a valuable member of the squad. The exclusion for these matches of Arsenal’s Ben White does not bode well for him.

Southgate is hoping John Stones’ hamstring injury is not a problem, otherwise he could have a conundrum over two centre-back positions for the Iran game.

If he chooses form, Maguire cannot be in the England squad for his first game. If the Manchester United defender is, he will represent a huge risk for the manager. Don’t bet on Southgate sticking with him.

Does Alexander-Arnold fit in somewhere?

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold has 17 England caps, most recently in June’s 1-0 defeat to Hungary.

Will Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold be in England’s World Cup squad? And if it is, will it only be there to make up the numbers?

The Alexander-Arnold debate is growing, and not giving him a single minute in the last two games, indeed not even including him in the squad of the day against Germany, only adds to the noise.

Even his army of admirers will admit that Alexander-Arnold has had a poor start to the season. So Southgate can point out that he is ignoring him on form grounds… but that leaves him open to suggestions of inconsistency, given the continued selection of Maguire all the more obvious.

Many will be baffled. Southgate seems unable to find a use for such a naturally gifted performer, but simply seems to have other people who will do the job he wants better than Alexander-Arnold, certainly in a defensive sense, where he has shown. vulnerable

Chelsea’s Reece James is an excellent talent, solid in defense and with attacking qualities, while Kyle Walker’s pace is an asset and Kieran Trippier is experienced and versatile, as well as having the ability to play down both sides .

On the left, Luke Shaw was brought back into action to rival Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell with a fine performance against Germany that included a goal and a sumptuous pass to Raheem Sterling that should have led to a goal in the first party

Alexander-Arnold may still be in the England squad, but nothing in Southgate’s latest selections suggests he will be anywhere near the starting line-up.

Who will cover Kane?

Shaw’s goal against Germany was, according to Opta stats, England’s first in an open game for 565 minutes.

Captain Harry Kane has clearly been a part of that drought, but he is irreplaceable at spearhead and if he were to get injured – and his ankles have previously been a concern – who would Southgate turn to?

Brentford’s Ivan Toney looked set to stake his claim after a deserved call-up for the games against Italy and Germany, but he was not included in Milan’s matchday squad and remained on the bench for Wembley.

Of course, Southgate would have watched Toney closely in training, but what was the point of calling him up and not using him? Toney would have been dreaming of a first England cap; now Brentford hope they don’t bring back their striker deflated by his international experience.

Is Southgate convinced by Roma’s Tammy Abraham? The fact that it hasn’t been used isn’t a vote of confidence either.

Southgate is a fan of Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but he has barely played a year this season so is the longest of long shots.

He has many options in the wide positions. Marcus Rashford is one, and he showed signs of returning to form before he got injured. It can also be seen as a deputy for Kane, but either Toney or Abraham are still on the plane to Qatar.

Southgate certainly has plenty of creativity to service the forwards, in the form of Manchester City pair Phil Foden and Jack Grealish plus Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka.

Chelsea’s Mason Mount made a big impact off the bench with a goal against Germany, while Raheem Sterling remains a regular starter. Manchester United’s Jadon Sancho has a fight to make a late charge to return to the squad, despite much-improved form this season.

Is there any doubt that Bellingham has to start?

Jude Bellingham
Bellingham has been Southgate’s central midfielder in the absence of the injured Kalvin Phillips

Jude Bellingham is an amazing talent at just 19 and his performance against Germany will surely have convinced Southgate that he should start against Iran.

He’s made for the big stage, whether it’s with England at a tournament or with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

Southgate has preferred a more conservative midfield duo of West Ham United captain Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips when they have been available, but the latter has barely played since leaving Leeds United for Manchester City and is now ‘is recovering from shoulder surgery, which raises doubts. he

If he is ruled out, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse are likely to move up the pecking order and Conor Gallagher may be on his way to Qatar instead of Phillips.

Which combination Southgate opts for in England’s midfield in Qatar will be intriguing, but one thing is surely clear: Bellingham must start.

Who will be Pickford’s MP?

Questions about Jordan Pickford’s status as England’s first-choice goalkeeper have surely been put to rest.

The Everton goalkeeper, who has been outstanding over the past 18 months, has still debated his position despite not making a mistake that has led to a goal in 45 appearances for England.

England have conceded eight goals in the three games he has not played and his importance has increased in his absence as his value is perhaps now recognised.

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope are vying to be his deputy, but the Newcastle United goalkeeper’s uncertainty with the ball at his feet against Italy and Germany did not help his cause and his record gifted to Kai Havertz’s late equalizer at Wembley was a desperate moment for him.

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