What does Southgate need to decide ahead of their World Cup opener?
Charlie Dear | 17 June 2018
England still need to weigh up their midfield anchor
The time for talking is over as England finally get their World Cup campaign underway tomorrow.
Gareth Southgate has taken a young Three Lions squad to Russia and will want show they’ve beaten their Icelandic hangover from two years ago.
Tunisia lie in their way of an opening day win as the two nations lock horns in Group G.
However, there’s still some crucial decisions Southgate has to make ahead of the game.
England have traditionally played either a flat 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 formation under bosses Roy Hodgson, Fabio Capello and Steve McCLaren.
However, England displays have often been conservative and regularly meek over the last ten years, but Southgate is looking to inject some initiative now.
The national side have been fine-tuning a 5-3-2 formation since the friendly against Italy in March.
The pivotal man in this ploy is playing Kyle Walker at right centre-back. The 27-year-old’s pace and knowledge of a full back role is the perfect foil in a three-man back-line.
It looks like Walker will be joined by an increasingly mature John Stones but the third position is up for grabs.
Harry Maguire looked nailed on for much of the campaign. A fine season for new club Leicester City has seen the 25-year-old go from fan in-the-stands at Euro 2016 to a potential starter at a World Cup two years later.
Nonetheless, Southgate decided to include the experienced Gary Cahill in the squad. This was over the likes of the young upstarts Alfie Mawson and James Tarkowski.
To add to the conundrum Cahill scored a smart header in the 2-1 win over Nigeria at Wembley to highlight his continued influence.
The five-man defence is centred on flying wing-backs to provide the attacking influence.
Kieran Tripper is nailed on for the right side against Tunisia but the left full-back position is still up for grabs.
Ashley Young got the nod against Nigeria and was a constant outlet for the midfield. The 32-year-old is at his first World Cup and his increasing maturity may prove a good contrast to the youthful attacking quartet.
However, his need to cut back onto his right foot could be an issue on the counter-attack.
The wing-backs will be vital to the England attack and this could suit the naturally left footed Danny Rose.
Rose hasn’t been a Tottenham regular this season but is now fit and ready to go.
This one will be a pivotal call and may set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
The England manager has openly admitted a lack of midfield options in the English talent-pool.
By not bringing Jack Wilshere or Jonjo Shelvey it has come down to a straight shoot-out between Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson.
Dier has been a constant in Southgate’s squads and has scored pivotal goals whilst being a calming presence in midfield.
However, Henderson’s growing influence on the team both in captaincy and improved passing-range may edge it.
The Liverpool skipper has worn the armband on five occasions under Southgate but was pipped to the World Cup honour by Harry Kane.
This is due to be the big talking point in the hours before kick-off.
Dier’s great understanding with attacking midfielder Dele Alli borders on telepathic.
The duo will be looking to continue their impressive partnership for club and country.
But Henderson’s experience could be crucial and is one of the only natural leaders in the pack.
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