Rumours are circulating that additional players could still be added to the England squad. With four right-backs already in the group, the reports are that Gareth Southgate has “seen something” that could help him capitalise on The Three Lions’ unique strength in the number 2 shirt.
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It would be a quintessentially English move to load up on the position that has been traditionally reserved for the second-worst player on the team, but it reflects Southgate’s emphasis on youth and his desire to keep together a once-in-a-generation group of young full-backs rather than potentially lose them to rival international outfits.
Potential England XI to face Croatia
GK – Kyle Walker
RWB – Kieran Trippier
CB – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
CB – Mason Holgate
CB – Kyle Walker-Peters
LWB – Max Aarons
CM – Trent Alexander-Arnold
CM – Reece James
RW – Tariq Lamptey
CF – Luke Ayling
LW – Matty Cash
As it stands, several players are carrying injuries or out-of-form and the midfield virtually picks itself – Trent Alexander-Arnold has rediscovered his ability to carve open a defence from any angle and Reece James showed that while he couldn’t find a teammate from two yards after shifting to the middle in the final few minutes against Villa, Thomas Tuchel trusts him in the engine room so Gareth probably should too.
In defence, as Harry Maguire is injured and Luke Shaw is uncomfortable away from the presence of soothing Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it’s time the gang of right-sided players were allowed roam free across the back.
Kieran Trippier has just won La Liga, Aaron Wan-Bissaka hasn’t been beaten in a one-on-one duel since 2017, Max Aarons is on Barcelona’s shopping list and Kyle Walker-Peters scored very highly in fantasy football.
Inspired by the transition of Michail Antonio from bustling full-back to clinical finisher, it is also believed that Southgate thinks the new crop of talent can adapt even better than the Irons’ number 9.
During one scouting mission on Patrick Bamford, a source heard the current England boss mutter that the well-spoken striker doesn’t even look like “a player”, while “Ayling is clearly a striker trapped in the right-back position and only has his top-knot to show for it”.
And rather than going with any of the wide attacking options at England’s disposal, it is thought that Gareth thinks that defending from the front is the key to victory at this summer’s Euros. In that regard, Tariq Lamptey and Matty Cash have the defensive nous coupled with the pace to get back and form a low-block of seven full-backs.
The idea of using right-backs in every position could even be extended to solve the goalkeeper issue. Kyle Walker has experience between the sticks and he’s got the quality on the ball needed to implement England’s modern game of building from the right-back.
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