May 23, 2018, 8:07

England’s midfielders: Who should Gareth Southgate take to the World Cup?

England’s midfielders: Who should Gareth Southgate take to the World Cup?

Before Gareth Southgate names his England squad on Thursday, we will be examining his options across the pitch.

Who has booked their place on the plane to the World Cup? Who is in form and pushing for a call? And who still needs to impress?

Today we take a look at the midfielders in contention…

Who was in the last squad?

Eric Dier, Jesse Lingard, Jake Livermore, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jack Cork, Lewis Cook

Southgate named an experimental selection of midfielders, partly due to so many high profile withdrawals, for the friendly matches against Germany and Brazil in November, so expect plenty of big guns to make a return to his squad.

Since November, Jesse Lingard has really raised his game, to become a key figure for Manchester United. Lingard is the top goalscoring English midfielder with eight goals – one more than Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Eriksen. Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed against Germany – winning the man-of-the-match award – but an injury picked up in late December could rule him out of Southgate’s plans for now.

Eric Dier remains pivotal for Tottenham, but lost his place to Victor Wanyama at the weekend, Jack Cork and Lewis Cook are also regular starters for their respective clubs, while Jake Livermore remains on the periphery at West Brom. Cook, Cork and Livermore will be wary Southgate is likely to revert to more familiar names this time around.

Are the returning experienced heads in form?

Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all likely to be named by Southgate on Thursday, with 123 caps of combined experience to bring to the table.

Having started the campaign in blistering form in front of goal, racing to a season’s best Premier League tally before the end of December, Sterling has found goals hard to come by in recent months, finding the net just twice in the Premier League since the turn of the year.

Alli has made the headlines for the wrong reasons on occasion this season as he too has struggled to find the net on a regular basis. However, what is often overlooked in his goal contribution, with only two players registering more Premier League assists this season.

Top performing-England midfielders in Premier League Player Assists Chances created Dribbles completed Dele Alli 9 59 34 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 5 33 49 AndrosTownsend 5 48 72 Jesse Lingard 4 23 18 Nathan Redmond 3 39 45 Tom Carroll 3 33 7 Jonjo Shelvey 2 27 18 Ruben Loftus-Cheek 2 21 48 Jack Wilshere 2 10 40

Jurgen Klopp vehemently defends his captain Jordan Henderson at any given opportunity as critics question the 27-year-old’s role in a high-octane Liverpool side, but one player who has really impressed at Anfield of late is Oxlade-Chamberlain.

With a big fee hanging over his head, the former Arsenal midfielder has worked hard to win a regular spot in Liverpool’s starting XI, and has played a big part in their recent revival.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s piercing runs have caused many an opponent a problem this season. He registers in the top 20 for dribbles completed, which when you consider he has only started 16 Premier League games, that’s a mightily impressive return. His versatility will also be useful for Southgate, as the England coach tries to settle on a successful style of play.

What are the other options?

It seems strange to suggest that Adam Lallana would be a surprise inclusion, given his experience on the international stage, but after only recently coming back from a lengthy injury lay-off, Southgate has a decision to make. Having finally started a game for Liverpool again – against Porto in the Champions League – Lallana will argue he is ready.

Jack Wilshere is another who faces an anxious wait. Southgate has said that the Arsenal midfielder needs to be a regular starter to be considered, and Wilshere has the games under his belt to fit that criteria.

His form has been somewhat indifferent as Arsenal have struggled to stay in the hunt for a top-four spot. The passing accuracy has remained, though, with Wilshere completing more than 86 per cent of his passes.

There have been calls from some quarters for Jonjo Shelvey to get the call. Shelvey struggles for consistency, but when he does turn it on, he can be very effective – just as he was in Newcastle’s surprise win over Manchester United.

Out-of-favour Chelsea duo Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater have not played enough football to warrant getting into Southgate’s squad, but may sneak in due to past reputation. Fabian Delph is another without many games under their belt still in with a shout of a call-up.

Two youngsters with contrasting fortunes will battle it out for one of the few remaining spots. James Ward-Prowse has become overcome injury problems to become a key cog in Southampton’s engine room, while Harry Winks’ battle back from injury has not had quite the same happy ending, with the return of Wanyama and Mousa Dembele ensuring his appearances for Tottenham have dwindled in recent months. Nathan Redmond is another who has failed to find top form of late, but could still sneak in.

The real surprise call-up could be if Southgate elects to give Andros Townsend his chance once again. Statistically, Townsend ranks among the top-performing English midfielders, despite Crystal Palace languishing just above the relegation zone, and makes Sky Sports England squad based on Power Rankings.

Who is Southgate expected to go for?

According to Sky Bet, the central midfielders most likely to get called up are Dier (1/10), Henderson (1/3), Wilshere (1/2), with Delph and Winks (both 6/4). Alli is a near-certainty at 1/20, as is Lingard (1/8).

Out wide, Sterling (1/12) and Lallana (8/11), despite his injury woes, are odds-on to get the call, while Loftus-Cheek’s performance against Germany has shortened his odds, despite his injury lay off. (7/2).

Outside bets include Shelvey (10/1), Cook (10/1), Cork (22/1), and Townsend (16/1).

Who should England select?

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