The dreaded international break has returned to interrupt our enjoyment of domestic football, and this time it is the final two World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania that we have to watch England struggle through.
With these fixtures comes another England squad selection, and in part 1 we will analyse the goalkeepers and defenders from this 25-man squad below.
Joe Hart: The England number one, for now, is currently on loan at West Ham from his parent club Manchester City. He has helped the Hammers to three clean sheets in the league this season, which looks good on the surface. However they have also conceded 13 goals in the seven league games and Hart has made the fourth fewest saves of any keeper in the Premier League.
Fraser Forster: The Southampton shot stopper has also helped his side to three clean sheets, but in contrast to Hart he has made the fourth most saves in the league with 24, which is ten more than Hart. Southampton have also only conceded seven league goals so far. Make of that what you will.
Jack Butland: The defence in front of Butland at Stoke has been ravaged by injuries this season and that perhaps goes some way to explaining his single clean sheet. It seems unlikely that he will get a look in ahead of Hart or Forster in these two games.
Jordan Pickford: Four goalkeepers? How unnecessary. Pickford also only has one clean sheet and it came on the opening day of the season. Everton have looked awful since then, and Pickford has been shaky at times. Waste of a spot if you ask me.
Ryan Bertrand: The Southampton fullback usually likes to get forward but he is yet to register a single goal or assists in the league this season. He is a good player however and he only has Aaron Cresswell to contend with for the left back spot so he should be fine.
Aaron Cresswell: When’s Danny Rose back? Cresswell is a competent left back but he’s nothing special, and he’s part of a West Ham defence that is rather porous this season, having conceded 13 league goals in seven games. Interestingly though he has delivered the most crosses in the Premier League this season.
Gary Cahill: The Chelsea captain has had a tough time in the league this season, having been sent off in the opening game. He is one of England’s more experienced centre backs however and is a likely starter. He can be exposed by pacey forwards however, which is something to keep an eye on.
Harry Maguire: Leicester’s new centre back signing from Hull, Maguire has impressed so far for the Foxes and scored in their 2-0 win over Brighton in match week two. He has played every minute and contributed to two clean sheets, despite Leicester’s tricky schedule.
John Stones: The Manchester City man has often been criticised for making avoidable mistakes, but this season Stones seems to have perfected his art and has been an integral part of a City side that has kept five clean sheets in seven league games this season.
Michael Keane: The central defender was a monster for Burnley last season, but his move to Everton has put him in a side that can’t defend or attack, which makes winning football matches quite difficult. He is still a talented defender, but his form isn’t brilliant at the moment and he is a long way down the pecking order in the international setup.
Chris Smalling: It is an impressive feat to make your international squad when you have only started one league game all season, but that is what Smalling has managed. With the resurgence of Phil Jones and the brilliance of Eric Bailly, Smalling is struggling for game time at Manchester United right now, and I would be surprised if he starts in either of these international fixtures.
Kyle Walker: After a big money move to Manchester City in the summer it looks like Walker has become part of something special under Pep Guardiola. Two league assists have come from his advanced wingback role, and he should only improve as he starts to understand the Guardiola system better and better.
Kieran Tripper: The man who stepped into Walker’s shoes at Tottenham, Trippier has actually registered three assists in the league this season, one more than Walker, and Spurs’ defence has once again looked disciplined. It could be an interesting battle for the England right back spot.
Thoughts so far
England are blessed with a plethora of talented goalkeepers but, while Hart is the number one right now, it would be good for one of these guys to take the role for their own for the long-term to provide some stability.
In defence there are a number of talented options and a mixture of youth and experience. It would be good to see Cahill partnered in central defence with someone younger like Stones to develop a strong partnership.
The battle for the right back position will be interesting, but it is a good problem to have with two talented players available. The left back spot is perhaps the weakness, though Bertrand is by no means a bad player, but when Danny Rose returns from injury he may well reclaim it.
Look out for part 2 for analysis of the midfielders and forwards.
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