Gareth Southgate will be hoping that some of his most experienced and trusted England players will pick up form or in some cases reclaim their starting positions for their clubs before he names his squad for the World Cup.

Worryingly for the England boss, a number of his MVPs from last summer’s run to the European Championship final find themselves in a difficult spot as the tournament in Qatar edges closer.

There are question marks hanging over plenty including the bulk of those who started the Euro final against Italy last July: Jordan Pickford is currently injured, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have been dropped by Erik ten Hag, John Stones has drifted in and out of the Manchester City team, Kalvin Phillips is about to undergo shoulder surgery and Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling are playing in a struggling Chelsea side.

Southgate acknowledged that the situation is “not ideal” when explaining his selections for England’s Nations League matches against Italy and Germany in September, matches that will double-up as World Cup warm-ups.

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“This is a bigger than normal squad and part of the rationale is that we are very close to a World Cup and we feel, although our results were disappointing in the summer, we have picked on the basis of form and capability over a long period,” he reasoned.

“Clearly, we have a number of players including Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips who are not playing a lot of minutes with their club. It is not ideal, but we feel they have been, and can be, important players for us. It is not a perfect situation but there is still a lot of football to be played before Qatar.”

Here is the key info around Southgate’s squad announcement and which players could make the final 26.

When will England’s World Cup squad be announced?

Southgate will name his provisional squad for the World Cup on Wednesday 19 October, 33 days before England’s first group match against Iran.

All 32 football associations are then required to submit their final squads to Fifa by Sunday 13 November, a week before the opening game between hosts Qatar and Ecuador.

How many players can England select?

As was the case at last summer’s European Championship, managers are allowed to pick a 26-player squad for the final tournament, up from 23 at the previous World Cup in Russia.

Prior to making their final selection, managers are able to name up 55 players in their preliminary squads or, to use Fifa’s jargon, “release lists”. If a player in the final 26 gets injured, they can be replaced by someone on the release list.

As is the case in most domestic leagues, managers are able to make up to five substitutes per game which is partially why the squad size has been increased.

Who will England pick?

The timing of Jordan Pickford‘s thigh injury will have concerned Southgate given the Everton keeper has been in the best form of his career in 2022. Pickford missed the Nations League matches in September but is expected to be fit for the finals. Newcastle’s Nick Pope looks to have cemented his place as Pickford’s understudy after excelling for his new club.

Southgate is well-stocked for right-backs (even if Trent Alexander-Arnold is struggling for form) with Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier all starting the season strongly. Otherwise, the defence is a big problem area for the England boss. Of Southgate’s central defensive options, perhaps only John Stones‘ position is safe considering he has featured semi-regularly for Manchester City. The same cannot be said of his long-term centre-back partner Harry Maguire.

The definites

  • Jordan Pickford
  • Nick Pope
  • Kyle Walker
  • Reece James
  • Kieran Trippier
  • John Stones
  • Jordan Henderson
  • Declan Rice
  • Mason Mount
  • Jude Bellingham
  • Raheem Sterling
  • Jack Grealish
  • Bukayo Saka
  • Phil Foden
  • Harry Kane

There is an equally shallow pool to pick from in central midfield although there are at least a few players in form in that area of the pitch, notably Borussia Dortmund’s boy wonder Jude Bellingham. West Ham’s Declan Rice is one of the first names on the teamsheet, as is Mason Mount despite enduring a stuttering start to the campaign. Jordan Henderson hasn’t been at his best but his experience and leadership qualities are invaluable.

Captain Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are certainties for the final 26 given their consistency for England during the Southgate years. They will probably be joined in attack by Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish.

The maybes

  • Aaron Ramsdale
  • Dean Henderson
  • Luke Shaw
  • Ben Chilwell
  • Eric Dier
  • Harry Maguire
  • Conor Coady
  • Fikayo Tomori
  • Ben White
  • Tyrone Mings
  • Marc Guehi
  • James Ward-Prowse
  • Kalvin Phillips
  • Tammy Abraham
  • Jarrod Bowen
  • Ivan Toney
  • Marcus Rashford

Aaron Ramsdale‘s form for Arsenal over the past season and a bit suggests that he is leading the race to claim the third-choice goalkeeper slot ahead of Nottingham Forest‘s Dean Henderson. The Manchester United loanee has performed well, though, and is certainly doing his chances of inclusion no harm.

Both Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw were included in Southgate’s most recent squad despite not featuring too often for their club sides. Of the two, Chilwell has made a more compelling case to keep his spot. As for central defence, take your pick from Maguire, Eric Dier, Conor Coady, Fikayo Tomori, Ben White, Marc Guehi and Tyrone Mings. It’s likely that three if not four of them will be selected but saying which ones will be with any degree of certainty is a challenge.

Further forward, Kalvin Phillips’ shoulder injury and lack of appearances for Manchester City have put his place in jeopardy, which could open the door for James Ward-Prowse, aka the 27th man at the Euros. Tammy Abraham, Ivan Toney and Marcus Rashford are all battling for the backup striker positions, while Jarrod Bowen needs to rediscover his best form sharpish to stay in the squad.

The wildcards

  • James Justin
  • Tyrick Mitchell
  • Ryan Sessegnon
  • Kyle Walker-Peters
  • Joe Gomez
  • Conor Gallagher
  • Emile Smith Rowe
  • Jesse Lingard
  • Harvey Elliott
  • Jacob Ramsey
  • James Maddison
  • Jadon Sancho
  • Marcus Edwards
  • Anthony Gordon
  • Ollie Watkins

And now to the wildcards. There is usually at least one in an England tournament squad, from Michael Owen at France ’98 to Theo Walcott in 2006 to Ruben Loftus-Cheek four years ago. Considering Manchester United paid £73m to buy him, Jadon Sancho ordinarily wouldn’t pass as a wildcard selection, but given he hasn’t played for England since September 2021, he fits the bill.

James Maddison has arguably been England’s most in-form attacking midfielder in 2022, but barring an injury crisis it looks unlikely that he will get the call. Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott may have more of a chance if he can keep his Liverpool starting spot, while Conor Gallagher is probably only a few good appearances away from putting himself back in contention.

Ryan Sessegnon is yet to be capped at senior level but if Chilwell and Shaw continue to be overlooked by their club managers, he could just sneak in. For the ultimate wildcard, meanwhile, look no further than Sporting Lisbon’s livewire Marcus Edwards, who has been in scintillating form in this season’s Champions League. Still only 23, Edwards was a regular for England’s youth teams and would bring an element of unpredictability to the squad if chosen.

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