Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher believes there are up to four places up for grabs in England’s starting XI for the Three Lions’ opening game at the World Cup in Qatar, and the next two games will be crucial in deciding who fills them.
The former England international, who has won 38 caps, believes the next UEFA Nations League games, which start tonight when the Three Lions take on Italy in Milan before taking on Germany on Monday, will help decide who the plane makes will be “massive”.
England meet Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan on 21 November, but with the World Cup falling in the middle of the European season, there’s no time to warm up after these two fascinating encounters.
Luke Shaw is under pressure to keep his place in England at the World Cup, while manager Gareth Southgate has shown confidence in Harry Maguire
And yet, injuries and poor form have left England manager Gareth Southgate question marks in defense and midfield that have propelled his side to the Euro 2020 final just 14 months ago.
“These are hugely important games for Gareth Southgate who is considering what his team will play at this World Cup,” said Carragher sports mail. “No warm-up games [this time]so it’s a strange time of year.
“I think Southgate will know the seven or eight players who are going to start that first game and there will be two or three positions up for grabs and that’s for the players to conquer.
“I think the centre-back will be interesting, also the left-back and just the fact that Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw haven’t played very much football for Manchester United.
Gareth Southgate will use Mstches against Italy and Germany to make crucial decisions
“I don’t think we have great coverage at centre-back, or we haven’t in recent years and at left-back Kieran Trippier has played there, who is a right-footed one, which is never easy. I think these two areas [will be interesting].’
Maguire, who has established himself as John Stones’ first-choice partner at Euro 2020, has maintained Southgate’s confidence despite his difficulties at Manchester United.
Having added the ailing centre-back to the squad, Southgate is expected to play against him and how Maguire is coping with just two Premier League starts this season will likely be crucial as competition picks up.
AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori is also in the squad after his impressive form in Italy helped his club to the Serie A title last season. In-form Spurs defender Eric Dier is back in the squad and the ubiquitous understudy Conor Coady is also in fine form for Everton.
Jamie Carragher believes there are up to four starting XI spots up for grabs at the World Cup
At left back, United’s Luke Shaw and Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell are battling it out. Shaw has not played in the Premier League since August 13, when he was on the hook at half-time in the 4-0 defeat by Brentford. He has lost his place at Erik Ten Hag’s reset at Old Trafford to Tyrell Malacia, while Chilwell is still struggling to reestablish himself after a cruciate ligament injury forced him to miss most of last season.
Yesterday, former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson suggested neither should be selected for England’s World Cup opener, instead opting for Trippier to step in again at left flank, placing Kyle Walker alongside Stones in an interesting selection the centre-back.
Carragher believes there is also uncertainty in central midfield, where another Euro 2020 mainstay, Kalvin Phillips, has been forced to withdraw from that squad due to a long-running shoulder injury.
Declan Rice is said to have secured a place in midfield despite a dip in form this season
Kalvin Phillips has been struggling for game time at Manchester City after a series of injuries
Phillips has been an anchor for Southgate teams alongside Declan Rice in recent years but his injuries and lack of playing time at Manchester City mean he is now in a race against time to make the plane to Qatar.
Rice has suffered a lapse in form after a long spell of consistent excellence and Jordan Henderson is recovering from a hamstring injury but has joined the squad following Phillips’ departure. Meanwhile, Jude Bellingham, a graduate of Birmingham City Academy and ubiquitous Borussia Dortmund, is constantly pushing to establish himself at international level.
“Yes, we have a certain quality in terms of [Jordan Henderson, Kalvin Phillips]Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, but you don’t want to be left alone with Declan Rice and just Bellingham, who is obviously very inexperienced at this level,” Carragher added.
And Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse will also be looking to make a claim in the next two games.
Left-back Ben Chilwell is trying to re-establish himself at Chelsea after a long absence
One option favored by former England, Liverpool and Real Madrid winger Steve McManaman is to forego two midfielders, which will ease the pressure on that department and on Bellingham as well when it comes to the World Cup.
“When England play five at the back, I don’t think they really need two seated midfielders,” said McManaman sports mail.
“The five at the back during the Euros were five defenders, they weren’t three defenders and two forwards, they were five defenders.
“Having five defenders and Declan Rice in the middle… I think that’s more than enough and then you can put more forwards on the field.
“One would expect Declan to play certainly in midfield, Jude is a wonderful player, he is still a young player still learning his craft.
“Of course he has a lot of praise, you just have to be a little patient. He’s a wonderful player; He’s going to be a superstar, but I don’t want to put too much weight on young players.
“He’s going to be great but right now when Gareth wants to play five at back and he’s got five defenders and Declan Rice you might as well fill the other spots with attacking midfielders and forwards.”
*Jamie Carragher and Steve McManaman spoke to Sportsmail at the Football for Change Gala 2022. The charity, chaired by Carragher, raises money to support young people in disadvantaged areas.
Jamie Carragher brings together the great and good for Football for Change Gala, raising £350,000
Jamie Carragher, Steve McManaman, Michael Carrick and a host of football stars and celebrities joined forces to raise £292,000 at a charity gala in aid of young people last night.
The Football for Change 2022 Gala, held in Manchester on Thursday and supported by Mail Online, saw ‘can’t buy’ tickets go under the hammer.
Alongside the auction, the big and good also made generous donations which are expected to bring the total to £350,000, which will support youth in disadvantaged areas who are struggling to access education and employment.
Carragher, the chairman of Football for Change, had gone through his contact book to bring in the awards and the guests. The top draw was a VIP trip to the United States to meet David Beckham and his Inter Miami team. There was a breakfast with Everton boss Frank Lampard which sold for £6,000 and a backstage experience at BT Sport with Steve McManaman which cost £10,000.
A VIP backstage pass to Glastonbury Festival to meet Noel Gallagher, who was performing that night with his band High-Flying Birds, fetched £25,000 and one of the Oasis legend’s autographed guitars went for £30,000.
Noel Gallagher’s guitar has been auctioned off for £30,000 at the Football for Change Gala
“It’s a wonderful event,” said McManaman, a former Liverpool, Real Madrid and England winger and now a pundit for BT Sport sports mail. “It’s awesome. It’s so busy. It’s really nice, even though the title is Football for Change, it’s really nice to see the number of people who have come from different activities.”
The charity, which is supported by the likes of Conor Coady and Trent Alexander-Arnold, is already funding a life-changing project for 40 young people who traveled to the United States for a sports and education program, a training program for homeless youth, and a new education center for young people in Bootle.
“It’s a fantastic event,” said former England and Manchester United midfielder and manager Carrick. “I’m passionate about helping young people who aren’t doing as well as others, and that’s great.
Coleen Rooney and TV presenter Vernon Kay attended the Football for Change Gala
“They have to try and support events like this. It is so important that we do this as times are getting difficult for people. It’s important that we try to stick together and help people as much as we can.”
Across the country, 711,000 young people aged 16 to 24 find themselves without education or employment, with justified fears that the cost of living crisis and an economic downturn will make life even harder.
Among 16-17 year olds, the latest national NEET figure is 64,720, of which 1,950 live in the Liverpool City area. Two hundred of these youths have been identified in Sefton, the area where Carragher grew up