Before we start this article on England internationals I think it’s only fair that I let you all know I’m a card-carrying member of the Tartan Army. With that out of the way let’s have a look at some Nations League B players.
The media furore ahead of the World Cup appeared to be who Southgate will pick at right back, with the media highlighting a need for more attacking verve in this talented England side. A possible solution to this would be the inclusion of Trent Alexander Arnold, who would have to replace both Reece James and our own Kieran Trippier. Trippier has been a regular in most of Southgate’s squads, with his mixture of attacking creativity, set pieces, defensive skill and leadership all important qualities.
The emerging Reece James likewise has shown himself to be versatile in both attack and defence, with the Chelsea man being used often as a right centre half recently. These defensive attributes are likely key factors in why Southgate puts both Trippier and James ahead of Alexander-Arnold, who (as his club manager highlights) is at his best in a high-pressing side playing high-risk football, which seems to be the opposite of Gareth Southgate’s tactical plan.
Likely joining Trippier in Qatar will be Burger King Poll answer, Nick Pope. Pope has been in outstanding form for us and whilst his poor performance in the last International break has caused some concern, I’m sure he will be on the plane.
Let’s remember prior to the injury that kept him out of Euro 2020, Pope had surpassed Jordan “Tiny Arms” Pickford. If we compare the two stoppers for their clubs this season (and throw in Aaron Ramsdale for good measure) all three keepers are at 1 goal/match conceded, Pickford and Pope have both made 30 saves whilst Ramsdale is at 16. Pickford has the highest save rate at 84% with Pope next at 79% and interestingly both Pickford and Pope have a positive post shot xG at 4.1 for Pickford and 2 for Pope.
Interestingly both Pope and Ramsdale have higher pass completion percentages at 66 and 67% vs Pickford at 59%, which is a factor in Southgate choosing his stoppers. The next 8 matches will be vitally important. Let’s hope eight clean sheets help Pope stake his claim.
The man with the most outside shot at a place is Callum Wilson. Our No. 9 has been hugely influential when he has been on the pitch. His importance is outlined as we have almost 1 xG more (0.99) and scored nine goals whilst conceding three.
Individually Wilson is running at his xG and provides the more characteristic representation of an old-fashioned goal-scoring striker vs Kane, Toney and Abraham. Wilson sees less of the ball per 90 minutes but still rivals the other three for shots on target, goals scored and the most clinical with the highest goals-to-shots ratio.
Wilson has the talent to be an international player but he needs an extended time period to prove his fitness. To be honest and purely selfishly, I hope Southgate leaves Wilson at home to protect him for Newcastle United but, who wouldn’t love to see Pope playing the ball to Trippier who swings a deep cross onto the head of Callum Wilson who beats the keeper?
Obviously in a meaningless group game or the third place playoff 🙂
Jamie McGovern – @jwmfootball