Generally speaking, Gareth Southgate made good use of the two friendly fixtures he scheduled in the build-up to this summer’s World Cup. England took on Nigeria at Wembley before travelling north to host Costa Rica at Elland Road last week, with the Three Lions registering wins in both matches.
The England manager tested out options in goals, with also giving both Danny Rose and Ashley Young an opportunity to stake a claim at left wing back. Southgate will pick between the two for the opening World Cup group game against Tunisia on June 18, with many now of the opinion that Rose has the edge.
At the back, Southgate has also experimented over the past few weeks and months, but there is a consensus that the back three will consist of Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker. Walker might be a natural right back, but this way Southgate can fit both the Manchester City defender and Kieran Trippier into the same side.
In attack, Harry Kane will lead the line, with Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling all useful options as supporting attackers. It’s not yet known who will start against Tunisia, but all four will surely be utilised throughout the tournament. There may be some rotation.
It’s in central midfield where Southgate is left with his one, last dilemma – Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson. The England manager has made clear that only one of the two will play from the start, pitting the Spurs and Liverpool midfielders directly against each other. The dynamic would have been even more interesting had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stayed fit to make the flight to Russia.
Henderson has been handed the vice-captaincy for the World Cup this summer, which ordinarily would suggest that he will be given the nod by Southgate. But recent reports claim Dier will in fact be favoured. It’s easy to see why Southgate might prefer to play the Spurs man over Henderson.
England boast a lightning fast attack. They might be one of the quickest teams at this summer’s World Cup and Southgate looks ready to make the most of that quality, if the friendlies against Nigeria and Costa Rica are anything to go by. This approach means Dier would be the better option at the base of the midfield.
Dier is the more defensively adept of the pair, as demonstrated by the fact that he can fill in at centre back. While Henderson is more of a natural number eight, Dier is a number six. He will provide balance to this England team, holding things together while more attacking talents, like Alli, Lingard and Sterling, bomb on into the final third.
Henderson’s game has developed significantly over the past season. As shown by Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final, he is capable of competing at the top of the game. But Dier might be a more natural fit to start in the centre for this England team. This call could come to define England’s World Cup.
How well do you know European and world football? Want to challenge the best Fantasy Football Managers? Play www.fantasy-worldcup.com now!