The World cup is just under six weeks away, and Gareth Southgate’s next squad announcement will be the one confirming the players who will be joining him on the plane to Qatar.
With 26 spots up for grabs, there are still places up for grabs and question marks over certain positions in the squad and starting XI.
As reported in The Athletic, one area that certainly isn’t set in stone is the centrebacks.
It’s expected the England manager will adopt a back three, allowing the wing backs to get forward in the hope of repeating the damage delivered in the Euro’s.
There are multiple names in the hat for the defensive positions, with the form of certain players disrupting the status quo of what looked like shoo-in decisions.
Harry Maguire is under the most spotlight at the moment, after suffering badly for form over the last 18 months and losing his place in the Manchester United side.
As football tends to do, there is a player in a form that, if he were to dislodge Maguire from the England squad, would complete the most ironic of football cycles.
Chris Smalling – the man discarded by United and replaced by Maguire. Smalling has been in fine form since his move to the Roma and thoroughly enjoying his time in Italy.
He has excelled in his performances under Jose Mourinho and continued his fine start to this season by heading home the winner in the San Siro at the weekend.
Whilst it’s doubtful Smalling will make the squad, let alone replace Maguire in the first team. Statistically, he currently represents a much better option for Gareth Southgate than the United captain.
Given the nickname of ‘Smaldini’, which may be seen as sarcasm by some of the English onlookers, is something Smalling has earned through the respect of his fine form since arriving in Italy.
Harry Maguire will surely be on the plane to Qatar, but the fact Smalling can he can consider himself unfortunate not to be in the frame as a replacement, tells its tale for the £80 million man.