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When we started thinking about the England ladder update on Tuesday afternoon we were quick to tell anyone who’d listen that it would be important not to overreact to a disappointing and underwhelming run of games against Hungary, Germany and Italy. There were plenty of caveats for tired, uninspired performances and in any case the ladder is supposed, as far as possible, to represent our best guess of Gareth Southgate’s thoughts and he is not a man prone to overreactions.
Then England lost 4-0 to Hungary and, having contemplated retiring the Phil Neville gag back in the March update, so bountiful was England’s apparent strength in depth, we started wondering just how high he should climb and also where in the 23 we should put Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes.
We’ve still tried to avoid overreacting, though, because WWGD. There is a change at the top, though, which is in itself a novelty…
1 (2) Declan Rice
We said in March that he was pretty much joint first and now he’s at last made a case to take over at the summit in a long-awaited change to the top spot. It’s not just that he’s very good, it’s how sh*tbone awful England look without him. It was in evidence in the last international break but didn’t really matter; this time it really did. What movement there is on this ladder will in large part be down to which players had the good sense not to be part of the Hungary sh*tshow that ended a grim if easily caveated run of four unwanted games for England’s weary legs. At the base level, the absence of Rice now appears to have an even more noticeable impact on England’s level than the absence of Kane. Ergo, he takes top spot.
2 (1) Harry Kane
But not by much. Kane isn’t going anywhere and quite right too. Scored his 50th international goal but had a pretty rotten international break all round. Importance to England highlighted not just by that landmark goal but the fact he played three full games and a sizeable substitute stint in the other despite being visibly knackered. We’ve thought about it and concluded he was also England’s best player against Hungary which is just about the most backhanded compliment conceivable.
3 (6) Jordan Pickford
Big Game Jord showed all his years of experience by not playing against Hungary and duly saw his status as England’s No. 1 consolidated by the shambling presence of a hologram of Aaron Ramsdale in goal for a calamitous, embarrassing defeat.
4 (3) Raheem Sterling
Did very little of note but like most of the incumbents, he benefits from the fact that nor did anyone else. A curious feature of this alarmingly bad international break is that England were so awful it’s actually those in possession who benefit. Their performances were so bad that it made it near impossible for the fringe players who needed to impress to actually do so. Canny, in a Machiavellian sort of way.
5 (4) John Stones
The absurd nature of his sending-off against Hungary, receiving two yellow cards for the crime of possessing arms, was probably to his benefit because it drew attention away from how crap he was more generally.
6 (5) Harry Maguire
It’s a whole squad of Harry Maguires now. Not a compliment. Was horribly out of position for the first three Hungary goals, the big lumpen goof. That’s because he was on the subs’ bench, but still.
7 (8) Luke Shaw
A superb international break to miss. Never have left-backs looked so appealing as Southgate’s long and frankly baffling obsession with playing right-backs there for a laugh was at long last exposed for the daftness it demonstrably is.
8 (14) Kyle Walker
Like so many others, not a great international break. But the struggles of others see him climb, along with the fact his presence is seemingly absolutely crucial in Southgate’s mind as far as the back-three option goes. Whether that’s Plan A or Plan B, it’s definitely somewhere near the top of the list of plans and whenever Southgate uses it, Walker tends to feature.
9 (12) Jude Bellingham
In the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Was no more than adequate really, but his Dortmund form and Kalvin Phillips’ alarming bed-sh*tting sees him into the preferred starting XI.
10 (9) Phil Foden
Again, barely involved in these games, which was shrewd. Actually looked quite lively when brought on late against Hungary despite England’s midfield and defence committing assorted atrocities behind him.
11 (11) Mason Mount
Did he play well? No. Were England nevertheless a bit less bad when he played? Yes. Does Gareth love him? Also yes.
12 (15) Jack Grealish
Was absolutely central to England’s one truly convincing and impressive spell of football in the entire fortnight: the final half-hour against Germany. While an impressive appearance off the bench solidifies his squad place, does it move him closer or further away from a starting spot? Interesting philosophical question there, and we’d be very interested in Jack’s thoughtful and considered views on it as we are on all subjects.
13 (10) Reece James
Managed to generally avoid too conspicuous an involvement in any of the collective defensive disasters against Hungary. Funnily enough, looked better at right-back, which is his position, than he did at left-back, which is not.
14 (18) Ben Chilwell
Surely even Southgate must conclude from this international break that left-backs are a thing. Please get well soon, Ben.
15 (7) Kalvin Phillips
The biggest single loser from the Hungary Debacle. Just a horrible, horrible game for a player whose injury woes also continued as he was forced off early against Germany. If he moves to Man City – and that looks an even bigger if now – then he may yet benefit from the visibility that Bellingham is denied by his continued insistence on ploughing away in the footballing backwaters of Germany.
16 (23) Nick Pope
On the bench for all four Nations League games which confirms his squad place while allowing him to avoid any of the unpleasant fall-out. Shrewd work from the Burnley keeper. Ramsdale conceding four times as many goals in one nightmare game as Pope has managed in his entire England career sees him climb thanks to the two greatest words in the English language: Default. Being in the Championship next season would be sub-optimal, but back-up goalkeeper is the one position where this need not be terminal. It’s certainly preferable to not playing at all which is the current fate of potential challengers such as your Hendersons or Forsters.
17 (16) Bukayo Saka
A bad couple of weeks for a player who also ran out of steam as Arsenal’s season petered out. But his quality and versatility means he remains pretty solidly within the 23. Now gets a much-needed, albeit short, rest.
18 (19) Kieran Trippier
Played in the two meh draws and neither of the dreadful defeats. Is still in no way a left-back, but remains the England right-back best able to fudge Southgate’s weird fetish for trying it out.
19 (20) Jordan Henderson
Southgate is not one of nature’s overreactors or instinctive risk-takers. When it comes down to naming an actual squad for an actual tournament, we still 100% expect to see Jordan Henderson’s name there. And you know what? Fair enough. He’s still a pretty key player for one of the best club sides going around and nobody has hammered the door down in his absence. If anything, the opposite. They’ve put doors up. They’ve wasted their time and ours. We didn’t need those extra doors. Henderson wouldn’t have spent an international break putting up unnecessary additional doors. They were fools to even consider it.
20 (22) Tammy Abraham
Didn’t exactly grasp the opportunity against Italy but hard now to see how anyone else usurps him in the time left. Would need his goals to dry up and Calvert-Lewin to have a very 2020 start to the season, you’d think. And even then…
21 (17) Ben White
The centre-back squad positions are very interesting now. White withdrew from this squad with a hamstring injury, ergo a clever fella. We thought he was in Southgate’s 23 before this break and given his initial call-up for this squad and how it’s gone for everyone we have to think he still is. Not sure, though. We’re pretty sure it’s Stones, Maguire, the versatile Walker and two others but the identity of those other two is perhaps the main imponderable in the 23 now. White drops a few spots but that’s mainly because we think we put him too high last time in hindsight. Our fault, not his.
22 (21) Conor Coady
Bit mean to leave him unused on the bench for two games at Molineux, although it might be considered a mercy for the Hungary denouement. Still the man just about in possession, we think, because Southgate is a cautious kipper.
23 (13) Aaron Ramsdale
The clusterf*cks in front of him certainly didn’t help and none of the goals conceded were outright goalkeeping howlers but he could/should have done better with three of them. England goalkeepers don’t concede four goals all that often. Certainly not from five shots on target. Also, was his Arsenal season a bit of a myth? Started well, sure, but was he that good in the end? Was he? Not sure. Undeniably funny that a goalkeeper relegated in 2018, 2020 and 2021 who must surely have thought moving to Arsenal would bring an end to that unpleasantness now faces the near-certainty of a 2022 relegation to add to the collection.
24 (40) Eric Dier
We might be slightly imprinting our own views here, but England’s defending over these last 10 days has been crap and the English centre-back in the best current form was not in the squad. An oddness is that Dier remained in the squad long after he should have been dropped but is now outside it long after he should have been recalled. It feels almost impossible for someone entirely new to force their way into Southgate’s gang at this late hour, but Dier is a known quantity who Southgate has taken to a major tournament before and who plays a position where England are demonstrably struggling. Southgate’s comments about looking at other lesser-known quantities was an acknowledgement both of Dier as – improbably – a safe pair of hands these days and the fact that the final centre-back spots are among the few not already nailed down.
25 (33) Fikayo Tomori
Like Dier, almost certainly a better shout than at least two of the current four ‘in possession’ and unlike Dier was at least in this squad. When it comes down to it, though, our gut tells us that if Southgate does change up his central defensive options he’ll go with the player he knows best.
26 (32) Marc Guehi
See Tomori, Fikayo.
27 (26) Tyrone Mings
“I just think those guys (Tomori and Guehi) have had very good seasons, and, at this moment in time, are slightly ahead of Tyrone.” It is very, very helpful when Southgate writes his own ladder updates. We can forgive all manner of 4-0 defeats for that kind of content.
28 (27) Trent Alexander-Arnold
He’s still just not Gareth Southgate’s idea of a right-back and we still don’t think he gets in a 23-man Gareth Southgate squad. You can think this is ridiculous, but deep down you sense it too. And he’s so good at what he does and has been so conspicuously good at it for so long that, weirdly, he’s also arguably the player with least chance of playing his way in. Really, what more can he do than he has already done?
29 (30) Conor Gallagher
There’s probably only room for either Gallagher or Jordan Henderson in the 23, and this is a squad being selected by Gareth Southgate. Was one of the least bad elements of the Hungary game, but question marks over how much football he’ll play (and where) between August and November are also a factor here.
30 (28) James Ward-Prowse
Standby list ahoy for the penalty-spot-mangling dead-ball specialist.
31 (37) Jarrod Bowen
Fully deserved his call-up and didn’t let anyone down. Truthfully, he deserved the call-up in better circumstances. Is an eye-catching player in an eye-catching side so could yet pull off something unexpected, but at the moment you’d think he has to knock one of Sterling, Mount, Grealish, Foden or Saka out of the squad and we don’t quite see it.
32 (24) Emile Smith Rowe
Back with the Under-21s after an underwhelming end to the Premier League season. There are major tournaments in his future, but probably not this one.
33 (29) Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Needs a big start to the season. Might well need to not be at Everton.
34 (31) Ollie Watkins
It’s been a ladder staple for years and years now, but it remains as true as ever: there is only space in the squad for one striker that isn’t Harry Kane. Watkins goes into the short half-season sprint to the World Cup in, at best, third place in the race.
35 (25) Jadon Sancho
If this feature is to truly represent our best guess at Southgate’s thoughts then the man’s own words are our best guide for those outside the current squad. Whatever you think of Southgate, he’s not a man to say things carelessly or without thought so when he says Sancho and his Manchester United team-mate Marcus Rashford have “got a lot of work to do to get back in the squad” you can take that to mean precisely what it says on the tin.
36 (34) Marcus Rashford
Hasn’t played for England since his missed penalty in the Italy shootout. The road to redemption appears long and deeply uncertain. Does he need a move? Can Erik ten Hag revitalise him? Would either of those things be enough to change Southgate’s mind quickly enough anyway?
37 (35) Sam Johnstone
Would drop further out of contention had it not been for Ramsdale’s Hungary performance, which just gave other keepers a glimmer of hope.
38 (38) Ivan Toney
No Christian Eriksen to help him out next season, in all likelihood. Probably slides off this list altogether in September but is also still just a couple of injuries and a few goals away from climbing sharply.
39 (39) Dean Henderson
At the risk of repeating ourselves, got to go and play some football for someone somewhere.
40 (46) James Maddison
Not many ended last season in better form than Maddison but he’s still on the outside looking in and needs a series of misfortunes to befall those ahead of him in the pecking order. Southgate saying he was “deserving” of a call-up but not being able to find space in the squad to do so pretty much sums it up.
41 (NE) James Justin
42 (41) Kyle Walker-Peters
43 (36) Tyrick Mitchell
44 (42) Harvey Elliott
45 (43) Curtis Jones
46 (45) Jacob Ramsey
47 (44) Trevoh Chalobah
48 (47) Eberechi Eze
49 (48) Patrick Bamford
50 (50) Phil Neville
The article The famous F365 England World Cup ladder has a new leader after Nations League sh*tshow appeared first on Football365.com.