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Opinion: Three underrated players Gareth Southgate must start at the 2018 World Cup

With the World Cup just around the corner, the nation is completely divided on who Gareth Southgate should take on the plane to Russia, and who should be in the starting lineup vs Tunisia.

The worrying thing is that the England manager doesn’t look like he’s decided either. There’s been speculation on what system Southgate is going to go use at the World Cup, and his choice of formation and playing style will have a huge impact on who he decides to bring.

If the former England U21 manager decides to be adventurous and adopts a three at the back formation these three players need to start.

Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford is who I’ve gone for between the sticks. Though the 24-year-old lacks international experience, he more than makes up for it with his raw talent. He possesses fantastic reflexes and is a very good shot stopper, and is capable of dealing with crosses well.

However, the area which Pickford is head and shoulders above the likes of Joe Hart and Jack Butland in is his distribution. The Everton stopper is fantastic with his feet and possesses a long kick which is only bettered by Man City’s Ederson Moraes. If England want to play attractive football from the base up he has to be Southgate’s number one.

Unlike England teams of the past, the Southgate is going with a back three. Playing three central defenders rather than two changes the profile of the players that fit each role. The left and right defenders in a back three need to be comfortable defending in wide areas and in one on one situations.

We have had many world class centre-backs over the years that would struggle as one of the wider central defenders, so picking the right players to fit this unfamiliar system is key.

Center-back – Phil Jones

The Manchester United defender has been a revelation this season and has arguably been one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League. Jones is a hardworking, athletic solid defender who puts his body on the line game in game out.

I believe he would be perfect for the right centre back role due to the versatility he showed us during his early years at United. The time he spent filling in at centre midfield at United shows he is comfortable on the ball and can be trusted to play the ball out of defence. He also played right back on numerous occasions under Sir Alex Ferguson, showing he is comfortable defending in wide areas.

The one question mark around Phil Jones is his fitness. He has been plagued with injuries this season, although he has played a considerable number of minutes. Let’s hope Southgate wraps him up in cotton wool and chucks him in a vat of ice until he needs to get on the plane.

Left wing-back – Ashley Young

Left wing-back is arguably the outfield position that is most up for grabs. England’s first choice left back at Euro 2016 was Danny Rose. However, after sustaining several bad injuries Rose has failed to regain a first team place at Spurs and this has blown the race for his spot in the England first team wide open.

Several players have been suggested to fill the void left by Rose. The likes of Ryan Bertrand, Fabian Delph and even Fulham wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon have been put forward by fans, pundits and journalists as possible starters. However, I think Ashley Young would be the best choice.

The former Villa man has been in brilliant form this season, and has been one of United’s most consistent performers. In the system Southgate is going with, Young is the best fit out of all the candidates. The nature of a three at the back formation means that the wing-backs do the job of the winger and the fullback without help of another wide player. Young wasn’t a fullback earlier on in his career when won the Premier League in 2013 playing as a winger for United. Since making the transition to fullback he’s transferred a lot of the attributes and skills he had as a winger to his new deeper position.

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