On the plane
It is inconceivable that Jordan Pickford will not be England’s No 1 despite missing the latest camp with a thigh injury. Gareth Southgate is loyal to his senior players and often prefers to go with the tried and trusted. The manager has repeatedly backed Harry Maguire, even after the centre-back blundered during Tuesday’s 3-3 draw with Germany, and is past the point of experimentation. He values experience and wants leaders like Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier around. Both are familiar with Southgate’s back three, as is a resurgent Eric Dier, while Reece James’s occasional defensive wobbles are cancelled out by the thrust he offers from right wing-back.
On the opposite flank Luke Shaw, who was a doubt after losing his place at Manchester United, has surely played his way back in after impressing against Germany. In midfield Declan Rice is a guaranteed starter, while Jude Bellingham banished any concerns over his inexperience with a fabulous display against Germany. Jordan Henderson is certain to make the cut if he stays clear of injury and there will always be space for Mason Mount because of his work off the ball, which is enough to make managers stick with the Chelsea midfielder even when he is not playing well.
Southgate loved Mount’s goalscoring cameo against the Germans. He finished brilliantly after coming off the bench and combining with Bukayo Saka, who also sparkled in his substitute appearance. After struggling at left wing-back against Italy, Saka sparkled on the right wing at Wembley and is a contender to start, though England are not short of creative options.
Phil Foden is too gifted to miss out, for all that he needs to become more decisive, and although Southgate tends to see Jack Grealish as more of an impact player than a regular starter the Manchester City winger is more than capable of making chances for the side’s two main finishers, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.
In the departure lounge
Nick Pope’s kicking is a concern and he gave away a soft goal against Germany, but the Newcastle goalkeeper appears to have established himself as Pickford’s deputy following two consecutive starts. Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale will probably have to content himself with a place as third choice, even though his form is good and his distribution is vastly superior to Pope’s.
At this stage it does not feel as if Southgate is about to spring many surprises. Conor Coady is not an exciting name but Southgate loves the Everton centre-back’s sunny demeanour and knows that he is comfortable in a back three. John Stones, who was having a fine game at right centre-back before succumbing to injury against Germany, will go if he is fit. The same applies to Kalvin Phillips. He has been a key player for Southgate, who would find it hugely frustrating if shoulder surgery deprives him of the City midfielder.
Hoping for a ticket
James Ward-Prowse would be the likely beneficiary if Phillips misses out. The Southampton midfielder has constantly been on the fringes of the squad and has pushed ahead of Conor Gallagher, who has dropped back into the Under-21 set-up after a difficult start to the season at Chelsea.
Perhaps the energetic Gallagher could make a late push if his form improves following Graham Potter’s appointment as Chelsea manager. Similarly Ben Chilwell, who did not get a look-in during the latest camp, will hope that his fortunes improve under Potter. However Southgate has repeatedly overlooked the left-back, who could be a high-profile omission if he continues to struggle for regular starts at Chelsea.
A lot can change in two months. Many people would like to see Fikayo Tomori take Maguire’s starting spot but Southgate seems less convinced about the Milan defender. The worry for Tomori will be that he loses out to Crystal Palace’s Marc Guéhi, who was on the bench against Germany. As for Nottingham Forest’s Dean Henderson, his hopes surely rest on Pope or Ramsdale getting injured or experiencing dramatic slumps in form.
Of course the biggest story would be if Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose club form has been underwhelming, is left out. Does Southgate trust the Liverpool right-back? The evidence suggests otherwise given that Alexander-Arnold had no minutes during the latest camp and ultimately there is no point selecting the 23-year-old if he is not going to be used, particularly as accommodating four right-backs would probably force Southgate to leave out a forward player.
What of those attackers? Jarrod Bowen has been involved in the last two squads but the West Ham winger is off colour and his chance may have passed given that he did not feature against Italy or Germany. Tammy Abraham is yet to demonstrate that he can deputise for Kane and has only scored twice for Roma this season. Ivan Toney has not been fully discounted following his first call-up, but the Brentford striker remains uncapped and will surely be vulnerable if Marcus Rashford recovers from injury and continues his resurgence at United.
Rashford should be in if he is fit and firing. He boasts a decent goalscoring record for England, offers more experience than Toney and is more flexible and slippery than Abraham.
Watching from the sofa
Southgate has not ruled out a return for Jadon Sancho, who looks a better option on the wings than Bowen, but if the United winger’s strong start to the season was not enough this time then the prospect of him making it to Qatar is slim.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson and Patrick Bamford look unlikely to make it as Kane’s deputy. Emile Smith Rowe needs to focus on becoming a regular starter for Arsenal and Southgate remains unmoved by James Maddison, even though the Leicester midfielder is one of the most creative players in the Premier League.
Sam Johnstone and Fraser Forster are unlikely to make it as the third-choice goalkeeper. Full-backs such as Kyle Walker-Peters, James Justin and Tyrick Mitchell have drifted away. In central defence the ship has sailed for Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings, while Arsenal’s Ben White has fallen behind Tomori and Guéhi.