Gareth Southgate has quite the dilemma on his hands where the England right-back position is concerned.
It is the one position where England have the most depth, by far. Naturally, this means that gifted players will have to miss out. Of the potential candidates, it can be narrowed down to five standout right-backs.
Players such as Ben Godfrey and Tariq Lamptey will most likely miss out on selection. However, this is not a criticism of their abilities – if anything, it shows how talented the chosen five are.
This list will not be ranked on how useful they will be to England – rather, the players will be judged on their overall talents and accomplishments. Gareth, if you are reading, pick the best players for the system, not necessarily the best ones. We don’t need repeats of the Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello eras!
Top Five Right-Backs For Gareth Southgate’s England Squad
5. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Wan-Bissaka’s Wikipedia page is a humorous read. In the “style of play” section, it states: “He is known for his tackles and defensive awareness.” It is because this pretty much his solitary positive attribute.
When it comes to pure defending, there are few better in the world in his position. If he bulked up a bit, he could potentially be a great centre half.
His tackling is clean, frequently displaying great timing and technique in them. On the ball, it is a different story. Teams do not even bother closing him down. Outside his own half, Wan-Bissaka is a deer in the headlights.
It is a hole in his game that is especially apparent in modern football, where full-backs must be proficient going forward. If he can develop his confidence on the ball going forward, he would undoubtedly shoot up this list.
4. Reece James
An attacking full-back by trade, James has a lot to learn defensively. Thankfully, his pace means he can make up for most of his mistakes.
His dynamism and versatility in the opposition’s half make him a great supporter to Chelsea’s forwards. He has been a regular for Chelsea this year and is one of their most consistent players. It is good to see the Blues giving their academy products a chance in the first team, for a change.
James is not the finished product yet, but when he builds his defensive acumen to a Premier League standard, he will be a top player. Watch out for him in the coming years.
3. Kyle Walker
The experience of Kyle Walker could be invaluable at the Euros, but in terms of raw ability and accolades, he only lands third in this list.
A physical, pacey defender who can also play in the middle, Walker would be a welcomed addition to any team.
He has been pushed aside this season for the superior Joao Cancelo, but he has still notched up 21 appearances. Manchester City have been excellent this season and it would be unfair to not give Walker any credit for this. He has played his part.
At 30 years of age, Walker is beginning to decline. One wonders what he’ll do without his legendary speed, whether at Man City or elsewhere. Regardless, he remains a top talent and was one of England’s most underrated players at the 2018 World Cup. It is very unlikely that he will miss out on the Euros.
2. Kieran Trippier
Some may be surprised to see Trippier so high up in this list. But it must be said, no right-back from England has had a better season this campaign than him. He has been a consistent performer all season, which is especially impressive when you consider his lengthy suspension. When he returned, he had not missed a beat.
He has had a great season for Atletico Madrid and it is possible he will pick up his first major honour at the season’s conclusion (La Liga title). So far, Trippier has picked up six assists this year, more than any of the others on this list.
In accordance with these rankings, Trippier is often the bridesmaid, but never the bride. He has been to a World Cup semi-final, a Champions League final and even finished second in the Championship with Burnley as a youngster. This should not detract from his ability – he is a very hard-working fullback capable of world-class crossing.
Trippier was a standout performer at England’s last major tournament and will likely be in Southgate’s plans this year, too.
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold
He has had a troubled campaign in 20/21, but in terms of pure talent, Alexander-Arnold is a class above the rest.
Where do you begin? His set-pieces, passing and creative edge all make him a fantastic modern right-back for England. He is not a bad defender either. He does not have a great defensive mindset, but he does have plenty of energy that he uses to harass opposing players. Alexander-Arnold is generally better when pressing high up the pitch than in his own half.
While his effectiveness hinges on the system he is deployed in, when used correctly, there are not many right-backs better in the world than him.
The Liverpudlian has won a Premier League, a Champions League and a Club World Cup – he is only 22. It is not like he was a passenger for any of these awards either; he is an integral cog in Liverpool’s machine.
After being left out of the England squad recently, whether Trent will go to the Euros is a mystery. One thing is certain: if he does not, it shows how strong England are in the right-back position – more so than they ever have been.