Who should England pick for the World Cup with Ben Chilwell injured?

As Ben Chilwell left Stamford Bridge on crutches after Chelsea’s Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday night, Gareth Southgate may have been holding his head in his hands.

As well as concerns over Calvin Phillips, Rhys James and Kyle Walker, England manager Southgate now has a potential left-back problem to deal with before announcing his final 26-man squad for the World Cup in Qatar next week.

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Assuming Chilwell does not recover from a hamstring injury in time for the tournament, Southgate will need someone else to back up first-choice left-back Luke Shaw.


How important is Chilwell for England?

Chilwell has yet to establish himself as first choice under Southgate and has made just 17 caps since his debut in 2018.

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The Chelsea defender was included in the squad for Euro 2020 but did not feature once, with Kieran Trippier starting at left-back before Shaw featured in England’s next six games.


Chilwell was injured on Wednesday night (Photo: Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Chilwell has also just returned from an ACL injury that kept him out for most of last year, meaning he has not played for his country since coming on as a substitute against San Marino almost a year ago.

Shaw is likely to start for England at the World Cup regardless of Chilwell’s injury situation, but his potential absence leaves Southgate a gaping hole, without a clear left-footed option to replace him if needed.


safe choice – Kieran Trippier

Trippier is Southgate’s firm favorite and is almost certain to be chosen as a right-back option anyway, especially given his strong start to the season with Newcastle United.

Despite being right-footed, Southgate has selected Trippier at left-back or left-winger for England on several occasions, including in the 1-0 win over Croatia at Euros last summer. Indeed, Trippier’s last two games for his country – the Nations League games against Germany and Italy in June – have come at left-back.

Taking Trippier as a back-up to Shaw, without opting for a more orthodox left-back, may limit England’s left-footed defensive options, but will open other doors for Southgate. The England boss could be seen opting for another right-back – with Trent Alexander-Arnold a key potential beneficiary.

Alexander-Arnold has been in and out of Southgate’s squad in recent years, the source of much debate among England fans. The Liverpool player was named in England’s latest squad in September but did not play from the bench against Italy and was left out of the match against Germany on the 23rd.

He is clearly not a guaranteed choice under Southgate, but if Trippier goes to the World Cup as England’s left-back, there is likely to be room for Alexander-Arnold as one of the right-back options.


Possible recalls – James Justin or Tyreek Mitchell

Justin was called up for England’s Nations League for the first time earlier this year and made his debut – at left-back – in the 1-0 defeat to Hungary. Although injury kept Justin out of the international break again, he has a significant advantage in recent training with England – he is no stranger to Southgate and has experience in the national team camp.

Justin, like Trippier, is a right-footed option, but unlike the former Tottenham man, he has far more experience playing on the left for his club side. Of Justin’s 13 league appearances for Leicester this season, 11 have been at left-back or left winger.

Crystal Palace’s Mitchell is another player with recent England experience, albeit limited. The 23-year-old made his senior debut earlier this year and earned two caps in March friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

Dark Mitchell


Mitchell fighting against the Wolves (Photo: Sebastian Faraj/MB Media/Getty Images)

Mitchell is a more orthodox left back, playing most of his minutes at Palace under Roy Hodgson and Patrick Vieira on the left of a back four, which may count against him given Southgate’s historical preference for a back five.

Another sign of Mitchell is his form this season. After emerging as Palace’s starting left-back in 2021-22 with a string of good performances, Mitchell’s form has dipped slightly in 2022-23.

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Southgate is unlikely to take an untested player to the World Cup, but he has options if he chooses.

Ryan Sessegnon

Sessegnon has international experience at youth level but has failed to break into the senior team since making his England under-21 debut four years ago. However, Antonio Conte’s arrival at Tottenham after several years of struggling with injury and consistency has been a real boon for Sessegnon.

Despite signing Ivan Perisic, Sessegnon has been a key part of Conte’s full-back rotation, with the 22-year-old starting nine games in all competitions so far this season and coming on as a substitute on four occasions.

Rico Henry

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has told Rico Henry he can be one of the top left-backs in the division and the 25-year-old has been one of his side’s most consistent players since their promotion to the Premier League.

A key strength of Henry’s is his ability to adapt to his coach’s tactical demands – he is comfortable operating as a left-back and a left-back in a range of Frank’s systems.

Dan Byrne

Newcastle’s Dan Byrne, at 6ft 6in, is an unconventional option but has played most of his games at left-back this season. Byrne has also helped Newcastle to the league’s best defensive record – they have conceded just 10 goals and kept six clean sheets in 13 games so far this season.

Dan Byrne


Byrne has been in great form (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Byrne has been used at left-back and centre-back since signing for Newcastle’s Eddie Howe, but his versatility first came to the fore under Graham Potter at Brighton. The former Fulham defender has appeared as a left centre-back, a left-back and a left wing-back and that skill set could be a useful commodity during competitive football, especially given England’s lack of left-footed centre-back options.

Solly March

Sully March is another one that perhaps owes something to Potter. The Brighton academy product has returned home as a full-back under current Chelsea boss and seems to have found his best position.

Last season, March was a regular in Potter’s prolific Brighton side, making 31 appearances, the vast majority of which were on the left and right wing. This campaign, the 28-year-old has continued his fine form under Potter and Roberto Dezerbi, with the left-footer playing mainly at right-back and making a big impact. He is another one whose versatility may make him attractive to Southgate when choosing their final squad.


How do they compare?

Shaw, Southgate’s natural starting option, is a very good player and ranks highly in attacking and defensive metrics. He wins a lot of duels, creates a lot of good chances and saves a lot of balls.

Chilwell’s profile is slightly different, the Chelsea man is very active in the final third in terms of touches in the opposition area and shots taken, but ranks lower in terms of chances created and defensive actions.

Defensive statistics (per 90)

player

Win duels

Duel success

Cope with success

Interceptions

Blocks

Cleanups

past dribble

Dan Byrne

4.04

57.32

64.71

1.12

0.52

3.27

0.43

Ben Chilwell

5.6

52

57.14

1.08

1.72

1.08

Rico Henry

4.4

52.29

55

0.69

0.39

1.47

0.23

James Justin

5.8

57.25

89.47

0.93

0.39

2.24

0.23

Solly March

5.99

48.94

43.75

1.04

0.17

1.56

0.95

Dark Mitchell

3.47

47.76

62.5

0.87

0.33

1.63

0.76

Ryan Sessegnon

4.08

44.26

64.29

0.76

0.15

1.66

0.76

Luke Shaw

4.29

47.62

53.33

1.57

0.14

1.29

0.57

Kieran Trippier

3.66

57.32

76.19

1.4

0.47

2.02

0.86

Southgate’s potential options are also of varying quality and his final choice may depend on how much he wants a similar replacement for Shaw/Chilwell or something completely different.

At one end of the scale you have Byrne – arguably a natural centre-back who certainly seems better suited to a central role. And the stats show that Byrne hasn’t been an attacking presence this season, with the 30-year-old leading the way for open-play crosses (0.17), passes into the opposition box (0.6) and expected passes (0.01) per 90 minutes. It is at the end of the table. Premier League.

Perhaps surprisingly for a player who has mainly featured at full-back in recent months, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers called Justin a “fantastic defender” earlier this season, a statistic that compared to Southgate’s other options. The result has been reached.

Offensive Stats (per 90)

player

Chances Created (All)

Chance created (open game)

Expected passes

Successful open game crosses

1/3 final pass

Touch in opp box

enters the box

the shots

Dan Byrne

0.34

0.34

0.01

0.17

7.92

1.63

0.6

0.69

Ben Chilwell

0.22

0.22

0.04

0.43

15.93

1.72

4.31

0.65

Rico Henry

0.54

0.54

0.06

0.39

9.02

1.08

3.01

0.62

James Justin

0.54

0.54

0.04

0.54

12.06

0.7

2.24

0.39

Solly March

1.3

1.04

0.09

0.61

18.4

4.17

4.08

2.08

Dark Mitchell

0.43

0.43

0.07

0.22

11.6

0.33

2.6

Ryan Sessegnon

0.61

0.61

0.09

0.61

9.38

3.18

3.78

1.97

Luke Shaw

1.57

1.43

0.1

0.57

21.03

1

3.43

0.43

Kieran Trippier

2.41

0.86

0.32

1.09

21.7

0.86

13.22

0.47

Justin ranks high in the league for blocks (0.39), clearances (2.24) and tackles (0.93) per 90 minutes, perhaps unsurprising given Leicester’s position in the table, but he’s also adept at winning the ball back. has it. The former Luton defender has an impressive tackle success rate of 89.5% and has been dribbled just three times. Where he lacks though is on the other side of his game. Justin does not often touch the ball in the opponent’s area (0.7) and is placed in the middle for open play situations (0.54) and successful crosses (0.54).

Sessegnon and March are expected to be more attacking options for Southgate given their previous experience playing higher up the pitch.

The pair are highly rated for touches in the opposite box (Mars 4.17; Sessegnon 3.18) per 90, well above their peers. The numbers produced in March are also impressive at 1.04, not far behind Sessegnon (0.61), but the Brighton man is less effective in defence. Unlike Justin, Mars dribbles 0.95 times per 90 and his tackle success rate is just 43.8 percent.

Statistically, Henry and Mitchell aren’t superior either offensively or defensively, and fall between the other options in most categories. A particular concern might be Mitchell’s low rating for win duels (3.47 in 90) and aversion to being in the box (0.33 in 90).

So who should he take? Share your opinion with us.

(Top photos: Getty Images)



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