Although we’re still in the dying embers of the summer, it really won’t be long before we’re trick or treating, firework gazing and preparing for the World Cup in Qatar.
The start of the 2022/23 season has been illuminating for many reasons, both for domestic and international football fans, and the fast start made by some – and the sluggish opening skirmishes of others – have given Gareth Southgate plenty of food for thought as he plots his England squad.
England (13/2) are the third favourites behind France (11/2) and Brazil (5/1) in the World Cup betting outright odds, thanks to excellent shows in the European Championship and the last edition of the quadrennial battle for the Jules Rimet trophy in Russia.
While plenty of World Cup 2022 tips columns may argue that the dry, arid conditions in Qatar will ultimately scupper the Three Lions’ chances, there’s no doubt that Southgate has one of the most talented sets of players England has produced in years at his disposal. But who, according to their early season form at least, could be on the flight to the Middle East, and who will be watching on from home like the rest of us?
Antonio Conte has overseen a considerable improvement in fortunes at Tottenham, and so much so that they are being talked about as potential uprooters of Liverpool in second place this term.
One of the key ingredients to that form has been the renaissance of Eric Dier, a once-maligned centre-back who has grown in stature and confidence under Conte.
Southgate is yet to be convinced, favouring other defensive options, but Dier’s form – in correlation with Harry Maguire’s dropping at Manchester United – will surely stand him in excellent stead.
Behind Harry Kane, is there a more natural finisher that qualifies for England than Ivan Toney? The 26-year-old is still uncapped, but 17 goals in 38 Premier League appearances – including five in six so far this term – suggests the Brentford frontman has what it takes to play second fiddle to Kane in Qatar.
One of the biggest casualties of Leicester’s woeful start to the 2022/23 campaign has been James Maddison. He has scored twice and assisted another in five appearances so far, but beleaguered boss Brendan Rodgers has shuffled him into wider areas as he seeks a winning formula.
And that, ultimately, will do Maddison’s hopes of a World Cup berth few favours.
From the giddy heights of flirtation with the Champions League places last term, West Ham is residing in the relegation zone after six games of this.
Jarrod Bowen was a key figure in the Hammers’ ascension in 2021/22, delivering 12 goals and ten assists to their cause. But this season he is yet to contribute to a single goal, and that will worry him – and Southgate – considerably.
A key figure in England’s run to the final of Euro 2020, Luke Shaw’s star has well and truly waned. He has been dumped by new Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag, with the Dutchman favouring his countryman Tyrell Malacia instead.
The Red Devils’ form has improved exponentially, and Shaw could face a long and nervy spell on the sidelines as his World Cup hopes fade.
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