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SORRY DELE

England’s second-best player has to start on the bench at the World Cup

After Harry Kane, Dele Alli is arguably the most-gifted player at Gareth Southgate's disposal, but he should be a benchwarmer in Russia?

You’re probably bored of reading ‘hot takes’ about England’s World Cup chances by now.

I don’t blame you.

However, allow me to toss another log on the fire before we extinguish international football for a couple of months.

Gareth Southgate simply has to bench the second-best player at his disposal in Russia.

Mostly water but he likes a beer at weekends

PA:Press Association
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Mostly water but he likes a beer at weekends

The Three Lions gaffer has his heart set on a 3-4-2-1 formation.

As the only genuinely world-class Englishman in the game right now, Harry Kane will undoubtedly be charged with leading the line.

And as it stands, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard surely have to start as the two slightly withdrawn forwards.

England fans owe Pep Guardiola a collective thank you as Sterling’s display against Italy provided further evidence of his impressive development in the last year.

We’ve waited a long time for Sterling to transfer his club form to the international stage

Getty - Contributor
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We’ve waited a long time for Sterling to transfer his club form to the international stage

The Man City winger’s club form has often evaporated when burdened with the weight of an England shirt.

Last night, Sterling was England’s most consistent attacking threat and the awareness he showed of his team-mates’ movements was a notable addition to his international game.

He’s a guaranteed starter.

“Just do what Pep tells you to do…”

Reuters
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“Just do what Pep tells you to do…”

Lingard was involved in England’s goals against Netherlands (scored) and Italy (assist).

The fun-loving midfielder is enjoying his football for both club and country — an attitude England could use more of at tournaments.

And the end products are undeniable.

I still won’t be referring to him as ‘JLingz’

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I still won’t be referring to him as ‘JLingz’

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I admit to being a Lingard doubter; it’s taken me a long time to be convinced of his ability and I still don’t think I’m fully sold.

But his performances in recent times can not be ignored.

His directness is refreshing and enables swift attacks once the opposition’s initial press has been bypassed.

A few months ago, I didn’t even have Lingard on the plane, now I’ve got him in starting line-up.

Whatever this is, let’s see it in Russia

PA:Press Association
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Whatever this is, let’s see it in Russia

But where does this leave Dele Alli?

The Spurs midfielder is arguably the most talented player in squad not named Harry Kane.

But anyone who has followed football for longer than three months knows that simply picking the eleven best players does not equate to effective management.

After a stuttering start to the season, Alli has found form.

Only Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane have provided more Premier league assists this campaign and many would argue his understanding with Kane is reason enough for him to be included in Southgate’s preferred XI.

Better get used to that bib

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Better get used to that bib

However, in terms of effectiveness in the final third, given the way England are planning on setting up in Russia, he’s behind Sterling and Lingard.

There’s a case for starting Alli in the centre of midfield alongside Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson.

If Tunisia and Panama set up to frustrate England with deep blocks as expected, then Alli’s natural inclination to surge forward may help us find a way through.

Southgate is yet to experiment with this tactic and so implementing it at this late stage would be something of a risk.

Will Alli’s mate want him in the team?

PA:Press Association
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Will Alli’s mate want him in the team?

Alli, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy would provide dynamism off the bench.

Perhaps Alli’s role for England this summer will be that of super-sub?

For me, that’s the best he can hope for…


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