England’s right wing chaos could yet provide a bizarre World Cup comeback

The Three Lions could be on the brink of a selection dilemma.

Chaos on the right propped up by a shrinking pool of viable candidates, the most prominent of whom has already been dismissed once by the relevant kingmakers, only to be given a second chance through a combination of fluke and desperation; Rishi Sunak’s government or Gareth Southgate’s full-back headache, you decide.

Up until very, very recently, the right side of defence was an area in which England were judged to be thriving. The wealth of options at Southgate’s disposal was so vast that he even started his last major tournament with Kieran Trippier at left-back - kind of like when your mam would buy too many tins of corned beef because it was on offer and you’d end up eating it at every meal in various guises for a week straight. I guess in this analogy, Trippier is some sort of corned beef enchilada or something.

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But as the World Cup hurtles towards us, things are starting to look decidedly rickety for the Three Lions. Reece James, the overwhelming favourite to win the contest for Southgate’s affections, is expected to be absent with a knee injury. Likewise, World’s Fastest YorkshiremanTM Kyle Walker is recovering from a groin surgery that has raised doubts over his own availability.

Even if the Manchester City defender does drag himself back to full fitness in time for the tournament, however, it remains unclear as to who will get the nod as Southgate’s first choice heading into his side’s curtain-raiser with Iran next month. Generally speaking, the England boss has opted to deploy Walker as a centre-back in recent times, his remarkable pace acting as a kind of salve to the relative lethargy of his other, concrete-bollard-running-through-treacle alternatives. Whether he would be willing to sacrifice his jet-heeled insurance policy is something that only he will know for sure.

And that leaves us, by most estimations, with three realistic options; aforementioned enchilada Trippier, Gemma Collins super-fan (Google it) Benjamin “Ben” White, and, as alluded to right at the very top of this article, Trent Alexander-Arnold. Of those three, the latter certainly makes for the most intriguing prospect.

Trippier’s dependability and versatility has rendered him an omnipresent darling of Southgate’s tenure, and his continually impressive stint as Newcastle United’s de facto creative mensch has only served to revitalise a reputation that was already lofty enough.

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For his part, White may represent something of an outsider, but his recent advent as Arsenal’s starting right-back has hinted at a player with immense potential in the role. Factor in his own adaptability, and you would have to imagine that he is, at the very least, in with a chance.

And then there’s Trent. The boy once regarded as the spiritual heir apparent to a throne previously perched upon by the likes of Cafu and Dani Alves has grown into a man who fluctuates between the sublime and the substandard with the concerning frequency of a post-millennium episode of The Simpsons. Even his most ardent advocates are finding it increasingly difficult to defend him. How fitting.

That being said, there is no getting away from the fact that, on his day, the Liverpool talisman is one of the finest attacking full-backs in world football. The problem he faces is that Southgate doesn’t seem to believe that it’s his day all that often. Alexander-Arnold has regularly been over-looked at international level, and has done little to buoy his stock domestically this season either.

Were it not for the mounting issues that loom over Southgate, and the subsequent quandary they are threatening to unleash, you would fancy that Trent’s chances of featuring in Qatar would be slim. As things stand, however, he might just end up being one of the last men standing. He now has a matter of weeks to steady himself, and to prove to his manager, and the nation writ large, that he deserves a starting berth.

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