Gareth Southgate is considering reverting to the three at the back system that helped secure a fourth-placed finish at the 2018 World Cup.
England’s preparations for the Nations League games against Iceland and Denmark begin at St George’s Park on Monday as players arrive for international duty for the first time in 10 months. And Sportsmail understands Southgate is ready to use a three-man defence in Scandinavia.
The England boss has tried to transition to a conventional back four since the last World Cup, and has found a degree of success as the Three Lions qualified for the European Championship. But with the Euros less than 12 months away, Southgate wants to experiment with using a back three in the forthcoming matches.
The first call-ups for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Conor Coady at the weekend has strengthened Southgate’s options. Maitland-Niles can play as a wing back on either flank, while Coady has been one of the Premier League’s most consistent centre backs over the past two years. Both could now be handed their international debuts by Southgate given both have played successfully in back threes.
Kyle Walker’s surprise international recall also points towards Southgate’s plan. Walker played as one of England’s three centre backs in Russia — though he could also play as a wing back.
Eric Dier, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Tyrone Mings and Coady will battle it out for places at centre back, while Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold are options at wing back.
Meanwhile, Southgate is expected to release names of squad withdrawals on Monday as positive Covid results threaten to derail his plans.
The 49-year-old last night learned of the players who have tested positive ahead of Monday’s meet-up, though the FA will not specify why players are withdrawing so as not to breach medical confidentiality.
All players will have coronavirus tests upon arrival at the base, with at least four players sweating on results having recently tested positive. They should receive the results within 24 hours but the FA are expecting some to drop out.
Sportsmail understands Southgate named his 24-man squad last Tuesday knowing that several players had tested positive but were all due to be clear by the time they report today.
Alexander-Arnold has missed Liverpool’s pre-season preparations, but is expected to report. Marcus Rashford, however, is set to withdraw due to an ankle injury.