These are worrying times for Gareth Southgate, just a month away from the World Cup.
Some of England’s key players are doubting injuries ahead of the tournament in Qatar and the lists seem to be growing by the week amid the buzz of Premier League action.
Reece James, who would likely have been England’s top right-back, looks set to miss the tournament after suffering a serious knee injury last week.
Gareth Southgate has some tough decisions to make before confirming his England squad
England open their World Cup campaign in Qatar against Iran on November 21
To complicate matters further, Kyle Walker, another trusted lieutenant from Southgate, is recovering from surgery for a groin injury and also looks dubious.
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips is in need of surgery on a dislocated shoulder and will be making the plane to Qatar with all his might, having been barely there since joining Manchester City.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harry Maguire are also injured and Southgate will thank his lucky stars if we get through the month remaining before he picks his team without further setbacks.
It looks like Reece James is going to miss the World Cup after suffering a knee problem recently
That problem is compounded by Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold injured
Kalvin Phillips is an England midfielder who needs surgery on a dislocated shoulder
But as the doors close for some members of the Three Lions squad, the odds are knocking for others to make a late dart in the squad, which must be confirmed before November 13.
Sports post take a look at some of the hopeful people who can take advantage and get an unexpected call.
Arsenal have had an excellent start to the season and one notable aspect is their defensive resilience.
Ben White, who has played in all ten Premier League leaders matches to date, has been a key factor in this improvement.
The 25-year-old has four caps for England but has not been involved since friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast in March.
Ben White’s form with Premier League boss Arsenal makes him a contender for England
Particularly appealing to Southgate is that White can comfortably play as a right-back, as he has for Arsenal this season, or as a central defender, depending on the need.
With England easily exhausted in either position, you would expect White to have a strong chance of making the 26-man roster given his form.
Perhaps the time of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in an England shirt has finally arrived.
He went to the 2018 World Cup and started two of the group matches but has not made a selection since November of that year as his club career faltered.
Now playing regularly in Chelsea’s midfield, the 26-year-old is certainly a strong contender to replace the injured Phillips and play alongside Declan Rice at the World Cup.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek regularly plays in Chelsea’s midfield and could still make the selection
Loftus-Cheek has timed his form to perfection at club level and has not been affected by the change of manager from Thomas Tuchel, who had confidence in him, to Graham Potter.
Versatile and powerful in midfield, Loftus-Cheek can certainly offer England something whatever formation Southgate chooses, or he could be a solid option from the bench.
The only downside is that he hasn’t been with the England squad for so long and there are no more warm-up matches to reintegrate him into the squad before the tournament starts.
Southgate was at the Leicester vs Crystal Palace game on Saturday, likely to get his eye on James Maddison.
But his attention may have wandered to Leicester’s right-footed left-back Justin, who can also play just as comfortably on the right-hand side of defence.
Leicester has struggled this season, but it is clear that the 24-year-old can provide both defensive security and the offensive qualities Southgate is looking for.
Gareth Southgate saw James Justin in action for Leicester against Crystal Palace
Justin played left-back during his one and only appearance in England against Hungary in the Nations League in June.
There are more established options, but Justin may have caught Southgate’s attention and there are still plenty of Premier League games to impress before the squad has to be named.
It wouldn’t be a World Cup without the prospect of unlimited wildcard choice. Think of Theo Walcott in 2006.
This time it could be Liverpool midfielder Elliott, who has shown considerable maturity this season after his 19 years so far.
19-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliott has impressed for Liverpool so far this season
The fact that Jurgen Klopp started the youngster in Sunday’s game against Manchester City only underlines the confidence he has in him.
That was his ninth start of the season so far in all competitions at Liverpool and his spark has proved a rare bright spot in their early-season struggles.
Elliott has only played three times for England’s under-21 squad, most recently against Italy and Germany last month, and there is certainly time to step down.
If Elliott were to get a seat, it would come at the expense of more experienced figures in England’s line-up, such as James Ward-Prowse or possibly his club mate Jordan Henderson.
Another midfield option offered by Chelsea, although Gallagher doesn’t play as often as Loftus-Cheek.
However, he has more recent experience with Southgate’s team, having played the Nations League defeat to Hungary in Molineux in June and three other games before that.
Conor Gallagher bowed to England last year and was able to make the selection in midfield
Gallagher, who also offers good versatility in central areas, played in both under-21 matches last month, scoring in the win over Germany.
His performances at club level this season have put him in quite a strong position and with Chelsea clearly better under Potter, Gallagher will have opportunities to strengthen his position in the squad.
Gomez, who has come to the rescue at Liverpool’s rear as a central defender and also as a right-back in the place of Alexander-Arnold in recent games, is Liverpool’s rear.
The 25-year-old has 11 caps for England, but none since October 2020. An ankle injury made his hopes go to the final World Cup, but he won’t have given up.
Joe Gomez was Liverpool’s best performer when they beat Manchester City on Sunday
Like White, he offers versatility across the backline. He was the best player in the park as Liverpool beat City 1-0 on Sunday and delivered a fine assist for Roberto Firmino in the 7-1 Champions League win over Rangers last week.
If England’s worst fears come true and Alexander-Arnold, James and Walker miss the World Cup, Gomez wouldn’t be the worst choice as a replacement.
And with his performances, he goes further and further in that pecking order every week.
The role of Harry Kane’s understudies at the front of the World Cup remains up for grabs.
England are blessed with plenty of wide, top-quality attackers, but if the unthinkable happens and Kane gets injured before or during the tournament, someone has to step up.
Ivan Toney has eight goals for Brentford and has fought for a World Cup place
In the current form of the Premier League, Ivan Toney should be that man. He has scored eight goals so far this season, including a double for Brentford against Brighton on Friday-evening.
Southgate has already acknowledged this by calling up Toney for last month’s games against Italy and Germany, but he didn’t get on the pitch to show what he can do.
Since that disappointment, Toney has scored three times as if trying to make a point.
It remains to be seen whether Southgate will pick one or two strikers to back Kane, but there’s no doubt Toney is in better shape than Tammy Abraham or anyone else.