Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester City are also represented in this XI of Premier League periphery players who look set to be starters at the World Cup…
GK: Matt Turner
Arsenal’s second choice goes to the World Cup as USA No.1 (we think) while Arsenal’s No.1 is in Qatar as England’s second stand-in. Turner gets the nod ahead of Chelsea’s recently demoted Edouard Mendy and the modern-day Sergio Romero who is Wayne Hennessey, Wales No.1 in perpetuity despite not having been first choice at club level for bloody ages.
RB: Tariq Lamptey
At one point, the Brighton right-back looked set to make the England right-back spot his own. Then he got injured, then he switched allegiance to Ghana, for whom he will start in Qatar – something he hasn’t done for Brighton all season despite being available to Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi for every Premier League game.
CB: Harry Maguire
Maguire may be Manchester United captain but he is no longer first choice. He’s barely even first-choice stand-in, with Erik ten Hag opting for Victor Lindelof to replace Raphael Varane. Still, Gareth Southgate is sticking by one of his most-trusted lieutenants. God help Harry if that decision backfires…
CB: Jan Bednarek
The Villa defender has played only twice since joining from Southampton – once as a sub at Leeds before making his first start in Steven Gerrard’s final game as manager. That 3-0 defeat at Fulham almost a month ago was Bednarek’s last action before joining up with Poland, who expect the 26-year-old to start in a back three.
LB: Nathan Ake
The Manchester City defender has played either in the centre or to the left of Louis van Gaal’s defence, a versatility he has demonstrated for Pep Guardiola more often than we initially thought but not as often as he would like. He has started only half of City’s Premier League matches – one in their last four – and two of their six Champions League games.
CM: Nampalys Mendy
Mendy plays a lot more than he used to at Leicester but he remains a squad player for Brendan Rodgers, with all his Premier League appearances this term coming off the bench. For Senegal, however, he remains an integral part of their midfield, starting 10 of their 13 games in 2022.
CM: Pape Matar Sarr
The Tottenham youngster goes to the World Cup with only 111 minutes in Premier League 2 under his belt this season. So far, he’s yet to see any action in Antonio Conte’s first team but Sarr looks set to start for Senegal having been named in three of Aliou Cisse’s last four line-ups.
I’m sure we all have our thoughts on his ability and potential but it’s undeniably absurd that Pape Matar Sarr has gone from playing over 2,000 Ligue 1 minutes last year to starting in the PL2 and not playing a single minute of first team football. The guy’s going to the WC ffs.
— Chris Miller (@WindyCOYS) November 12, 2022
RW: Hakim Ziyech
The Chelsea winger – he is still at Chelsea – is going to Qatar with Morocco, which didn’t appear likely when he retired from international football back in February. That was a consequence of falling out with coach Vahid Halilhodzic, but when the Bosnian was axed in August, the path was immediately cleared for Ziyech to return despite starting only once for Chelsea – their 2-1 defeat to Southampton in August.
LW: Dan James
James signed off from his Fulham duties by scoring against former club Manchester United on Sunday but that is the Wales winger’s only goal for the Cottagers. Since joining from Leeds, he has started only three Premier League games and none in the last five matches since being hooked at half-time against Bournemouth.
FWD: Cristiano Ronaldo
The 37-year-old says his ‘absolute focus’ is on the World Cup while his United legacy burns having lobbed grenades over his shoulder when he left Manchester to join up with Portugal. At least Ronaldo doesn’t have to worry about his fading status with the national team. He’s played 90 minutes in nine of the last 11 internationals.
FWD: Hwang Hee-chan
Hwang is considered second only to Heung-min Son in the South Korea attack but he hasn’t earned the same reverence at Wolves. Actually, he’s only earned three starts for the Premier League’s bottom side. In those appearances, as well as eight off the bench, Hwang is yet to score or contribute to a goal. Bruno Lage wasn’t convinced of his quality, nor was Steve Davis. The forward has the World Cup to impress Julen Lopetegui and perhaps save his Wolves future.