It is hard to remember a time when any one nation had such a sizeable talent pool in one specific position as England right now have in their right back corps. It is enough, if you happen to be particularly enamored of fullbacks, to take one back to the glory days of Italian strikers at the turn of the century or the period in the early 2010s where Spain had a clutch of attacking midfielders on the peripheries of their squad that other managers would build their team around.
The sheer weight of numbers available to Southgate in just one position are remarkable. All of the Premier League's top 12 have fielded a potential England international at right-back at some stage this season and you can add the potential champions of Spain, who look a different team with Kieran Trippier in the starting XI to the mix. While the decision to drop Trent Alexander-Arnold from the squad for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland prompted much consternation it is hardly as though his rivals are scrubs picked up from the lower leagues.
Explaining his decision to drop Alexander-Arnold from his squad, Southgate said: "It's simply that we think Reece James and Kieran Tripper have had exceptional seasons, really, with their clubs and Kyle Walker is in great form with Manchester City.
"We have got other players in the league who are also playing well in that position - [Matty] Cash at Aston Villa and [Luke] Ayling at Leeds. We have got two very good right-backs in the Under-21s [Max Aarons and Steven Sessegnon]. It's a remarkable position of strength for us."
Such is the all-round technical quality and diversity of the English right-back pool, you could quite possibly build an entire team out of options available to Southgate. So why don't we?
Yes, somehow England still have plenty of right-backs left after naming a full XI. Indeed if Ainsley Maitland-Niles didn't so clearly covet a different position he might have made out top 11 whilst his Arsenal team-mate Calum Chambers might have a shout if he delivers more crossing masterclasses like he offered against West Ham.
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Like Chambers, Mason Holgate is perhaps more of a natural center back but has performed well defensively on Everton's right. The same might be said of Japhet Tanganga, still on the fringes of Jose Mourinho's Tottenham side. Ryan Fredericks has been in strong form for the Hammers this season and Jayden Bogle is beginning to establish himself in the Sheffield United side albeit with George Baldock ahead of him in the pecking order. Then there is just the small matter of a potential right back option from the leaders of Serie A, Ashley Young, who along with James Milner could probably play anywhere if asked. Anyway, on with the XI, ranked in order.
11. Max Aarons (Norwich)
Continuing his development away from the Premier League after an impressive season in the top flight with Norwich in 2019-20, Aarons is for now established as England Under-21's first-choice right-back but that could all change in the coming years for the youngster, who is being courted by some of the biggest clubs in England and beyond. Arsenal, Everton, Manchester United and Bayern Munich all hold an interest in Aarons, for whom the Canaries would demand up to $50million. For a player of such promise that may be a fee worth paying.
10. Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton)
The importance of Walker-Peters to Southampton has only become more apparent in his absence, which has coincided with an extended slide down the table. In 25 games with their first-choice right-back the Saints average 1.64 points per game, without him less than half a point per game.
The 23-year-old is crucial to Southampton's high-pressing system, having the mobility and defensive diligence to cover sizeable gaps on the right flank. A relative throw-in in Tottenham's signing of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, it is hard not to wonder how much better Walker-Peters' former club would be with him in the team.
9.Luke Ayling (Leeds United)
A stand-out performer in Leeds' return to the top flight, Ayling has shown the versatility required for Marcelo Bielsa's system, something that could also have been valuable for Gareth Southgate had he opted for the 29-year-old.
"He has the capacity to attack and good aerial game," said Bielsa. "He has a good management of the ball and first pass. All of this analysis, anyone who watches him regularly can make."
8. Matty Cash (Aston Villa)
Like Ayling, the 23-year-old was namechecked by Southgate as one of those who had caught his eye this season, no less a reward than he deserved for an excellent debut season in the Premier League. Where Cash was once a front foot attacking midfielder, the former Nottingham Forest academy prospect looks to be an extremely competent defender with the league's most successful clearances and second most tackles.
7. Tariq Lamptey (Brighton and Hove Albion)
The former Chelsea player attacks with a fearlessness that brings to mind the best right-backs of recent years, nominally a defender he was one of Brighton's most effective attacking weapons during his 11 Premier League games before injury struck, scoring one goal and providing three assists. It is little wonder he is one of the names Arsenal have on their wish list should Hector Bellerin depart this summer. He has the explosive pace and attacking verve of the Spaniard at his best.
6. James Justin (Leicester City)
But for his season ending anterior cruciate ligament injury in February, Justin may yet have been lining up for England this month, such were the outstanding improvements he made in his second season at Leicester. As veteran full-back Christian Fuchs told CBS Sports earlier this year: "The way James Justin has improved over the last one-and-a-half years is incredible. I really love to see him excelling, getting better and better. He was already great last year but this season he is really playing some very good games and on a constantly high level, which is rare for a young player."
A player who can play across the back line and will bomb forward even if he's in a center back trio, Justin's versatility marks him out as another serious contender for Three Lions minutes over the coming years.
5. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)
So often termed a defensive full-back as though damning him with faint praise, Wan-Bissaka is as reliable on his flank as defenders come, and that does not count for nothing when it liberates the likes of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford to not really worry all that much about what is going on behind them. The gap between him and other full-backs on defense is at times ludicrous, he has 77 tackles to his name this season and no other player has reached 60.
4. Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid)
The man who so nearly fired England to the 2018 World Cup Final, Trippier is nothing if not consistently reliable when he pulls on the white shirt. That evidently counts for a lot in Southgate's eyes as do his sterling performances at Atletico Madrid before his ban for involvement in gambling activities.
It says something about England's strength in depth that their fourth-best right-back sits in the top percentile of players in his position for progressive passes, according to fbref, who rank him in the top 10 percent for assists and top 12 percent for shot creating actions. Combine him with his former team-mate Harry Kane and England have a real offensive weapon.
3. Reece James (Chelsea)
Arguably he is now ahead of Trippier as the best crosser in this group. His deliveries from the right arrive with devastating variety and success. He leads the Premier League in successful crosses per 90 from the right back spot and finds his man with nearly a quarter of deliveries, five percent more than the average player in his position.
It is little wonder Southgate said that James has had an "exceptional season" at club level. He has won the trust of Thomas Tuchel as he did Frank Lampard and already looks a solid defender in addition to his great qualities with the ball at his feet. He may yet be vying with Alexander-Arnold for years to come.
2. Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Ahead of one of the bright young things, Walker has been consistently excellent for club and country over nearly a decade of football and is among the few players in the England squad who will travel to Euro 2020 with more than 50 caps to his name. He has won the trust of Southgate and Pep Guardiola not just because of his searing pace but an adaptability that allowed him to play in a three-man defense at the 2018 World Cup and to fill in different roles for Manchester City. That versatility may come in handy later…
1.Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Form is temporary and so on. He may be an awkward fit outside of the Liverpool team who is yet to impress on the international stage. He may be having a down season at club level. But Trent Alexander-Arnold is still at the very least the best English football.
In a season without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and often Jordan Henderson he still leads all right-backs in chances created and expected assists per 90 minutes. Alexander-Arnold's defensive limitations may have been highlighted in a weakened Liverpool side but no-one recovers possession more frequently. Southgate certainly has high quality rivals but there are few, if any, England internationals with the ceiling of the 22-year-old from West Derby.
Anyway, now to the juicy stuff. How do we set these 11 right-backs up? Do we attempt a radical new strategy of absolutely dominating one particular quadrant of the pitch and leaving the rest unoccupied? Perhaps, but let's start out by smashing some square pegs into round holes.
Goalkeeper is probably the easiest. Remember that time Walker donned the gloves for Manchester City against Atalanta? That ticks that box. For a year or more pundits were debating whether Alexander-Arnold's future might be in midfield and there have been hints about the same conversation with James. Add Trippier as the deep-lying midfielder who can make England tick like Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves ought to have been allowed to and suddenly we've got an engine room that guarantees us 97 percent pass completion.
Justin is damned by his versatility and gets shunted out to left fullback, two of the best pure defenders fill the cente back spots and Walker-Peters gets perhaps the most coveted shirt in this team, the No.2.
All of which brings us to the fun bit, setting up this team in attack. Cash's past dalliances high up the pitch mean he gets his old right-wing berth. Aarons, well, look we're not exactly overloaded with potential options high up the left flank from our squad of defenders.
However there is an ace in the hole here in the heart of our front line. Lamptey, all 5ft 3in of him, is hardly going to be winning many crosses into the box but as our false 9? Imagine him picking the ball up in space from Alexander-Arnold, or James sprinting beyond him and Cash darting inside. It might not be Harry Kane and company but it's pretty fun for a team of defenders.