England’s centre-back options – ranked

England seem to have generational talents in every position apart from one of the most important; centre-back.

Harry Maguire and John Stones have long been Gareth Southgate’s preferred partnership in the centre of defence, with the former continuing in the Three Lions XI despite his lack of action for Manchester United since Erik ten Hag took the reins.

Young stars like Marc Guehi and Levi Colwill are beginning to come through, but who are Southgate’s strongest options at the moment? 90min takes a look….

Lloyd KellyLloyd Kelly

Kelly has entered the final year of his Bournemouth contract / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Kelly was considered by Tottenham at the end of the summer transfer window, but the defender remained at Bournemouth and has entered the final year of his contract down on the South Coast.

The left-footed defender is impressively quick and an astute reader of the game. He’s built for a high defensive line, but he may not be Southgate’s best option for defending the box. Nevertheless, Kelly has been excellent at the start of 2023/24 and is pushing for recognition.

Crystal Palace v Everton FC - Premier LeagueCrystal Palace v Everton FC - Premier League

The young defender has enjoyed an excellent start to the season / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Branthwaite’s centre-back partner, James Tarkowski, has often been in England consideration, but the young defender has outshone the veteran since emerging as a staple of Sean Dyche’s defence.

The England Under-21 international has been a shining light for Everton, and he boasts a physical profile which suggests he’ll be as adept defending deep as he would on the halfway line.

Ezri KonsaEzri Konsa

Konsa earned a long overdue call-up in November 2023 / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Konsa’s Aston Villa teammate, Tyrone Mings, has been a part of the England setup, but the left-footed defender’s long-term injury has seen him thrust out of contention.

In his absence, Konsa has reached another gear at Villa Park and many believe his call-up to the squad for the November fixtures was long overdue.

Ben WhiteBen White

White has been used as a right-back since the start of the 2022/23 season / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Some would argue that Ben White, positionally and because of his reading of the game, is one of England’s best defenders.

Lining up for Arsenal predominantly at right-back, he’s equally as comfortable playing in the centre of defence, yet he’s never really settled on the international stage.

Indeed, White headed home early from the 2022 World Cup for reasons that have not been disclosed, and despite his continued good form it doesn’t look as if he’ll be an England regular anytime soon.

Tomori was called up to the England squad last seasonTomori was called up to the England squad last season

Tomori was called up to the England squad last season / Michael Regan/Getty Images

The hot topic of the 2022 World Cup announcement, Fikayo Tomori appears further down the pecking order than some may have thought despite his form at AC Milan being generally good.

The emergence of others hasn’t helped Tomori’s cause, but it’s clear he’s got to do something different to regularly get on Southgate’s radar.

Levi Colwill challenges Martin BoyleLevi Colwill challenges Martin Boyle

Levi Colwill can also play at left-back / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

A strong 2022/23 season on loan with Brighton brought Levi Colwill firmly into the England discussion and he’s since nailed down a starting spot back at Chelsea under Mauricio Pochettino.

There’s still plenty of development for Colwill to go through but the early signs are promising and he should be starting games regularly for England in the future.

Lewis DunkLewis Dunk

Dunk is a key performer for Brighton / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Brighton’s ascent up the Premier League ought to do wonders for Lewis Dunk, who showed off his cool and confident skills in the 3-1 win over Scotland in September.

The Seagulls captain had to wait five years for his second England cap after debuting in 2018 but opportunities should be much more forthcoming in 2023/24.

Marc GuehiMarc Guehi

Marc Guehi is Crystal Palace’s captain / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Marc Guehi’s decision to leave Chelsea has proved to be an inspired one. He’s become a key player at Crystal Palace, captaining the side, and earned his first England cap.

Guehi’s ease on the ball has helped England’s build-up play during his early international career and he looks well set for a lengthy career at international level.

Harry MaguireHarry Maguire

Maguire needs regular club football / Francesco Pecoraro/GettyImages

The patience of England supporters is being firmly tested by Southgate’s continued inclusion of Maguire in his Three Lions squads.

The former Leicester star struggled for game time at Manchester United at the start of 2023/24 and his lack of action was telling when England won 3-1 against Scotland in September as he scored an own goal.

However, United’s injury woes in defence have seen Maguire enjoy an uptick in minutes, and the England defender has generally performed well since being reintroduced into the starting XI.

John StonesJohn Stones

Stones is England’s best defender / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages

After some time in the wilderness a few campaigns back, John Stones has returned to the forefront of Pep Guardiola’s plans.

Stones’ England place has never been in serious doubt. He has always been reliable for Southgate and the Three Lions boss likes to reward consistency.

He’s unlikely to play in his City pivot role at international level but that versatility is something that could work in Southgate’s favour in the future. Let’s hope his injury woes clear up by the time Euro 2024 rolls around.


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