England’s centre-midfield options – ranked

Few international teams can rival England for strength in depth.

From front to back, Gareth Southgate is blessed with a ludicrous amount of different options, with each squad announcement invariably greeted with shrieks of: “WHY ISN’T X PLAYER INCLUDED YOU PIZZA HUT ADVERT CLOWN!!!!!”

Central midfield is no different. Southgate has often been criticised for keeping it safe in the middle of the park but he has shown glimpses of more invention in recent times.

Here is where England’s top midfield options sit in the pecking order.

Manuel Ugarte, Ruben Loftus-CheekManuel Ugarte, Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Loftus-Cheel has impressed in Italy / Marco Luzzani/GettyImages

Having fallen out of favour at Chelsea, Loftus-Cheek followed the path of Fikayo Tomori, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic in making the switch to Milan.

The 27-year-old has caught the eye with some dominant performances in the centre of the park since he did, and could attract interest from Southgate as he looks to add to his England caps.

Curtis JonesCurtis Jones

Jones has blossomed under Jurgen Klopp / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Having thrived under Jurgen Klopp last season, Jones was technically the Under-21 Euros-winning goalscorer in last summer’s final. While he knew little about it as the ball cannoned off his back, the Liverpool man was still a key part of the team’s success at the tournament.

Jones’ intensity made him a crucial addition to the Reds’ midfield last season and, despite some injuries, the 22-year-old is flourishing at Anfield.

Southgate is likely keeping an eye on the youngster.

West Ham United v Nottingham Forest - Premier LeagueWest Ham United v Nottingham Forest - Premier League

Ward-Prowse has caught the eye at West Ham / Gaspafotos/MB Media/GettyImages

Ward-Prowse has been on the periphery of England’s squad for some time, despite being a more obvious inclusion in the team than some of his fellow countrymen.

Ward-Prowse’s impressive showings with West Ham since his summer move still haven’t entirely endeared him to Southgate, but his work ethic and set-piece delivery make him a useful addition.

In games where England are expected to dominate, the former Southampton midfielder would likely thrive alongside Declan Rice.

Jordan HendersonJordan Henderson

Henderson is now plying his trade in Saudi Arabia / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Having burnt plenty of bridges since his controversial move to Al Ettifaq last summer, Henderson’s consistent inclusion in the England squad has sparked debate.

The former Liverpool captain was never a hugely popular option due to his lack of attacking nous, but that has only been exacerbated since his move to the Saudi Pro League.

Southgate is surely going to phase Henderson out soon, right?

Kalvin PhillipsKalvin Phillips

Phillips is returning from injury / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Phillips has been similarly divisive as Henderson, but for different reasons. The Manchester City man has barely featured for the treble-winners since joining in 2022, yet continues to find himself in Southgate’s squad.

Phillips could make a move away from the Etihad Stadium in January in search of regular first-team football, but Southgate seems intent on picking the 27-year-old regardless of his time on the pitch.

Conor GallagherConor Gallagher

Gallagher is one for the future / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

After a summer of speculation linking him away from Stamford Bridge, Gallagher is finally coming into his own in a Chelsea shirt.

Lining up with Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo in midfield, the 23-year-old has been much improved since Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival in west London.

Selected for November’s England squad, Gallagher seems to have won over Southgate.

Declan RiceDeclan Rice

Rice is a guaranteed starter for England / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Speaking of Rice, he seems the only central midfielder that doesn’t divide opinion in an England shirt. He’s the best the Three Lions have and he’s guaranteed to start every game.

That was certainly the case during his West Ham days and it’s even more true now he is flourishing at Arsenal.

With such a dominant defensive midfielder, who is also capable of playing in a number eight role, England can afford to be a little more offensive-minded than they have been in recent times.


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