England have given Wigman good options at number nine
England can only stand one striker under Sarina Wigman, but she has plenty of firepower in the squad named by the manager for this summer’s World Cup.
The most intriguing inclusion is Bethany England, who hasn’t played for the Lionesses in over a year but forced her way into Wigman’s plans after joining mid-season from Tottenham.
The Englishman only started playing regularly again after leaving Chelsea for Spurs in January, but still managed to finish as the WSL’s third-highest scorer after hitting the ground running in north London. Twelve goals in 12 games made his case for selection impossible to ignore.
The 28-year-old has his work cut out for his inclusion in Wigman’s starting XI, however, given the strength of the other number 9s for Australia and New Zealand.
Rachael Daly finished as the WSL’s top scorer – equaling Vivian Miedema’s record of 22 goals – and was listed as a forward in the official squad announcement.
That and his Golden Boot winning season is a fair indicator that his role as a left back during the victorious Euro campaign will not be repeated. However, having the option to play Daley in a pinch is also a bonus for Wigman.
Alesia Russo closes the collection at number 9 in the squad, with the Manchester United star coming off a campaign in which she reached double figures and was the subject of a world-record bid from Arsenal in January.
Wigman’s selections leading up to the World Cup suggest the number 9 shirt is Russo’s to lose, but the presence of Daly and England gives the manager plenty of options when considering how to unlock the defense this summer Go
England’s World Cup squad full
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Man United), Ellie Roebuck (Man City), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa).
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Esme Morgan (Man City), Alex Greenwood (Man City), Lotte Vauban-Moye (Arsenal).
Midfielders: Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toon (Man Utd), Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa), Laura Combes (Man City), Katie Zelem (Man Utd).
Forwards: Alesia Russo (Man Utd), Rachael Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Man City), Chloe Kelly (Man City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Katie Robinson (Brighton), Bethany England (Tottenham).
Standby players: Maya Le Tissier (Man Utd), Jess Park (Man City), Emily Ramsey (Man Utd).
Bright and bronze boost Lionesses’ World Cup hopes
Given the many absences and injury concerns that have plagued England going into this tournament, the inclusion of two of their best players – Millie Bright and Lucy Bronze – is a huge boost to the squad.
Wiegman’s World Cup squad is far less experienced than his Euro 2022 selection, with a total of 733 caps at an average of 973 – 42 per player compared to 32 per player – among his predecessors.
Six players have fewer than 10 caps, compared with just four last year, while another half-dozen have accumulated at least 50 caps – versus the Euro squad’s nine.
That is why it is so important that both Bronze and Bright have proved their fitness 50 days before the tournament.
Four of the five most-capped players set to feature at Euro 2022 – Jill Scott, Ellen White, Demi Stokes and Nikita Parisi – have either retired or been overlooked this time around. With 104 caps, Bronze is now ahead, 30 ahead of Alex Greenwood.
Bronze is regarded as one of the best right-backs to ever play the women’s game, while Bright has improved significantly as a defender over the years. The Lionesses would not have won the Euros without him.
Bright will also take over the armband in the absence of skipper Leah Williamson, a role she has been preparing for for a long time.
Having long been vice-captain for England and Chelsea, he has plenty of experience to fill the void and guide new faces – Brighton’s 20-year-old winger Katie Robinson, ahead of Chelsea’s Lauren James, the youngest Key player. (21).
Given that the Lionesses are not at full strength in attack, building a solid base around the likes of bronzes and brights will be vital to any success.
England and the WSL aren’t just about the ‘Big Four’ clubs
The Lionesses team that won the Euro was full of winners, mainly due to their reliance on the ‘Big Four’ clubs.
In the 23-player squad, only three players did not play for Chelsea, Arsenal or the two Manchester clubs. Wigman went for the big name players in the big games.
There is a bit more mix in this England team in terms of club commitments, partly due to significant injuries but also due to the competitive nature of the WSL.
England could easily have Jordan Nobbs and Daly starting together throughout the tournament after taking Villa to fifth place and reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Katie Robinson has had a difficult season with Brighton but is an exciting option off the bench. As noted above, England’s form for Tottenham made it impossible for Wigman to leave.
With the likes of Bronze, Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway moving to Europe over the past year, women’s football is no longer looking like a one stop shop when it comes to competition.
More players and teams being represented is a sign that the women’s game is on the rise. Not only because of success, reach or performance, but also because of overall quality.
And being the heroes of Tottenham, Aston Villa and Brighton will only inspire more.
Nobbs and Zelem provide midfield experience
There were some concerns over the midfield options available to Wigman in Wednesday’s team announcement. Another midfield option in the impressive Fran Kirby and Leah Williamson have both been sidelined with injury.
But Wiegman has gone from the WSL with two experienced options in Nobbs and Katie Zelem, adding a different dimension to a young squad.
For Nobbs, his risk of leaving his beloved Arsenal to join Aston Villa to make the World Cup squad has paid off. The midfielder has been incredibly unlucky in the past to miss several major tournaments for England – this summer will be only her second World Cup.
And he has proved at Aston Villa that he is still a player of incredible talent, according to his club manager Carla Ward. Sky Sports News: “What Jordan does well is connect with and surpass the number 9 and he has done that brilliantly over the last few months. He will already bring a different type of option to the squad.”
Zelem has also suffered heartbreak at the international level after being cut from England’s initial 28-player squad last summer, but will now feature in his first major tournament.
As Man Utd captain, she will bring leadership both on and off the pitch, although no player is likely to replace Stanway, Walsh and Ella Toon just yet.
However, as England proved at Euro 2022, it’s not just a starting XI that wins matches – that’s what a team is and both Nobbs and Zelem have a lot to contribute in all areas.
le tissier unfortunately missed
It was a surprise not to include Maya Le Tissier in the 23-player squad, having had an impressive season at club level.
The Manchester United defender played in every WSL game last season, forming a centre-back partnership with Millie Turner that conceded the fewest goals in the league. His passing abilities are also almost unmatched, and he ranks among the top three in several statistical categories in the region.
He earned two Lions caps last year and is tipped to be one of the future stars of the WSL and at the international level.
That being said, Le Tissier couldn’t have done more to be selected this season, and may consider herself very unlucky.
However, she has been named as one of three standby players, along with Emily Ramsey and Jess Park, who will travel with the team to Australia and New Zealand.
At 21, being around the team in preparation for a major tournament will add to Le Tissier’s limited senior international experience, and she could learn a lot from Wigman and other players in the coming months.
But some would say she is ready to be a part of the squad now, and would be a reliable replacement for Wigman. While that may not happen this summer, there is no doubt that Le Tissier is an England starter in the future.