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World Cup - Football: Mings adds to Southgate's defensive headache

Tyrone Mings' demotion to the bench for Aston Villa means yet another central defensive option could be heading into the World Cup not playing and out of form, leaving England boss Gareth Southgate with much to ponder.

The powerful left-footer has endured a miserable summer after losing the captaincy at Villa Park to Scotland midfielder John McGinn.

To add insult to injury, the arrival of Brazilian defender Diego Carlos from Sevilla has pushed Mings down the pecking order and he had to be content with watching from the sidelines as Villa were beaten 2-0 by his old club Bournemouth on the opening day.

Other defensive options are also currently struggling and Southgate will be desperate to see them regain some form going into the World Cup which kicks off in just over three months - a tournament in which England can be backed to win at 11/2.

What:World Cup 2022
When:21st November - 18th December 2022
How to watch:All matches will be shown on either the BBC or ITV
Odds:Brazil 9/2, England 11/2, France 6/1, Spain 8/1, Argentina 8/1

Tough ask for Mings to regain Three Lions spot

Mings led Villa throughout last season as their campaign petered out disappointingly despite early promise in Steven Gerrard's reign.

The former European Cup winners only managed to win two out of their last 11 fixtures and they finished the season 14th - well clear of the relegation zone but six points away from the top ten.

As a result, Gerrard decided to make changes and taking the captaincy off Mings was a bold call from the former England and Liverpool great and if the defender spends the first half of the season on the bench, then his England place has to be is in serious jeopardy.

He has generally been a mainstay of Southgate's squads in the past few years and he does offer balance being left-footed - Mings has 17 England caps to his name and that tally will only increase if he regains his form.

First-choice defenders not impressing

Southgate's first-choice defensive pair has generally consisted of Manchester City's John Stones and Manchester United's Harry Maguire.

While Stones has undoubtedly improved in the past few years under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, he is not exactly a guaranteed starter with Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake picked to feature against West Ham on Sunday ,while Aymeric Laporte is set to return from injury in the near future.

Stones only made 14 Premier League appearances last season and has generally never been the most reliable when it comes to injuries.

Meanwhile, Maguire's issues are still visible despite a new era starting at Manchester United. In Erik ten Hag's first game on Sunday, where United were beaten 2-1 at home to Brighton and Maguire had an unsteady day alongside new signing Lisandro Martinez.

The spotlight has shone brightly on the £80million man for some time which will not do his confidence much good ahead of the trip to Qatar.

Generally, Stones and Maguire have not let England down, but fragile confidence can only take players so far and they too may be looking over their shoulders if performances do not improve.

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Forgotten men to swoop in?

There is still time for several players to play their way into form and give Southgate something to think about in terms of his defensive line-up.

Eric Dier has been reborn at Tottenham Hotspur under Antonio Conte and found the net in their convincing 4-1 win at home to Southampton on Saturday.

The versatile defender has the advantage of 45 previous caps to look back on and, although he hasn't featured at international level for two years, he is still in Southgate's plans.

At the opposite end of the scale, Fikayo Tomori might not have much in the way of caps (he has played for England just three times) but his form in a Serie A-winning AC Milan side has seen his profile be raised significantly.

Tomori has been a first-choice pick for the Rossoneri and regular Champions League football to come will aid his improvement further.

Arsenal's Ben White proved to be a solid purchase for the Gunners and is very cultured in possession, which Southgate favours, while Crystal Palace's Marc Guehi is an option to look at too.

In an ideal world, Southgate will hope to see Stones and Maguire get back to their best and make his decision a simpler one.

England are not short of numbers, but getting the right set-up and balance at the back could be the difference between success and failure for the Three Lions in Qatar.

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