It’s been a busy afternoon for the England with the expected announcement that Gareth Southgate will be staying on as manager until the 2022 World Cup and his latest squad came with several surprises.
It seems a sensible move to keep Southgate, the FA having finally opted for a long-term plan have decided to keep the man central to devising and implementing it for a further four years. Southgate was previously contracted up to Euro 2020, most agree it’s the right move to keep the popular manager in the hot seat, but not all agree.
Danny Murphy the former Liverpool squad player who won 9 caps for England claimed it was a ‘ridiculous move’ . His rationale was if things go wrong at Euro 2020 the FA will be left with a manager they have to keep, even if they no longer want him. The problem with that argument is if you have a long-term plan you don’t chop and change on the back of one poor result, look at Germany who’ve kept Joachim Low despite a poor World Cup, Didier Deschamps stayed after France lost the Euro 2016 final, Brazil are not looking to replace Tite. If you follow Murphy’s logic, England would surely have fired Bobby Robson after Euro ’88 and before Italia ’90. The FA know that regardless of how things go in 2020, they have a manager who can fall back on an excellent World Cup.
Of course the FA expect Euro 2020 won’t be a disaster and having previously lost managers too soon (Robson, Venables, Hoddle) for a variety of reasons they FA seem to be attempting to minimise the risk of a repeat.
It should also be pointed out England are hardly flush with alternative candidates now we have ruled out foreign managers. There are currently only 4 English managers in the Premier League, one of whom has managed England and one is veteran Neil Warnock. That leaves Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche both of whom have done great things with small clubs but probably need to do more over the next few years to be considered for England.
It appears West Ham’s Declan Rice has committed his future to England. There hasn’t been an official confirmation and Rice is not in the latest England squad, but it seems Rice intends to change his registration and will be available for selection in November.
Some have criticised Rice for switching allegiances and I would agree there should be a cut off age where players born of dual nationality need to commit, but Rice is only 19. Ireland’s policy has been one of capping players with Irish connections very young. That inevitably leads to this sort of problem if players don’t gain club recognition early, can anyone really blame Rice for agreeing to play for Ireland in his teens when he was still a reserve team player at West Ham?
September’s England squad was essentially the World Cup squad with a few enforced changes, this time there are 6 uncapped players and a total of 7 changes from September, here are the main conclusions we can draw:
- No recall for Joe Hart- Southgate insists this isn’t the end for Hart but the in-form Burnley stopper must be disappointed not to get a recall. Southgate insists Jack Butland having played England’s last game needed to be retained in the squad and it seems likely Jordan Pickford will play both these Nations League ties. There’s little point in picking a player with 75 caps unless he’s going to play.
- As you were in defence– England look to have a well established pecking order in defence with the same group picked as we saw in September. James Tarkowski is perhaps a tad fortunate having struggled against Switzerland. It would have been good to see Wolves skipper Conor Coady given a chance, who given his form must surely be due a call up soon.
- Injuries creating opportunity in midfield- The headline stories of this squad were the surprise call ups in midfield (more on those later), but those have been created by injuries to those previously in possession. Currently unavailable to England are World Cup players Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jesse Lingard & Dele Alli plus Liverpool’s injured duo Adam Lallana & Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That’s a big hole to fill.
- Winks & Barkley are back- Neither of these were huge shocks, although neither has been playing week in week out. Winks would have gone to the World Cup were it not for injury after an impressive debut last October. It was clear against Spain Jordan Henderson would benefit from a natural passing player to work in tandem and it always appeared to be contest between Winks & Lewis Cook. Barkley has benefited from the absence of Alli and Lingard and offers something different from that advanced midfield position, clearly a huge but frustrating talent Barkley has benefited from a positive start to the season with Chelsea.
- Chalobah is the shock- Despite only a few minutes of Premier League football this season, Nat Chalobah is included. He’s benefited from the absence of Delph and Southgate has seen a chance to bring in the midfielder who won 97 caps at various junior levels. With Henderson and Dier in the squad it seems unlikely Chalobah will play but Everton’s Tom Davies was surely more deserving of a chance?
- Mount is in– Derby’s on loan 19-year-old is in. A European Champion at Under 19 level, Southgate was quick to point out Mount is now in his second season of senior football having played successfully in the Eredivisie with Vitesse. Mount has been in outstanding and has amassed 19 goals in just 50 appearances from midfield.
- And Maddison– The most in-form English player in the Premier League is handed his first call. Maddison has been exceptional this season, allowing Leicester fans to forget Riyad Mahrez. Another who could play is the number 10 role, Maddison seems very likely to start in Croatia.
- Sancho arrives- The man with the most assists in Europe’s top 5 leagues is in. Jason Sancho is in the senior side without an Under 21 cap. Sancho has been in irresistable form as an impact substitute for Borussia Dortmund this season. Sancho looks a superstar in the making and a work that started with a contract extension in Dortmund is ending with an England call up
- Sturridge and Hughes very unlucky- Many expected Sturridge to get the call but Will Hughes is the player most unlucky to miss out. The Watford midfielder has been in outstanding form and deserved a call up ahead of Barkley but offers similar talents. Meanwhile Sturridge captured the headlines this weekend with his stunning goal against Chelsea. It seems he need to prove his counted fitness to get a recall, Southgate perhaps once bitten, twice shy after Jack Wilshere’s recall ended in farce back in March. Were this a tournament squad I suspect Sturridge would be in.