It’s a new season and a first England squad of the new campaign that will hopefully end at next summer’s European Championships. So who did Gareth Southgate pick and what can draw from his latest selection.
Of the 23 players who picked up the Nations League bronze medal in June only 17 have retained their places. However three of those six absences were voluntary, three are due to a lack of match fitness in Dele Alli, John Stones and Fabian Delph. That said Jack Butland, Eric Dier and most surprisingly Kyle Walker are all out.
Learning from past mistakes
Southgate explained in his press conference, last September’s poor performances against Switzerland and Spain were in his opinion due to picking players who were short of match minutes. At the time Southgate stated the best players in June were still the best players available in September. Inevitably September squads are hard for the England manager to gage due to the lack of games played in a fledgling season, however the change of tack shows Southgate is prepared to learn from his own errors.
Competition at Right Back, but a clear first choice
The biggest surprise in this squad is the absence of Manchester City right back Kyle Walker. Southgate explained Walker will be back and his being dropped was to enable him to reintegrate Atletico Madrid new-boy Kieran Trippier and give a first call to Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
England have an embarrassment of riches in the position but notably Walker played poorly in the Nations League semi final in June, whilst Trent Alexander-Arnold was man of the match in the third place playoff. Alexander-Arnold’s inclusion and Walker making way for Trippier and Wan-Bissaka to have go underlines the Liverpool player’s position as first choice.
Short of form and out
Eric Dier has often been seen as a Southgate favourite. He may well be given his penalty heroics but the Tottenham man has been ditched after starting the season on the Spurs bench. It’s fair to say previous England managers and in particular Roy Hodgson would never have made that call. Dier needs to regain his place at Tottenham to win it back with England, more importantly it’s good to see selections being made on current form.
Jack Butland as expected was dropped after a poor start to the season with Championship basement dwellers Stoke. This wasn’t a shock given as Southgate pointed out there are currently six English goalkeepers in the Premier League. But Southgate offered hope to Butland, praising his mental toughness in taking a penalty in the Carabao Cup in front of 30,000 at Leeds.
Butland’s place was taken by Nick Pope, marking his return after a year of injury torment. Pope has been in good form and will compete with old Burnley teammate Tom Heaton for the England number two slot. What was slightly surprising was Southgate’s reluctance to call up either Dean Henderson or Angus Gunn given they have both now graduated from the Under 21s. The back up goalkeeper roles look wide open going into a tournament year. However until England have booked their place don’t expect Southgate to experiment.
Mings is In
The injury to John Stones offers Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings the chance to impress. Mings has been instrumental in Villa’s transformation from Championship also-rans to Premier League club. However the pecking order looks well set in central defence and Mings is the latest player to try his hand at cracking the four squad places after James Tarkowski and Lewis Dunk came and went whilst Jamaal Lascelles and Conor Coady continue to wait their turn. Mings needs to make a quick impact if he is to stick around.
After a poor midfield performance against Frankie De Jong and Holland, Southgate has added fresh blood in the centre of the park. Dele Alli and Fabian Delph were enforced moves whilst Dier was discarded.
In comes Harry Winks who would have gone to the Nations League finals had he been deemed fully fit. Winks offers the sort of passing player England sorely lacked in the summer when Declan Rice and Delph both played as water carriers. Alli’s place goes to Mason Mount who offers a similar goal threat from advanced midfield.
The other two changes were predictable with James Maddison offering a natural number ten and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back from injury. Southgate made a point of stating Ox would have been a starter in Russia were it not for injury, he now gets an early chance to regain his place.
Still no Foden
There are plenty of players with claims who are missing including Coady, Dunk, Jack Grealish and Tammy Abraham. However the most obvious name missing is Manchester City starlet Phil Foden. Foden was England’s one true success at the Euro Under 21s but despite the high praise from all quarters he’s going to have to wait a little longer. Foden has just 10 minutes Premier League football to his name this season and that remains the obstacle to him winning his first cap. It’s clear Pep Guardiola has big plans for Foden but until he’s getting a regular game with City, his England dreams will have to wait.
Goalkeepers: Tom Heaton, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Midfielders: Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson, James Maddison, Mason Mount, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Declan Rice, Harry Winks
Forwards: Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Callum Wilson
Featured Image: Getty