Ahead of England’s upcoming European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, Gareth Southgate has named his 25-man squad.
It is an exciting time for English football: strength in depth, an abundance of high-quality youth players and, with Declan Rice recently pledging his allegiance to a career in English football, a top-class holding midfield player.
Gareth Southgate’s Main Oversights
Exciting Times for England
Nations League fixtures against Spain and Croatia have signified an intriguing change to both system and style. Rather than 3-5-2, it seems that 4-3-3 is the way forward and, with it, a more street-wise brand of football that is made possible by the rise of exciting, youthful individuals such as Jadon Sancho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Gareth Southgate would have had a real selection headache with so many options at his disposal. Despite the emergence of new talent, the England boss has largely remained faithful to the side that helped England to the World Cup semi-finals.
It is understandable that he wants to continue fielding a side that is already familiar with each other. After all, it would be harsh to omit the heroes of last summer’s success. If the side is to be based on form, however, football fans have identified numerous oversights on Southgate’s part.
The omission of Aaron Wan-Bissaka has arguably been the most contentious decision. Despite the right-back position being very crowded, his outstanding form for Crystal Palace arguably warrants him a call-up at the very least.
It seems that reputation over form has taken precedence here. Seemingly, Kieran Tripper’s performance in the World Cup has done enough to preserve his place in the team.
Without that stunning free-kick against Croatia, it is entirely possible that Wan-Bissaka would have taken his place following consistent exhibitions of defensive master-classes week-by-week.
Another mind-boggling omission is Conor Coady. He has led his newly-promoted Wolves side to within touching distance of a Europa League spot, who have shipped fewer goals than both Arsenal and Manchester United this season.
It begs the question of what Coady must do to earn a place in the England side. Neither Tarkowski nor Keane have particularly sparkling international careers, yet they have earned a place over a man bang in-form with excellent technical and leadership credentials.
Another strange decision is neglecting Watford keeper Ben Foster. The 35-year-old has been the subject of widespread praise this season, as he has helped the Hornets sustain their position comfortably in the top half.
Jack Butland has secured himself a place in the roster despite being part of struggling Championship side Stoke City. Despite conceding the sixth fewest amount of goals in the division, logic should dictate that eighth in the Premier League trumps 17th in the Championship.
Irrespective of his horror-show at the weekend, it looks as though Jordan Pickford will preserve his starting place regardless. Tom Heaton has been given the nod ahead of Alex McCarthy, though this vacancy could, and should, have been occupied by Ben Foster.
The recent resurgence of James Ward-Prowse will have been difficult for Gareth Southgate to overlook. He has publicly commented on his admiration for the Southampton talisman, but argued that ‘he has only recently got back in the team’.
This justification, however, seems incredibly flimsy. Fans are outraged by the continual inclusions of Fabian Delph and Eric Dier, who scarcely do enough to earn their place. Conversely, Ward-Prowse has been instrumental in edging his side away from relegation.
He has scored in three consecutive games, including world-class strikes against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. He will no doubt be feeling hard done by.
Many Chelsea fans, in particular, have vented their frustration against Gareth Southgate overlooking Callum Hudson-Odoi. Though he has bags of potential, this was perhaps the correct decision since he is untested and unproven on the big stage.
Besides, the attacking options at England’s disposal leave no room for the youngster. His time will come, but for now Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford are more deserving of their place.
The Leicester City midfielder has had a promising debut season in the Premier League but hasn’t done enough in Southgate’s eyes.
With Ross Barkley getting called up, it is surprising not to see Maddison on the team sheet as well as, if not in place of, the Chelsea midfielder. There would be no harm in trying out Maddison as he adds a different dimension going forward. Skilful and direct, he could easily have been included.
With ten defenders, many have commented on the imbalance of the squad. Like Ward-Prowse, Maddison could have easily taken the place of Tarkowski or Keane, who seem totally surplus to requirements.
An ageing Chris Smalling has had a difficult time breaking into the England squad since Southgate took charge. There may have been an infusion of youthful talent, but his experience certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The Manchester United defender has been central to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s revolutionary project at Old Trafford. ‘I’m as good a defender as anyone’, he told Southgate in 2017, yet there seems to be a preference for dynamic centre-backs such as John Stones and Harry Maguire, who seem more comfortable on the ball.
The reality is that, for the first time in a while, England are truly spoilt for choice. Gareth Southgate may have found a trusted, tried and tested squad, but there are plenty of budding prospects waiting in the wings.
As a result, every single player should compete in the knowledge that their position is far from safe. Though reputation may have preceded form on some occasions, Southgate is certainly willing to give new talent a go.
Elsewhere, the Championship contains a wealth of talent. To name a few, Jarrod Bowen, Jack Grealish, Jack O’Connell, Mason Holgate, Mason Mount, Ollie Watkins and Bradley Dack are all worthy of discussion.
The future is certainly bright for England and fans will be hoping England can expand on their World Cup success. Despite some strange omissions, there is no reason not to trust Southgate’s judgement as his side seek a successful qualifying campaign.