England manager Gareth Southgate named his England squad last Thursday ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
It’s the final chance to impress for many of the fringe players who will be desperate to compete and represent their country at a major tournament. The selection tells us a lot about who will realistically be playing for England this summer. It didn’t come without debate and controversy about certain player selections and those who didn’t make the cut.
Over the last few years the England squad has really blossomed with talent which makes for a much tougher selection choice. But has Southgate got it right this time around?
Of all the positions England have oozing with quality, right back may be the toughest to choose from. There are a truck load of great performing English right backs this campaign.
Reece James has had an excellent season at Chelsea and is really developing into an elite footballer. At just 21 years of age he has an incredible future ahead of him. Perhaps the best in form right back the nation has at this moment in time.
Kyle Walker was also selected and is part of a sensational Manchester City team who are thriving this season. Walker is always very consistent when he plays and has been competing at City with Joao Cancelo. Another full back who is on fire.
The 30 year old has bags of experience at international level. Also top end domestic level which would have encouraged Southgate to include him once again.
The final right back choice was Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier. Who again has been part of the England set up for a good few years now. However, Trippier was banned for 10 weeks of the current campaign due to betting breaches. He has arguably been outperformed by those left out in his place despite Atletico sitting at the top of the La Liga table.
Lack Of Form
The obvious exclusion from the squad is Champions League and Premier League winner Trent Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool have struggled this year considering the players they have to their disposal. The 22 year old hasn’t quite been playing at his peak as a result.
It still seems quite unfair keeping in mind he was the best full back in the world last year. Like Reece James, he has a huge future ahead of him and will undoubtedly be picked again in the future. A good run of form from now until the end of the season may still see him sneak a place into the side for the Euros.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is another right back having a tremendous season but didn’t get the nod this time around. The 23 year old has made the most tackles in the Premier League with 77! He is known for his fantastic defensive awareness that makes one versus one scenarios against him a nightmare for attackers.
Southgate also mentioned in his press conference that Aston Villa’s Matty Cash and Leeds United’s Luke Ayling were also looked at before the selection. Two players having great debut Premier League campaigns. Any strong form in the run in or injuries to the squad could hand them a dream call up any time soon.
Watkins vs Bamford
In a battle of the forwards we were desperate to see who would grasp the final slot in that position. Harry Kane picks himself and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been clinical all season. He has already been selected by England and fitting in nicely by scoring on his debut against Wales.
Marcus Rashford is another no brainer, developing into one of best attacking players in Europe and his versatility means he can play out wide just as well. The final slot was awarded to Ollie Watkins who has proved to be a great purchase by Aston Villa.
The 25 year old scored for fun for Brentford in the Championship last season. He has shown no signs of struggle in the step up to the Premier League scoring 12 goals this year. It did mean Leeds United’s Patrick Bamford missed out. A player that has surprised many and hit the ground running at top flight level.
14 goals and 6 assists for Bamford has shown he has contributed well to the Leeds side, but it wasn’t quite enough for Southgate who admitted he was unfortunate. Watkins does have the versatility to play out wide. Perhaps that was considered in selection, whereas Bamford is more of an out and out striker.
The former Chelsea youth product did score and assist again on Friday against Fulham. A flurry of goal contributions in the last several Premier League games remaining could tempt Southgate to rethink when he selects again in June.
It’s always great to see players redeem themselves and work their way back into the England fold. This time there were a number of players who did so. Luke Shaw has been one of the stand out left backs in the Premier League this season. Shaw has come on leaps and bounds since he looked to be on his way out of Manchester United during the reign of Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese manager claiming he was overweight.
Shaw is much more consistent and is living up to the hype from when he signed for the club as a teenager. At that time he was included in the 2014 England World Cup squad. Now he is set to feature in another major tournament this summer as a vastly improved and different player.
John Stones is another to be recalled. Having a brilliantly reenergised season with Manchester City and on course for earning more silverware with the club. He has been pivotal for keeping it tight in the back line. Something he has been criticised on failing to do in recent time and was important for England in their last major tournament in 2018.
The Euros being pushed forward a year has definitely helped Stones recapture his form and become a vital asset to the squad. If England do play with a back three, it would suit Stones to a tee. Stones can pass out from the back and become more relaxed on the ball to take the pressure off the midfield players.
Having a successful loan spell at West Ham United, Jesse Lingard has also been drafted back into the England squad. Like with the right back position, England have a plethora of options in the attacking midfield role. With Jack Grealish and James Maddison out injured, it seems right to include a man that is back to his peak form in Lingard.
The Manchester United player was also a key part of the team that reached the semi finals in Russia 2018. David Moyes has done wonders with helping his resurgence for a deserved second crack at England duty.
As mentioned previously, Ollie Watkins beating Patrick Bamford to a spot in the squad means he could have the chance of making his England debut next week.
Its been written in the stars for Watkins who has had massive success in the EFL with Exeter and Brentford. Setting him up for a chance to shine at international level now that he has developed into one of the country’s most exciting players to watch.
Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone has been rewarded for his fine displays with a call up following the injury to perennial England number one Jordan Pickford. Its been a tough season for West Brom who are likely to head back down to the Championship. Although Johnstone has kept them in plenty of games with his fine shot stopping ability.
The club have been keeping clean sheets over recent games. Johnstone is destined to join another top flight club next season which will be of no surprise due to his terrific individual skillset.