It’s time for reflection. Gareth Southgate has named his squad for the friendly in Dortmund and the World Cup qualifier vs Lithuania, and of course, there is much debate to be had.
With surprise inclusions including Jake Livermore, James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw, opinions are flying around as to who has been unlucky to miss out this time around.
Nobody will ever be content, though. Here are the five players we believe are unlucky to have missed out this time around.
With Rashford, Vardy and Defoe the only recognisable strikers in the whole squad, West Ham’s centre forward can consider himself unfortunate to have been overlooked. His season, at times, has been hampered by injury but in his 14 appearances, he has managed 6 goals for a struggling West Ham side. You can’t really disagree that Defoe is, at least for now, a more suitable option.
Rashford, conversely, has scored 3 in 21 appearances. The latter has age on their side and perhaps Southgate is looking towards the future, but to have been overlooked with the squad so thin on strikers must be sore for 6ft4 talisman. If this squad were to have been picked in late January or early February, Carroll’s scoring form would probably have granted him a place in the squad.
The same argument arises every time Carroll is left out; wouldn’t he be a perfect plan B? When the side is devoid of ideas, couldn’t they just lump it long? Perhaps, but England want to be more adventurous and play with style. Whether that is the way forward or not, the Irons’ forward has reason to feel a little aggrieved.
I don’t think there can be much debating that Maguire has been brilliant for Hull this season, especially under Marco Silva in a reinvigorated Tigers side. Known primarily for his adventures into the opposition’s half, Maguire has probably done enough to earn himself a place in a Premier League squad next season, even if Hull’s future isn’t.
Unfortunately, that will not yet translate into an England call up as Southgate has opted for Smalling, Cahill, Jones and Stones with Eric Dier able to provide able cover.
Boasting an outstanding 76% take on success rate and an 80% success in the air, Maguire seems exactly the type of enterprising centre back that England have been searching for. Perhaps it’s not fashionable to call up Hull City players, his teammate Curtis Davies has encountered similar issues over the past couple of seasons. Still, time is on his side and over the course of the next few seasons, it’s likely that Maguire will squeeze himself into Southgate’s plans.
Well, Bournemouth have done very little defensively to pose serious questions to England’s setup. Still, Steve Cook has statistically outshone many of his English counterparts averaging around 13 defensive actions per game. He can consider himself slightly unfortunate to not be included, but the squad has its fair share of cover in that area.
Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, Cook et al were valiant as they kept out Ibrahimovic, Mata and the might of Manchester United’s attacking force with 10 men in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
Perhaps his comments in April 2016 are coming back to haunt him, when he suggested that he and his Bournemouth teammates were being overlooked because they didn’t play for a ‘fashionable club’. His argument might be warranted, but the amount of Burnley inclusions this time around suggests Southgate is starting to pick purely on form. If Bournemouth can begin to shore up their defence once more, Cook can start to think about playing for England.
Perhaps it’s too early and Southgate felt James Ward-Prowse was more deserving of his opportunity in the senior side, after all he had been captaining the U’21s for a while now. Still, Harry Winks has introduced himself to the big stage seamlessly and already looks the part.
Mostly used as a bit part for Tottenham, Winks is almost faultless in every appearance he makes for Pochettino’s side and over the coming years, is likely to become a regular feature for his home side.
The blow will be softened somewhat by his second call up for the U’21s, but some might say the Spurs midfielder was already ready for the senior squad. He’s proven his ability to go from youth to senior football with apparent ease at Tottenham, but it would appear Southgate saw the international step up as one too steep. Definitely one for the future, though.
England are becoming increasingly single-minded in their approach to centre backs. Though Michael Keane has nudged himself into contention, the likes of Maguire, Cook and Gibson are struggling to push the regulars in Jones, Smalling, Cahill and Stones. The fear is that the next generation of central defenders are being overlooked because England are adamant that the likes of Stones will soon come good.
That’s ok, but friendlies and what you hope will be a regulation victory against Lithuania represents opportunity to experiment, and another victim of Southgate’s persistence is Ben Gibson, who has been a stalwart in Middlesbrough’s defence, even despite their abundantly clear recent struggles. The Middlesbrough-born defender is statistically the best player for ‘Boro this year, but that is not enough to warrant himself a place on the international stage.
Thankfully, age and time is with him and he has the years ahead to refine himself and push even harder for acknowledgement.