What is Southgate thinking with his England selections?
Just as the 2022-23 football season was kicking into gear, another international break has curtailed the momentum the beautiful game had built up. In Europe, the Nations League will be in full swing and the squads for each country was announced last week.
These are the final fixtures before the winter World Cup in Qatar, so they are vital for forming the selections of the European teams. England are no different, but Gareth Southgate has come under a lot of fire for his choices. Is this fair though? We give our take right here!
Let’s start with the positives
The three goalkeepers chosen for the matches against Italy and Germany all presumably have a shot of usurping Jordan Pickford for the number one jersey come November. Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope and Dean Henderson have all been in and around the Three Lions’ squad for years now, but difficult games against Italy and Germany will test them.
If England are to avoid relegation in the Nations League, they need good results against two countries they have struggled against for decades. That will require a dependable pair of hands in goal, so this is the right time to experiment with other options in net.
At the back, Conor Coady, Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi all rightfully get a chance to shine and we hope they get some decent minutes under their belts over this weekend. Likewise, it positive to see Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen and Ivan Toney all given an opportunity up front.
There are some negatives though…
Southgate once said that reputation wouldn’t factor into his decisions when it came to squad selection. People will debate no end about whether that’s the case, but Southgate has varied his selections and included players from more unfashionable clubs that previous managers.
There are some that are no doubt favourites of Southgate though. In this latest selection, Manchester United’s Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw are both chosen, despite both being woeful this season so far.
We aren’t doubting how important both of these two were in the Euros last year, but football moves on quickly and the likes of Ben White and Jadon Sancho should’ve been included instead. Speaking of Sancho, he’s finally hitting form and he’s omitted from the squad? Baffling.
Something that should also be pointed out is a severe lack of midfielders in this selection. Out of the 28 players, only five are out-and-out midfielders. Southgate usually plays around five in midfield, so options on the bench in the middle will be very thin on the ground.
Of course, the likes of Eric Dier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Coady, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden can play in midfield, but even so, we should be seeing Conor Gallagher in this selection.
We hope we’re wrong, but this potentially sets a dangerous precedent for the World Cup. While some players perform better for England than they do for their club, the fact that some are performing so bad means they naturally have mistakes in them.
On the biggest stage and with the highest prize at stake, all it takes is one moment to decide matches. With the Three Lions faithful almost expecting the World Cup trophy after semi-final and final appearances in the previous tournaments, the pressure is arguably bigger than ever before.