Gareth Southgate has named his England squad for September’s international break and, as ever, Southgate’s selections are not without contentious choices.
Ahead of next month’s fixtures with Ukraine and Scotland, we look at five talking points from Southgate’s squad selection.
Five talking points from Gareth Southgate’s England squad:
Sterling shunned despite strong start
Rewind just a little more than eight months ago and the prospect of Gareth Southgate naming an England squad without Raheem Sterling would be scoffed at. Even in a Premier League career of peaks and troughs, Sterling has been a shoo-in for the national team and often – alongside Harry Kane – one of Southgate’s most dependable options.
But since the World Cup last winter, Sterling has not featured. The 28-year-old started just two games in Qatar and a disastrous debut season with Chelsea has seen him omitted ever since.
🗣️ “It’s a difficult call and Raheem isn’t particularly happy about it.”
Gareth Southgate says Raheem Sterling being unavailable opened up opportunity for others to take his place at England. 🏴 pic.twitter.com/0CcGNRVO4t
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 31, 2023
On last season’s performances there would be no debate, but Sterling has started the new season in fine form. An electric individual display in defeat at West Ham showed signs of his old self, before Sterling scored twice and created another in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Luton last Friday.
England are blessed with attacking options in wide areas, not least Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford, but Sterling’s absence indicates an old favourite has more to do to regain the trust of the England manager.
“I didn’t want to leave any attacking players out. A lot of competition for places in that area behind the nine,” Southgate explained at his press conference to announce the squad.
“Really happy to see him (Sterling) do well for Chelsea, but everyone has started the season well. Raheem’s not particularly happy with that.”
Maguire and Phillips fortunate, again
Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips might just view themselves as cats with nine lives, with each included once again despite miserable times at club level.
Maguire has spent the best part of two seasons out-of-sorts at Manchester United, but remains a fixture under Southgate. The England manager has remained loyal to the 30-year-old despite his struggles at Old Trafford, but how much longer can Southgate retain faith in a player whose prospects of a regular run at club level appear bleak?
Phillips faces a similar conundrum, should he remain at Manchester City after the deadline. The midfielder memorably made England’s World Cup squad despite featuring for just ONE minute in the Premier League before that squad announcement.
Phillips went on to feature for just 291 minutes all season and there appears little sign that his role is set to increase, given the arrival of Mateo Kovacic at the Etihad and impending signing of Matheus Nunes from Wolves.
Levi Colwill has earned his first call-up to the senior side after an impressive emergence in the Premier League last season. A strong season on loan at Brighton has placed Colwill in Chelsea’s plans for the new season, while Southgate is keen to run the rule over a defender who has been invited to train with the senior England side in recent months.
Colwill excelled as England u-21s won the European Championship during the summer, the Young Lions crowned champions without conceding a single goal.
A first-time senior call up for Eddie Nketiah and Levi Colwill 👏🏴 pic.twitter.com/bJJIGBQMJQ
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) August 31, 2023
A natural left footer with an expansive range of passing from the backline, the 20-year-old has the potential to break into the England team before Euro 2024 and become a fixture for the next decade.
Colwill will be keen to take his chance, given the absence of several established defensive names.
No place for in-form Irons
West Ham have started the Premier League campaign in impressive form and remain unbeaten after three games this season. Jarrod Bowen and James Ward-Prowse have shone in David Moyes’ side, but each have been overlooked for September’s international break.
Bowen faces a difficult challenge to break back in given the calibre of options in wide areas, but Ward-Prowse might find himself disappointed not to be included.
The 28-year-old has scored once and provided two assists in just two Premier League appearances for West Ham, but finds himself behind Kalvin Phillips (without a minute played in the Premier League this season) and Jordan Henderson (now playing in the Saudi Pro League).
Can Kane benefit from Bayern move?
Harry Kane will join up with England for the first time as a Bayern Munich player this week, having completed a £100m move to the Bundesliga champions this summer.
Gareth Southgate is confident the move can benefit the 30-year-old, whose decision to leave Tottenham was based on a desire to win elusive silverware.
“I think it’s a really good challenge for him. Bayern Munich is a huge football club. He’s leaving a big football club here to go to the biggest one in Germany,” Southgate said.
“He’s going to be expected to be challenging for trophies. He’s got a new set of supporters to win over and a new set of team-mates to impress every day on the training pitch.
“A fresh challenge for him I would view as a positive. From a life experience perspective, to live in different countries is brilliant for your own personal development. I am looking forward to talking to him a bit more.”