Southgate swings axe with new-look squad
Alli, Lingard, Walker and Dier left out of squad Chelsea pair Tomori and Abraham are called up
Gareth Southgate has stated that there is no “privileged access” for players to the England squad after again making bold changes, leaving out senior internationals Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Kyle Walker and Eric Dier.
In come the Chelsea pair of Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, which, remarkably, means that just 11 of the 23-man squad who reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia are in the 25 who have been selected for the Euro 2020 qualifiers away to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. “That is quite a big shift,” Southgate conceded.
England can seal their qualification for next summer’s tournament and Southgate is determined to choose players on merit rather than reputation, having called Alli, Dier and others to inform them they had again been left out.
“When you’re selecting a squad, the players need to see some sort of meritocracy when possible, and to bring those guys back in, who am I going to leave out?” Southgate said. “Does it mean leaving out somebody who is scoring freely and playing exceptionally just because they’re younger? I think that everyone within the squad would look and say, ‘OK, there’s a privileged access to certain players.’”
Alli, like Alex Oxlade-chamberlain, has been excluded because he has not “had the number of games this year to get into a rhythm”. Southgate said he expected them to show they were “fighters”. Dier has barely featured for Tottenham Hotspur.
Lingard, Southgate said, had not contributed enough in goals and assists for Manchester United, and is behind other attacking players such as Jadon Sancho and James Maddison. “I think Jesse’s had a difficult period and he’s aware of that,” Southgate said, adding that he retained “huge faith” in the midfielder.
The situation is more worrying for Walker, who has again been left out, despite Aaron Wan-bissaka not being selected through illness. Southgate continues with Trent Alexander-arnold and Kieran Trippier, whose recall since moving to Atletico Madrid is an example to others, the England manager explained, that there was a way back. But Southgate said Trippier and Alexander-arnold offered more than Walker going forward.
It has been some overhaul of the squad since Southgate’s first game, then as a caretaker, which was a World Cup qualifier against Malta in October 2016.
From that squad, just Tom Heaton, Danny Rose, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford survive, although Harry Kane was injured then, as John Stones is now.
Southgate said the hardest decision as England manager was the first time he left out Wayne Rooney “because of what he’s done in the game and his seniority”.
“What the lads I’ve spoken to need to know is that we still have belief in them,” he added.
“Whenever I have to make a call to a player, I find that the most difficult part of the job. It’s not something that I enjoy or something that I look forward to. But what I think it means is that having seen how professionally he [Rooney] took that and how he dealt with that, you know everybody else should take that on board and react as he did.
“I guess that’s what is always in the back of my mind, how my admiration for him as a player and as a person went further because of how he was realistic as to where he was at that moment in his career. He would always say, ‘Look, I’m not playing regularly for my club, I don’t expect to be with England.’ That’s the kind of conversation I’ve had with Eric Dier recently and with a couple of the others.”
There is a recall for Fabian Delph – “it’s not fantasy football, we can’t just put 11 attacking players on the pitch,” Southgate said – but the greatest interest will be over the inclusion of Abraham who has scored eight goals this season for Chelsea, including on his 22nd birthday in the Champions League against Lille on Wednesday, and 21-year-old central defender Tomori, who has started just four Premier League games.
“It shows how many good young players are coming through,” said Southgate. “And, generally speaking, those lads come in and stay in, which is a credit to them.”
Jack Butland, Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, John Stones, Jesse Lingard, Jamie Vardy, Danny Welbeck, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Dele Alli, Ruben Loftus-cheek. 2018 World Cup squad members who have now been left out Out
Overhaul: Gareth Southgate says his selection represents ‘a big shift’