Tag: Gareth Southgate

England fans should get behind Southgate…for now

Two sluggish 1 nil wins and England made it to the World Cup to a chorus of apathy and disapproval. In the media scrum that followed everyone had their say and sadly that meant a ‘speak your brains’ phone in on Five Live. Depressingly someone called in to say sack Southgate and replace him with Harry Redknapp or Carlo Ancelotti apparently because Ancelotti speaks better English than ‘That other Italian they had.’ A word of advice for anyone who feels like phoning in live on air- know the names of the people you’re taking about!

No Instant Fix

Quite a few people have suggested the newly out of work Ancelotti, but I wouldn’t agree on the grounds that when England went foreign in the past it was to get the best out of a highly gifted generation of players so you could understand the FA seeking out the best first team manager available. Now the aim is to bring through the youngsters, set a template for the junior sides to come into in years to come and improve on the awful tournament performances of 2014 & 2016.  With the emphasis on bringing through the players and coaches parachuting in a high price overseas manager isn’t a fit.

As for Redknapp he should have got the job in 2012, but let’s be clear in 2017 he’d be a disaster. He was fired from his last successful job in 2012 and since then made a disastrous mess of QPR and more recently Birmingham due to overspending on veteran players. If ‘arry got the England job his first move would be to recall John Terry, Peter Crouch & Michael Carrick- anyone who doubts that should look back at his comments last season that Terry was the answer for every Premier League side struggling at the back, he then offered Terry a truckload of cash to join Birmingham. If the focus is on bringing through youngsters it would be like appointing Mario Andretti to run a speed awareness course. And thats before we get to the due diligence required to check into any skeletons in his closet.

Ultimately changing the manager won’t fix the problems and England need a manager who is bought into their long term plan.

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The next man in

When The FA appointed Gareth Southgate the cupboard was bare, one year on the candidates for the England job are there but all have questions to answer and missions to complete at club level first;

Brendan Rodgers has long been established as a good coach and provided a standard of play at Liverpool not seen since the late 80s (admittedly helped by having Luis Suarez in the side). After things went pear shaped at Anfield but he’s enhanced his reputation with Celtic, where the job he’s done should be measured in improved performances rather than domestic silverware, it’s also been long rumoured Rodgers coverts the England job.

The elephant in the room with Rodgers is he isn’t English, could the man from Northern Ireland manage England? Many have pointed out that with every other coach at St Georges Park having to be English the program could be undermined by having an Ulsterman at the top of the tree. Of course Rodgers isn’t comparable with Fabio Capello, he has come through the ranks in England and clearly there isn’t a cultural problem.  The other issue with Rodgers is his goal of making Celtic a credible european force is only partially completed- they have improved but need a run (more likely in the Europa League) after Christmas to complete what he started. And then there’s his tendency to turn into David Brent.

Sean Dyche has done a great job at Burnley taking them to 2 promotions and looks like securing a third straight season in the Premier League. The problem with Dyche is he really needs to do it with a bigger club first, his ideal next step would either be given greater resources at Burnley or move on to one to next level premier league club (West Ham, Everton or Newcastle all spring to mind) before considering a move to international football. There’s also his tendency to come out of with stone age comments in press conferences- comparing English managers to own brand supermarket jeans isn’t a good look.

Eddie Howe- An easier fit for the FA than Dyche, Eddie Howe has achieved a lot with Bournemouth and his sides no play nice football. But he currently needs to fight his way out of a relegation fight and like Dyche may need a higher profile and better resourced club job first, he also failed to get a tune out of Jack Wilshere and has struggled with big signings. All that being said if the job came up tomorrow Howe would be favourite.

Paul Clement- Clearly a world class coach from his time with Real Madrid, Clement made a big impact on arriving at Swansea and kept a relegation threatened side in the Premier League. Clement’s sides play possession based football and he clearly has a lot to offer. The negative is like Howe he’s in a relegation battle right now and not only needs to win that, he has to progress Swansea up the Premier League table to prove he has the management nouse to match his coaching chops.

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I’m not saying Southgate is a better manager than any of these fellas, what I think is important is they need more time in club football to hone their craft and if the aim is for 2020 and 2022 it’s better to wait and see if they can progress the way we hope rather than throwing them in at the deep end. And we should remember that Southgate didn’t want the job, his preference was to gain more experience with the under 21s and have a go at the U21 Euros of 2017 before being ready to go for the senior job, unfortunately Sam Allardyce walked into a bar with some undercover reporters and that was that.

The Pros and Cons of Gareth

Nobody should make an argument for Southgate being a top class manager, there’s no evidence of that. He’s at best a work in progress manager who’s had to step in and learn on the job. The style has been none existent but Southgate is a studious man who has successfully avoided the pitfall of experimenting in qualifiers- which ultimately did for Steve McClaren.

Southgate’s best work appears to have been behind the scenes with the players clearly bought into his program and working to make improvements in grassroots football. He’s also promoted youngsters, shown a tactical flexibility that Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Erikkson lacked, steering clear of 4-4-2 and using a safe 4-2-3-1 for qualifying and experimenting with 3-4-3 in friendlies. He speaks well, is promoting youngsters and isn’t going to do something stupid and embarrass his employers (unlike the last bloke).

But the style or lack of it is England’s biggest problem and there’s been little on display over the last 12 months, notably in the last 6 games (Scotland, France, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia & Lithuania). Part of that is down to the lack of central midfield options (what he would’t give for a Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard or even Jenas.) But he hasn’t shown much sign of crafting a solution around that weakness- perhaps the switch to 3-4-3 will be the best way of doing that. And although England haven’t conceded many goals in qualifying (3 and 2 of those were direct free kicks)  we’ve yet to see if Southgate can forge a tight defensive plan.

One coach Southgate unfortunately reminds me of is former England Rugby Union Head Coach Stuart Lancaster. The parallels are obvious, Lancaster came from the RFU backroom after doing well with the junior levels and got the big job on the basis of a successful stint as interim manager. Lancaster jettisoned the veterans and brought through the young players but couldn’t quite blend them into a winning team and ultimately failed at the Rugby World Cup, his successor Eddie Jones has since made the same team into a ruthless winning machine. Of course Lancaster made some enormous selection blunders (Sam Burgess, dropping Mike Ford) and there’s no sign of Southgate doing that thus far.

Another major issue with Lancaster was his players were clearly not ready for tournament rugby at the World Cup with many overwhelmed by the experience. And that’s probably Southgate’s strongest card. As a veterans of 4 tournaments under 4 different managers as a player Southgate should have a better feel of what will and won’t work in the pressure cooker of tournament football, indeed he’s already adopting some of Terry Venables ideas.

There’s also one area in which Southgate’s side have shown tangible signs of improvement- mental toughness. England’s mental fragility has been their biggest problem at recent tournaments. Southgate was quick to point out his side didn’t drop to their knees when 2-1 down at Hampden Park instead they kept their cool and equalised. There was more of the same when Slovakia got an early goal at Wembley. Will they do that in a tournament? We’ll have to wait and see but for now England fans need to stick by their manager and hope he knows what he’s doing, and no more talk of ‘arry.

 

 

 

 

 

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Destination Russia

So it’s official- England will be at the 2018 World Cup finals. The next question is who will make the squad. Using the tabloids favourite cliche of airport terminology to illustrate who gets in the squad (or as they say who makes the plane) here’s a quick guide to who’s in, out and maybe

Boarding Pass for Moscow Domodedovo:

If you’re here then barring injury or a dramatic loss of form you will go to the World Cup with England;

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jack Butland

Fullbacks: Kyle Walker

Centre backs: Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, John Stones

Central midfielders: Eric Dier

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Dele Alli, Adam Lallana,

Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy

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Sat in the Terminal 5 Departure Lounge:

If you’re here you’re close to going- maybe one good appearance from boarding the plane or perhaps in a 50/50 battle with another player for your place- nobody wants to be 24th man for England- somebody on this list will be;

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Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton

Fullbacks: Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand, Luke Shaw

Centre backs: Michael Keane, Chris Smalling, Harry Maguire

Central midfielders: Nathaniel Chalobah, Jake Livermore, Fabian Delph, Harry Winks, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard, Ross Barkley

Forwards: Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe

Rushing for the Heathrow Express:

If you’re here you might go but you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe you’re a young player trying to break through or you’re settling at a new club or returning from injury- it’s a long time until the manager names his 23- at this point in the build up to Euro 2016 Marcus Rashford was still in the Man Utd youth team!

Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman

Fullbacks: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Aaron Cresswell, Ryan Sessegnon, Ben Chilwell

Centre backs: Jamaal Lascelles, Alfie Mawson

Central midfielders: James Ward-Prowse, Danny Drinkwater, Tom Davies, Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Theo Walcott, Nathan Redmond, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Demarai Gray

Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Solanke

Boarding the flight to Maui:

If you’re here you ain’t going to the World Cup (this time at least) perhaps you went before on those brief trips to Brazil or South Africa or you’re still young and may spend Christmas 2022 in Qatar. OK the vast majority of English footballers won’t be representing their country next summer in Russia. But if you’re like stars here you are a highly paid well known (and maybe even liked) footballer and Hawaii is lovely in June.

Goalkeepers: Ben Foster

Fullbacks: Glenn Johnson, Leighton Baines, Mason Holgate

Centre backs: Ben Mee, Rob Holding, Callum Chambers

Central midfielders: Lewis Cook, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Carroll

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Marc Albrighton, Ademola Lookman, Josh Onamah, Andros Townsend, Scott Sinclair

Forwards: Andy Carroll, Jay Rodriguez, Andre Gray. Saido Berahino

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England 1-0 Slovenia: Kane sends England stumbling to St Petersburg.

This was supposed to be a party- the moment Gareth Southgate’s England would play some flowing football and storm to Russia. But England qualifying games are rarely that simple. For those who’ve been living on Mars since Sunday night a win would take England through and a draw would be enough if Slovakia failed to beat Scotland.

England started confidently with Sterling in his revised number 10 role causing the Slovenians problems as England dominated possession without creating a clear cut chance. Then in the 8th minute Sterling gave the ball away in midfield and Slovenian danger man Ilicic broke into the England box and was clipped by Hart- fortunately for England the referee saw it as a collision rather than a foul- a let off.

The spanner it through in the works knocked England out of their stride and a loose period of play saw England continuously give the ball away and snuggle to regain their early composure.

As was the case last month against Slovakia it was Rashford who got England going again, a darting run down the left jangled Slovenian nerves and a neat cross almost put Cahill in. Then in the 20th minute the temperature raised after some agricultural defending from the Slovenians and England started to move up the gears. England’s first clear sight of goal came from Henderson in the 25th minute who broke into the box and hit an angled shot that drew a good save from Oblak.

By now Rashford was enjoying himself and playing with the impudence of a schoolboy but the defensive problems continued as Slovenia consistently found gaps between England’s midfield and defence. in the 34th minute Sterling drew a poor challenge from holding midfielder Krhin just outside the box, bit despite the promising central position of the ensuing free kick England opted for the less than prolific Walker to take it, needless to say he blazed it over the bar. Before long Krhin was booked as Slovenia’s defending grew ever more clumsy, but England continued to labour. The last action of the first half inevitably centre on Rashford whose trickery drew a foul and he forced a smart save from Oblak with the ensuing free kick and then a flick on from Cahill with the ensuing corner but with no reward 0-0 at half time

Slovenia started the second half the sharper and Ilicic swung in a cross that left back Jokic headed tamely at Hart. But the game settled back into the pattern of the first half with Slovenia looking tidy with their limited possession and England slow and ponderous whilst keeping it for longer spells. The crowd became firstly bored and then restless as Walker gave away a needless chance and Slovenia again grew in ambition.

Finally on 62 minutes England showed some pace when a quick break from a Slovenia corner saw Sterling feed Rashford who tried to chip the keeper but didn’t get enough on the ball, minutes later another quick move down the left saw Sterling shoot from the centre of the box and force a desperate clearance from Cesar.

The introduction of Lingard for the ineffective Oxlade-Chamberlain gave England the impetus as he linked well with Sterling and Rashford to unsettle Slovenia’s defence and again down the left Rashford created a chance for Kane who’s angled shot flew wide.

But the drab shapeless look soon returned and on 82 minutes some awful officiating saw a foul on Lingard go unpunished then from the ensuing break an offside missed forcing Hart into an excellent double save.

The most entertainment in the closing stages looked like being provided by a paper aeroplane and a (fully clothed) pitch invader, until the 4th official weirdly found 6 minutes of injury time that initially sounded like a punishment for the crowd for laughing at the pitch invasion. But suddenly England found some thrust and the otherwise awful Walker pounced on a poor clearance and whipped in a cross which Kane toe-poked home 1-0 on 93 minutes, 5 minutes later England’s qualification was confirmed.

This game was like a visit to the dentist: awkward painful but with the necceasary work completed. Clearly there’s plenty to work on and the media bullsh$t started in earnest when Ian Wright pointed out how much harder Northern Ireland’s group is (that’s because England are ranked higher than Northern Ireland, Ian!) But the bare minimum requirement has been met and for the next 8 months that will have to do.

Player Ratings

Hart 7- Lucky not to concede a penalty in the early stages and had little to do until his brilliant double save.

Walker 5- Awful until injury time. Started brightly but quickly faded, gave away 2 good chances when he suffered brain farts both by knocking aimless balls into gaping holes in England’s defence. But made amends with his powerful runs in injury time and finally a great cross which Kane dispatched.

Bertrand 6- Solid in defence (as usual) and linked well with Rashford. Edging ever closer to being first choice left back.

Dier 5- Frankly awful, provided little defence stability and ponderous on the ball.

Cahill 6- Solid against nobody for the most part, occasionally threatening at the over end but little to write home about.

Stones 6- As above but little sign of his ball playing skills- his one forward thrust saw him miscontrol and pick up a booking.

Sterling 6- Some early incision and drew some fouls with his footwork but not comfortable as a number 10. Played far better in the final third of the game when played on the right.

Henderson 5- forced a good save from Oblak but like Dier provided neither defensive stability nor attacking incision, how is he in the running for the captaincy?

Kane 6- Had to feed off scraps as England struggled to create chances. Worked hard and took his chance when it finally arrived.

Rashford 8- Creative, quick and the best player in a white shirt by a long distance. One negative was his dodgy set piece delivery.

Oxlade-Chamberlain 5- Early zip quickly disintegrated. Hooked early in the second half. Will be dropped in Lithuania.

Subs

Lingard 7- Bright and linked well with Sterling and Rashford.

Keane n/a Touched the ball at some stage, I think.

 

 

 

England v Slovenia preview

So here we are England will seal their 6th successive World Cup appearance and 9th in the last 10 with a win at Wembley against Slovenia.

With a 5 point lead in Group F and a big goal difference advantage over the rest a point will almost certainly be enough. But against a side ranked 55th in the world a win at Wembley will be expected and for Gareth Southgate a perfect sign off on a successful qualifying campaign in front of 80,000 Home fans. But mess things up and a frosty night in Lithuania awaits to stumble over the line.

Despite their low ranking Slovenia gave England a rough time in a 0-0 draw in Ljubljana a year ago and sit only a point behind second placed Slovakia so arrive at Wembley with qualifying ambitions of their own. Their brightest star is Athletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak who’s impressed in Atheltico’s recent run of Champions League campaigns. Going forward the main creative threat will come from Serie A regular Josip Ilicic- who clocked up 100 appearances for Fiorentina before moving on to Atalanta this summer.

History

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The draw Slovenia gained last year was the first time they managed to avoid defeat to England- losing the previous 4 meetings. The most notable being the final group match of the 2010 World Cup when Jermain Defoe stabbed home the only goal of the game and secured England’s only win of a largely awful campaign. More recently the sides met in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. England came from behind to win 3-1 at Wembley and then 3-2 in Slovenia when Jack Wilshere bagged a memorable second half brace.

Team News

Since the squad was announced last Thursday Fabian Delph and Phil Jones have been ruled out with injury whilst Dele Alli will serve his one match ban for flipping the bird in the Slovakia game last month. It’s a particular blow for Delph who was likely to play following his good run of form for Manchester City. But Delph’s injury is short term and he should be back for City when the Premier League resumes, he currently looks a key component to Pep Guardiola’s side so should get his chance in the November internationals.

England Squad Takeaways

The late call up to the squad is Tottenham’s Harry Winks who’ll be hoping to make his debut. Winks has been promoted from the Under 21’s and with Delph joining a lengthy injury list in midfield has been given his chance sooner than expected, but the talented young playmaker looks a confident player who may well grab his opportunity with both hands and it is good to see a young player with potential getting the late call up rather than a veteran with little upside.

There’s been no word yet on team selection but inevitably there’ll be a lot of focus on the goalkeepers. Southgate backed Joe Hart after his error against Scotland in the summer but then was partly to blame for Slovakia’s goal at Wembley. Southgate needs to give his other keepers a chance with at best 7 games remaining before the World Cup (assuming we make it!) I’d like to see Jack Butland given the start but I suspect the manager will stick with Hart.

Elsewhere the absence of Jones means a change in central defence- the favourite must be John Stones after a good start to the season with City and his ball playing skills should be a huge asset against a side likely to sit deep for long spells.

Prediction

Slovenia will come looking for a point and hit on the break when they can. I expect England will score in the first half and should run out comfortable winners 2-0.

 

Malta 0-4 England 3 points and not much else.

These are the least fun internationals to watch, it’s literally a Premier a league club playing a full strength aside away to Crawley Town.

Gareth Southgate sought to even the odds by selecting Joe Hart in goal. Southgate made the point that this doesn’t mean Hart is guaranteed to start going forward and 3 Premier League games isn’t enough of a sample size to judge his goalkeepers form.

Within a minute Raheem Sterling got a clear sight of goal but mis-controlled. Two minutes later Harry Kane forgot it’s no longer August and hit a point blank header straight at the keeper.

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As the opening period pressed on the selection of Phil Jones & Gary Cahill at centre back whilst the more natural ball playing Stones, Keane & Maguire sat bored looked odd as did picking Jake Livermore who did ensure any hard Maltese tackling was met with greater force but whose passing has all the range of an 8 year old throwing the shot putt.

As a result the remainder of the first half was drab as England were pedestrian whilst Malta played a back 7. The delivery on the flanks and 6 first half corners was awful.

Unsurprisingly Marcus Rashford was introduced for the second half at the expense of Sterling. Within 2 minutes he’d shown more endeavour than Sterling had managed in 45, gliding past the Maltese right back with his pace.

The breakthrough finally arrived on 52 minutes with Livermore looping in a cross which Alli held and a neat reverse picked out Kane who fired home 0-1.

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It sparked Malta into sporadic attacks going close on 58 minutes.

Jamie Vardy came on after 70 minutes and within 3 minutes nipped in behind and forced a decent save from the keeper.

The pace slowed in the final 15 minutes but on 85 minutes Ryan Bertrand made sure of the win with a long range effort that bounced in front of Hogg 0-2.

Rashford continued to impress and a beautiful flick sent Walker away but he shot instead of laying on a tap in for Vardy.

The floodgates belatedly opened and a fine Kane cross was flicked home by late sub Danny Welbeck 0-3 on 90 minutes.

Rashford crossed and Kane smashed home with the final kick of the game for 0-4.

Ultimately England made heavy weather of their night in the Mediterranean sun although the result rarely looked in doubt.

Slovakia will offer a far sterner test but England should benefit from playing opponents more willing to attack rather than packing their own 18 yard line.

Rashford will surely start and I’d expect Dier to replace Livermore. But given England’s lack of creativity in central midfield I’d like to see Keane or Stones play given their ability to bring the ball out from defence.

Win on Monday and England are virtually home and that’s about all Southgate could gain from this game.

Player Ratings

Hart 6- did nothing wrong and a first clean sheet of the season!

Walker 5- Solid but poor control in key situations. It’s fortunate for him Trippier is injured.

Bertrand 6- not great crossing but got his first England goal. Danny Rose & Luke Shaw won’t be quaking in their boots

Cahill 7- showed calm authority cleaning up the odd Maltese break

Jones 6- never looked entirely comfortable but did little wrong.

Livermore 5- a steely presence in a game that was never going to need it. Created nothing and gave away a coupe of free kicks.

Henderson 7- the captain for the night started brightly but faded.

Oxlade-Chamberlain 6- direct and pacey but inconsistent in quality, in other news water’s wet.

Alli 6- still looking for that signature game for England but ticking along for now, nice assist for the opener.

Sterling 4- awful, missed a decent chance in the first minute and then made the Malta right back look like Bonucci.

Kane 8- unlucky with an early header but confidence grew after the opener. It’s now 5 goals in his last 3 internationals.

Subs

Rashford 7- excellent, showed pace and penetration, will start on Monday night.

Vardy 6- showed his usual pace and unlucky not to score

Welbeck 6- late sub showed plenty of energy and nicked a late goal.

6 England Squad Takeaways

The most fitting adjective I can think of for Gareth Southgate’s squad is sensible, I’d have preferred scintillating but sensible will have to do for now. With such exciting prospects at youth level ‘doing for now’ seems to be where England are right now. There were few surprises so what can be read into this selection?

That’s a lot of players

28 in total! The message is clear if you didn’t get in and you’re not in an England youth squad, injured/ short of fitness or suffering transferitus then you’ve got a lot to do if you want to go to the World Cup.  Only 2 players have been dropped Ben Gibson (now of the Championship) & Fraser Forster (England’s number 5!) Forster’s Southampton teammates Nathan Redmond & James Ward-Prowse are amongst the few who might have been expecting the call and didn’t get one, must do better lads!

That’s a lot of goalkeepers

Southgate’s insistence on picking 4 keepers is on the face of it odd. But there is some logic to this, for the first time I can remember the England Goalkeeping jersey is up for grabs. Previously it’s been a case of 2 similar level goalkeepers fighting for the gloves; Seaman & Woods, Seaman & Martyn, Green & James and hmm Carson & Robinson. This time it’s anybody’s to claim, Jack Butland is favourite but Jordan Pickford is rapidly improving. Joe Hart’s still around and officially number 1 making Tom Heaton the fourth man.

My suspicion is if Hart doesn’t get picked for any of the next 4 England games he’ll announce his international retirement, I just can’t see him wanting to travel to a World Cup as third choice a role I could see Heaton filling. Much of next week’s back pages will be dominated by this issue as we wait to see who’s wearing the number 1 shirt in Valetta next Friday.

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New boys added

Only 2 new call ups; Harry Maguire & Nathaniel Chalobah. Maguire was a surprise to some but his early season form has been great. He’s clearly got a range of passing and composure on the ball that Southgate wants- bad news if you’re Chris Smalling and perhaps explaining the exclusion of Swansea’s Alfie Mawson. With Maguire following Michael Keane into the squad England suddenly don’t look so dependant on John Stones converting promise into performance as a ball playing centre back.

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Chalobah’s call up was widely predicted. 18 months ago it looked like the precocious midfielder would suffer the same fate as Josh McEachran- endlessly miles on the Chelsea loan treadmill followed by a career in the Championship.  But Chalobah has finally made it to Premier League regular with a move to Watford. If he continues to develop I suspect Vicarage Road will only be stepping stone to a bigger club but for now he’s playing well and likely to win his first senior cap to go with the 97 he has at junior level.

Midfield worries

Whether it’s 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1 the central midfield pair is England’s biggest problem. Chalobah’s call up means we have 3  holding midfielders (Chalobah, Livermore & Dier) and Jordan Henderson, if Henderson’s unavailable who comes in? Against Scotland the midfield was too cautious and lacking creativity because we had 2 holding midfielders against a side happy to defend, these 2 qualifiers will provide a similar challenge.

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There are extenuating circumstances with Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley & Danny Drinkwater all currently unavailable whilst this World Cup will probably come too soon for the likes of Lewis Cook, Harry Winks & Tom Davies, we’ll just have to make do for now.

World Cup Winners kept back

Nobody from England’s victorious Under 20- World Cup side has been promoted to the senior side, but 13 of that squad have been selected for the Under 21s. It’s a smart move from Southgate, keeping a winning group together (for now) and letting them develop at the next level of the international pyramid.

Previous England managers would have picked Dominic Calvert-Lewin straight away, but that’d have been short sighted. Had he been picked he’d have sat on the bench and maybe got 15 minutes for his debut, whereas now he’s likely to play twice for the Under 21’s- the first a tough away qualifier in Holland, which will he get the most from? Exactly.

Welcoming back the Welbler

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Danny Welbeck is back- 18 months and a major injury recurrence on from his last cap. Welbeck was a favourite of Roy Hodgson due to his versatility, he may well have a roll to play next week, particularly if England go 3-4-3: where he fits anywhere across the frontline.

Welbeck needs to make an impression next week, he’s got Lacazette & Giroud ahead of him in the Arsenal striker pecking order and his recent run in the side has been largely due to the absence of the returning Alexis Sanchez. Might he need excusing from England training to finalise a late move to Everton or if desperate Newcastle?

Was Rooney called up?

Gareth seemed a lot less sure than Wayne that he’d have been recalled. Rooney claimed the manager was going to pick him on announcing his retirement. Southgate meanwhile side stepped the question saying he was under consideration. He went to hail Rooney a legend and state he would ask him to come back if needed, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

 

England Squad Announcement- Why fans should care

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On Thursday lunchtime Gareth Southgate will announce his first England squad of the season. International squad announcements are usually followed by a collective groan. It’s the signal that a fledging season whose narratives we’re becoming engrossed in is shortly to be paused in order for England to take on the footballing powerhouse of Malta. It’s the footballing equivalent of a Theatre interval and the usher telling you the bar’s shut and we’ve run out of ice cream.

International breaks are tedious and I’d be happy to see friendlies restricted to the summer. However this squad announcement is more important than most.

Of course the first subject will be somebody not included: Wayne Rooney. Inevitably Southgate’s opinion and tribute to Rooney will be the headline but not the main event. Southgate handled Rooney well, taking the decision to drop him. Some will argue Southgate has egg on his face for attempting to recall Rooney but all he needs to say to that is he wanted to pick Rooney based on current form (which has been excellent).

Thursday’s squad will be the first of a World Cup year, with a manager keen to promote youth there will inevitably be new faces, with Rooney departing expect Southgate to hammer home the youth message. Coming only 2 games into the new season the number of new players will be limited with many young players thus far restricted to bit part roles in the fledging campaign. That’s normal until the autumn and the onset of injuries and two games a week forces managers to shift around their squads. It means players like Dominic Solanke, Will Hughes, Demarai Gray & Harry Winks all of whom could be in for a break out year will have to bide their time.

However Southgate’s squad will include some or possibly all of Jordan Pickford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Nat Chalobah, Harry Maguire, Alfie Mawson, James Ward-Prowse & Tammy Abraham. Might there be another left field selection?- Marc Albrighton’s positive start to the season shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

There will be those veterans waiting anxiously by the phone to see if their lack of game time costs them an England place. Southgate has insisted it’s important players are getting a regular game so where does that leave Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard, Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott? It is hard to judge based on the limited sample size of 2 games another reason I suspect there’ll be a sizeable group from Everton whose Europa odyssey has seen them play 5 games already. Against City this week they started 8 English players, Calvert Lewin was particularly good although if picked he’d be on the bench behind Marcus Rashford so perhaps would benefit more from going with the Under 21s.

The Under 21’s are the other announcement of the week and fans should keep an eye on this one. The Euro Under 21’s in June marked the end of one squad cycle for Aidy Boothroyd and this week starts a new one. Many of the side that made the semis this summer are now over aged for the U21s meaning a squad reboot is upon us. For England that means the introduction of players from this summers 3 tournament winning squads, a nice position to work from.

Boothroyd has an embarrassment of riches to choose from and the likes of Solanke,  Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies, Ryan Sessegnon, Phil Foden & Mason Mount could be forming an exciting new team. Whilst the World Cup is ultimately England’s goal the 2019 Euro Under 21s should be the next prize England are seriously hunting. Adding it to the Euro Under 19s, Toulon tournament double, Under 20 World Cup and 2014 Euro Under 17s all in the bag.

The accumulation of junior prizes is an essential part of success at senior level. But the tournament is a long way off and England face a tough opening fixture away to Holland, in a group that also includes Ukraine & Scotland. It’s also important to keep the momentum going from England’s excellent summer, the Under 17 World Cup is only a couple of months away and building interest in the face of an all consuming domestic season and an imminent senior World Cup is a tough challenge for the FA.

This week should provide some indication of where England are going, hopefully some progress on the pitch and 6 points in the bank.

Predicted England Squad;

Goalkeepers- Butland, Hart, Pickford

Defenders- Walker, Alexander-Arnold, Bertrand, Cresswell, Cahill, Keane, Stones, Jones, Maguire, Mawson

Midfielders- Henderson, Dier, Chalobah, Ward-Prowse

Wingers/ Number 10s- Alli, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Redmond

Strikers- Kane, Rashford, Vardy, Welbeck, Calvert-Lewin

Injured/ short of fitness Clyne, Trippier, Shaw, Rose, Lallana, Barkley, Wilshere