England manager Gareth Southgate faces his toughest test in the job ahead of the 2018 World Cup. His side will take on Germany and Brazil at Wembley in their next stretch of fixtures. The manager said that he had made ‘brave choices’ when selecting this squad and to some extent he has. There are uncapped players being brought in to try and ignite something in the England camp. The last few qualifiers for the World Cup were drab affairs that failed to spark the nations interest. Is Southgate looking in the right areas for inspiration?
“If I am asking club managers to be brave and pick young players, then I think I have got to do the same.” (Gareth Southgate, England Manager)
Tammy Abraham, on loan at Swansea from Chelsea, is one of the players called up to the senior squad. The striker is 20 and played 10 times for the Welsh club so far this season – netting 4 goals. He got himself onto the radar last season when he excelled in the championship for Bristol City scoring 23 times on his year loan. Then he went on to play in the under 21 European Championships. He performed well there and clearly caught the eye of the senior manager.
Is there much risk here? The majority of England fans will not be surprised Abraham has been given a shot. With attackers such as – Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford in the squad it is very unlikely he will get a start in these two fixtures. Abraham’s selection is a natural progression. He has been in the England set up since under 18 level.
Joe Gomez is another player who has been heavily influence at youth level for England. He was recently named the captain of the under 21 side. He was also a major factor in England’s success at the under 17 European Championships in 2014 as he played every single minute in the tournament. He was even named in the team of the tournament.
So far this season Gomez has notched up 11 appearances for his club Liverpool and has drew praise from many pundits. His ability to play central and on the right side of the defence is another major plus in selecting the 20 years old. Again not necessarily a ‘brave’ decision to include the defender.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the third potential debutant at senior international level that Southgate has opted for. Like Abraham Loftus-Cheek is a Chelsea player out on loan from Chelsea. Playing at Crystal Palace has been tough but he has stood out for the struggling Premier League side. His speed and power when driving forward has been a positive influence in difficult surroundings at Selhurst Park. Playing 7 times for Crystal Palace has meant that he has seen regular first team football this season.
He has been a strong member of the under 21 set up playing 17 times and scoring 7 times for ‘the Young Lions’. His goalscoring efforts see him sitting joint twelfth in the all times goalscorers in under 21 history. Possibly the most left field selection in the squad.
While the description that Southgate offered may not have been accurate the fact he has put these players into the squad is good news. It should not be considered ‘brave’ calling up the best of the countries younger players, it should be common practice. England have struggled in recent outings and a fresh crop of quality young players can change that.
Now Southgate has to live up to his claims and be ‘brave. Play these players against the two international elite teams England are facing. If they are going to be part of the squad in the future the players need the experience in these big games.
A real risk for Southgate would have been recalling injury prone Jack Wilshere. The Arsenal midfielder has returned recently for ‘the Gunners’ and if fully fit in the 2018 summer he will be on the list to travel to Russia. Wilshere is a player who brings real quality to the middle of the park and if he can put a run together for Arsenal and keep fit he would be one of the first names on the team sheet. When it comes round to World Cup selection if Southgate includes Wilshere leaving him out of this squad will be a missed chance to help squad chemistry.
Southgate did make one selection which is difficult to understand. With his experience managing the younger players the decisions he made to bring in 3 players from the youth ranks at least makes sense. But in selecting Manchester United’s Ashely Young is a curve ball. He has played well for Jose Mourinho’s team but long term he has no future in the national squad. Playing on either side of the defence players such as – Ben Chilwell and Mason Holgate miss out.
Another issue that could be resolved in this duo of friendlies is the number 1 spot. Will Joe Hart keep the goalkeepers position? Or will Jack Butland or Jordan Pickford be able to force him out? Looking to the World Cup it would seem that one of the two younger keepers would force themselves ahead of the long term England shot stopper. Who Southgate gives the chance to on this occassion could be the man in between the sticks for ‘the Three Lions’ in Russia.
Looking ahead to the World Cup the signs are positive. First of all Southgate looks adamant on selecting players that are playing consistently for their club sides. Such a pragmatic approach has been lacking in recent years when it comes to England managers. Southgate is at least trying something different and not settling for the normal names. In bringing through younger players he is making the most of his own knowledge from previous work in the England set up and he is also making the most of improvements in English youth development. Recent success at youth level has caught the nations interest. If Southgate can bring some of the successful mentality into the strong base he currently has he could create something extremely special.
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