We now know who is going to Russia and who is having an extended summer holiday but the big question is why Gareth Southgate has selected these 23 men to represent England at the World Cup.
Our reporter Anton Toloui, who has been around the England camp all season and is part of our team going to Russia this summer, reveals what we learned from Southgate’s post-squad announcement media conference…
Southgate wants England to be fearless Lions
“I don’t see being free of inhibitions as a gamble,” insisted Southgate when asked about his thoughts behind picking the squad. His selection currently has a total of 449 caps between them, that’s fewer than 20 per person. The group Fabio Capello took to South Africa in 2010 had an average of almost 16 more – but didn’t exactly set the international stage alight.
Southgate has revealed the 23-man England squad for the World Cup in Russia
Southgate is trusting in youth and even mentioned Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount potentially only being “six months” away if they start to excel at club level. Get used to seeing faces in an international shirt that make you feel very old indeed. It won’t be long until the first player born in the 21st Century lines up alongside Jordan Henderson et al.
In Trent he trusts
Southgate says Trent Alexander-Arnold deserves his place in the England squad
If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. That’s very much Southgate’s mantra and he would have gone against everything he stood for if he didn’t pick Trent Alexander-Arnold. The 19-year old has excelled for Liverpool at right-back and centre midfield, coaches adore his character and work rate and he could go on to become the poster boy for the FA’s developmental system.
“He’s the next best full-back in England,” admitted Southgate; does that mean he’s ahead of Kieran Trippier already?
Future hope for Hart
England manager Southgate explains Joe Hart's omission from the World Cup squad
Southgate admitted he picked “the three best ‘keepers in England this season’, which is why former No 1 Joe Hart has an extended break this summer.
But the England manager isn’t refusing to rule out picking the 75-cap veteran in the future. However, Southgate admits Hart “faces a big summer” as he almost certainly looks to secure his third move away from Manchester City in as many seasons.
End of season drop-off cost Wilshere
It was thought by people around the England camp that Jack Wilshere’s ticket to Russia was cancelled after he pulled out of the squad to face Netherlands and Italy through injury. Southgate insists that’s not the case, citing the Arsenal midfielder’s form at the end of the season.
Southgate says Jack Wilshere's end to the season ruled him out of contention for a place in England's World Cup squad
“He played well for a spell but dropped off a bit towards the end,” claims Southgate, who would later go on to speak positively about Wilshere’s replacement Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Shelvey remains out of Southgate’s plans
Evasive is perhaps a harsh word to use but it’s fair to say Southgate didn’t extol Jonjo Shelvey’s virtues when given the opportunity. “We watch all English players” and “picking up yellow and red cards wouldn’t impact selection” meant Shelvey was on the long list of players considered – but he certainly wasn’t as close to the final 23-man squad as some had suggested or hoped for.
…But Lallana is still loved
Previously heralded by the manager as England’s “best player in qualifying”, Adam Lallana has missed out on the first choice 23-man squad – but there are few players Southgate admires more than the Liverpool man.
Getting selected on the standby list is a huge concession to Southgate’s love for the midfielder’s technical ability despite his lack of first-team football. A positive fitness report and a productive cameo in the Champions League final could see Lallana be the first choice to step in if there’s an injury.
Captain call will wait
Ah yes, the question Southgate gets asked in every media conference. Cue the usual “I want a team of leaders” answer but that’s not a pop at the manager. Southgate noticed a lack of leadership on day one in the job and has set about trying to empower his players to speak up and motivate others by rotating who wears the armband.
But let’s be honest, it’ll be between Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool skipper won’t arrive in camp until after the Nigeria game on June 2, so don’t expect this elusive question to be answered any time soon.
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