Sterling must take advantage of break
Sky Sports’ Rob Dorsett explains why Raheem Sterling’s omission from Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad is still a surprise despite the Chelsea forward’s struggles this season.
Gareth Southgate’s revelation that Raheem Sterling “doesn’t think he’s operating at the level he needs” after leaving the forward out of his latest England squad was a demonstration of noteworthy candour by both player and manager.
Sterling’s move to Chelsea last summer has not worked out as envisaged, which is not necessarily a criticism of the 28-year-old, but more a reflection of the Blues’ hugely underwhelming season.
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But for Sterling to acknowledge he is not matching the expectations that both he and others have of him, to the extent he feels it best to pass on an international call up, shows the extent to which he is unhappy with his displays.
Sterling’s decision also demonstrates the seniority that he enjoys with England as one of the most experienced members of Southgate’s squad. A player on the periphery would surely not have passed up the opportunity to link up with the international team, even for relatively low-key fixtures such as these.
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Of course, Sterling’s decision also grants him a longer summer break, which could be invaluable as he looks to recover from a hamstring injury and put a bleak season behind him.
But with several attacking players no doubt looking to take advantage of Sterling’s absence, he will have to ensure he uses the summer to get back to his previous levels if he wants to retain his place in Southgate’s plans.
Is this finally Trent’s time for England?
Are we potentially set to see a new-look England, especially when it comes to the right-back position?
Trent Alexander-Arnold comes into the England team alongside John Stones having featured in hybrid right-back-midfield roles that has changed the recent form of both Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Image: Trent Alexander-Arnold and John Stones' heatmap since the last international break
With Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier also called up again, Southgate has the chance to revert to a more traditional right-back role. But against lesser-quality opponents such as Malta and North Macedonia, is this the chance for Southgate to experiment?
Asked about Alexander-Arnold’s “slightly different role”, Southgate said: “His new role is something I’ve talked to him about in the last couple of weeks.”
Southgate has shown the desire to play the Liverpool defender in a midfield role in the past, most notably a failed experiment during a World Cup qualifier against Andorra nearly two years ago.
Image: Alexander-Arnold played in midfield for England in 2021
Perhaps this is the international opportunity Alexander-Arnold has been waiting for.
Eze resurgence under Hodgson earns first England call-up
Eberechi Eze is one of the Premier League’s underrated talents, but Gareth Southgate has clearly been keeping an eye on his former club, Crystal Palace, and their array of attacking prowess.
It’s second time lucky for Eze. He was set to be included in England’s Euro 2021 squad, but he picked up an Achilles injury in training, which sidelined him for almost a year. It has taken another 12 months for Eze to find himself back in contention for a senior call-up.
Gareth Southgate explains why he has called up Eberechi Eze and Lewis Dunk to his latest England squad and why Raheem Sterling has been left out
It’s another former England manager who has arguably given Eze a helping hand too. As Crystal Palace toiled in the final few months of Patrick Vieira’s reign, the 24-year-old found himself relegated to the bench – although he has featured in every Premier League game this season.
But under Roy Hodgson, Eze has started in all nine league games and playing in their entirety. He has scored six goals with one assist too, having scored just four goals with three assists in the previous 28 Premier League matches.
England have often been accused of being too passive and not creating enough. Eze can provide a solution to those problems with his creativity, pace and skill, and will offer a ‘super-sub’ effect to try and swing the game in England’s favour.
As Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze receives his first England call-up, take a look at all of his Premier League goals this season.
“We’ve liked him for a long time,” Southgate said of Eze.
“He has finished the season really strongly. He can play in a couple of positions across the attacking line. Everyone I speak to talks brilliantly about him as a person.”
Southgate too has talked previously of the want to cultivate a squad of good people as well as talented players – Eze fits both moulds. The June internationals could be just the start of a long senior England career.
Door not shut on Toney
Gareth Southgate gives his thoughts on Ivan Toney’s ban from football, as well as admitting the Brentford striker still has every chance of making his squad for Euro 2024
They were extraordinary comments from the England manager. Bear in mind that Ivan Toney isn’t in this squad and was never going to be as he serves this eight-month ban for breaching the FA’s betting rules.
You could interpret it as the England manager being critical of his own employers, the FA. It’s not quite as clear-cut as that because the punishment has been levelled by an independent commission.
But it was very much the FA’s disciplinary authorities who brought the charges against Toney. It’s pretty clear that Gareth Southgate thinks it’s very harsh the fact that Toney is not allowed to be part of the football community.
Our interpretation of that having spoken to a few people on the subject is that Toney isn’t allowed at the training ground, he’s not allowed at Brentford’s ground and he can’t mix with his team-mates.
I think it’s a huge boost for him that Southgate has said he is in his thoughts when he is available in the New Year – and could still make the Euros as well.
Is White’s England future over?
Image: England defender Ben White went home early from the Qatar World Cup for 'personal reasons'
Gareth Southgate reportedly reached out to Ben White ahead of announcing his latest England squad which then did not feature the Arsenal right-back.
White left the World Cup early due to personal reasons having not played a minute in Qatar and was then not selected for the qualifiers in March. Southgate said previously that White was still in his plans.
The 25-year-old has shone for Arsenal this season although three right-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker, have been picked ahead of him.
The trio all have more international experience than White, although Walker is expected to miss England’s first game this summer in Malta to recover from the Champions League final.
Trippier has been deployed at left-back by Southgate before while Alexander-Arnold has never been a regular starter on the right. His improved form at the back end of this season made him a certain pick though and Southgate may be wanting to experiment with the Liverpool player’s new hybrid position in midfield.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, Soutgate says he hasn’t spoken to White regarding his omission from his current squad but believes the defender is behind Trippier and Walker in the pecking order at present.
He said: “I spoke to Ben before the camp in March, but at the moment we have Trippier and Walker in that area of the pitch. He’s had a very good season, as have the whole Arsenal team, but he’s not ahead of those guys at the moment.”
The injured Reece James will be another option at right-back closer to Euro 2024 which leaves White’s England future looking uncertain.
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