Gareth Southgate has named his England squad for the September Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark.
England squad for September internationals
- Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope
- Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Eric Dier, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Tyrone Mings, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker
- Midfielders: Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse, Harry Winks
- Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Mason Greenwood, Danny Ings, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling
Jack Grealish was trending shortly after the 2pm announcement given the Aston Villa captain was overlooked once more by Gareth Southgate. Grealish was integral in keeping Villa up, but that has not warranted a first call-up for the player who switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland back in 2016.
Arsenal 18-year-old Bukayo Saka enjoyed a breakthrough campaign for the Gunners, but the left-footed winger/full-back must wait for a senior call-up despite a lack of left-footed players in the England squad. More on that below as we work out what Southgate’s XI will be.
Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka will know he is currently Southgate’s fourth-choice right-back given Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier were all selected ahead of him.
The absence of Leicester’s James Maddison has been highlighted, so too left-back Danny Rose given Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw are both out injured. Lewis Dunk and James Tarkowski could feel hard done by too, but an omission is nothing new for the Brighton and Burnley centre-backs.
Future is now for Greenwood and Foden
“They’ve both been very impressive with our junior teams. I think both of them were excellent in the period post-lockdown with their clubs,” said Southgate.
“Both played important matches at big clubs and had a big impact. They have the potential to be England internationals for a long time to come.
“As always, that is down to them and their mentality and the way they play. But we have belief in them and we’re really looking forward to working with them.”
What’s the big idea?
Grealish’s exclusion has caused a stir, but it is the lack of left-footed options which have left many baffled by how England will line up against Iceland and Denmark.
It was either Chilwell or Rose who played at left-back throughout England’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, but their absence for the upcoming matches means it could be one of Walker or Trippier who switch to the left, while the left-footed Tyrone Mings could fill in at left-back too.
"We will need to be adaptable for sure,” Southgate said. “The injury to Ben Chiwell, Luke Shaw also injured, Danny Rose – we felt at this moment in time his performances need to be a little bit better.
"We have got options in players that can play on the other side and have played in that position before. It is not ideal but we can look at something tactically if needed. But it is definitely a position that is up for grabs."
Up for grabs, certainly, and it is a role that Saka would have fitted into seamlessly. What better occasion than a couple of Nations League matches to blood the youngster in, one who is also capable of playing a more advanced role too.
It would have been understandable had Chilwell and Shaw made the squad, but in their absence, Southgate is looking for players to be adaptable rather than turning to ones capable of playing there without a little extra coaching.
That being said, Saka is still choosing between Nigeria and England. He has represented England at youth level, but is proud of his Nigerian heritage. “It’s a tough choice,” he admitted back in July, and perhaps it is one he is yet to reach.
Henderson, Alexander-Arnold, Keane, Gomez, Mings, Rice, Mount, Foden, Sancho, Kane, Sterling
England: Jadon Sancho, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling
Image credit: Getty Images
Despite the grumblings from certain camps, England’s attacking depth is worth celebrating, with Marcus Rashford and Greenwood both wide options should Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho start, while Danny Ings and Tammy Abraham are both there to keep Harry Kane on his toes.
Further back, Declan Rice will likely start ahead of Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips and Tottenham’s Harry Winks, while there could be starting places for both Phil Foden and Mason Mount.
In our possible XI we have also gone for Dean Henderson of Sheffield-United-now-Manchester-United goalkeeper fame, although it would not be surprising to see Jordan Pickford keep the gloves, while it was actually Nick Pope who started England’s last international, although there were a few changes given it was their final qualifier.
England’s most recent XI – At Kosovo, November 2019
Pope, Alexander-Arnold, Maguire, Mings, Chilwell, Rice, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Winks, Sterling, Kane, Hudson-Odoi
Does it really matter?
With the England matches falling just before the Premier League starts, there may well be little point in scrutinising Southgate’s decisions given there could well be plenty of changes between the Iceland and Denmark matches.
Nations League ‘glory’ is not entirely a priority, and Southgate will not make it onto any manager’s Christmas card list should their player return from international duty injured just as this condensed campaign is about to begin.
It means we could see two completely different XIs, or at the very least only a few completing 180 minutes over the course of the two matches. With another four Nations League games to follow this year, there is still time for the notable omissions to prove Southgate otherwise too, and only come the New Year will performances really have a bearing on who will make the Euros squad.
No need to panic yet if you are Grealish or Saka, another season like the last and Southgate would surely not make the same mistake a second time around.