Announced on Thursday, England’s final squad of 2019 includes the likes of John Stones and uncapped duo James Maddison and Fikayo Tomori.
In what is a 27-man squad, Jordan Pickford retains his place, despite some worrying recent form in the Premier League with Everton. Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton returns following contrastingly good form. The third keeper picked is Burnley’s Nick Pope.
That means that the Premier League’s two best English goalkeepers for clean-sheets this season have missed out – Dean Henderson and Aaron Ramsdale, on five and three clean-sheets, respectively.
The headline story at centre-back is that Everton’s Michael Keane has been dropped. The 26-year-old has endured a “difficult” past few games for England according to Gareth Southgate.
His replacement is Manchester City’s John Stones, only recently back from injury. Stones was integral to England’s fourth-place finish at the 2018 World Cup, but was then largely culpable for the side’s defensive collapse to the Netherlands in June’s Nations League Finals.
Tyrone Mings, a class act both on and off the pitch on his debut night against Bulgaria last month has made it back in, as has Liverpool’s Joe Gomez. The form of more experienced heads, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, has hindered his game-time at Anfield so far this season.
Completing the list of five centre-backs are Harry Maguire of Manchester United and young Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori.
Despite his goalkeeping cameo midweek, Kyle Walker is left out for a third international break running at right-back. However, Gareth Southgate has refused to rule him out of contention in the future, saying that “it is an area of the pitch where we have high competition for places”.
In his place, two outstanding full-backs have made the cut, namely Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold. These two have a combined one goal and five assists already this season.
On the opposite flank, Danny Rose and Ben Chilwell almost pick themselves.
Declan Rice came in for some criticism for his performance against the Czech Republic in October, but he returns to the squad nonetheless. Tottenham’s Harry Winks put in a rather display against Bulgaria, although in an altogether very different game. His place is secure too. Fabian Delph of Everton is back in, as is the dependable Jordan Henderson.
A little further up the pitch, the headline call is that James Maddison is recalled, despite being pictured in a casino having been sent home from St. George’s Park with illness during the last international break.
Maddison is an electric, if untamed, talent. He may finally get the chance of an international debut this month. Ross Barkley has been a consistent threat for Gareth Southgate thus far and joins Maddison in that 8-or-10 role.
Barkley’s Chelsea teammate Mason Mount has been given the edge on game-time so far this campaign by Frank Lampard, and his repayment in goals and assists bags him a place in the group. Lampard and Southgate don’t necessarily seem to agree on who offers more between Barkley and Mount.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, following a goal-heavy few weeks, comes back in – originally picked in September but deemed a little too bit-part at league leaders Liverpool to make the cut in October.
There’s a long-awaited return in the front-line for Callum Hudson-Odoi. Following a lengthy injury suffered late last season, he has come back with fire in his belly this season, scoring and assisting in the minutes he’s been handed at Chelsea. On the day he turned 19, he made it back into the England team – Gareth Southgate praising him for applying himself so enthusiastically when asked to drop down a level and represent the U21s last month.
The scintillating Raheem Sterling trots in, as does Harry Kane. A case could be made that the England captain has actually gone a little under the radar so far this domestic campaign. For England, his stats have been incredible – he’s notched six goals and four assists in just four internationals this season.
Borussia Dortmund’s teenager Jadon Sancho is a cert these days; he already has three Bundesliga goals this season.
Tammy Abraham and Marcus Rashford are both in red hot form. Rashford reacted to his call-up by scoring and assisting as Manchester United thrashed Partizan in the Europa League. These two have unsurprisingly made it in and are joined by Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson. Surely the Premier League’s current leading marksman, Jamie Vardy, would have walked into this group had he not all but retired from Three Lions honours after the World Cup.
This upcoming international break holds a particular resonance with the history of this, the oldest national football team on the planet. The Three Lions will play their 1000th match against Montenegro at Wembley on Thursday 14th.
Victory would not just represent a fitting result on a momentous day but would also secure qualification to next summer’s European Championships.