Gareth Southgate has recalled trio Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and John Stones from the international wilderness in his first squad of the new year. He has also called on goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and striker Ollie Watkins for the first time. The England manager is preparing for three World Cup qualifiers this month, with his side facing San Marino, Albania and Poland.
The inclusions of Lingard, Shaw and Stones are the take-home points from a 26-man squad that gives little away — especially considering the number of injuries Southgate has to contend with. First-team regulars Jordan Pickford, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, and Jordan Henderson are all unable to report for international duty, as are Danny Ings, Tammy Abraham, Callum Wilson, Joe Gomez, Harvey Barnes, and his Leicester City teammate James Maddison.
17-year-old Borussia Dortmund star Jude Bellingham was expected to be absent from involvement with either the seniors or U21s, because of current COVID-19 rules in Germany which would require him to quarantine for ten days. He does feature nominally, although the quarantine situation in Germany continues to change. Southgate told the media on Thursday that, “at this moment in time, it looks like we won’t be able to take him.”Embed from Getty Images
For the first time since Southgate brought him into the seniors in November 2017, England will be without their first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford this month. The Everton shot-stopper has sustained an injury to his oblique abdominal muscle.
The three goalkeepers selected in his absence are Nick Pope, Dean Henderson, and West Bromwich Albion’s Sam Johnstone, who is earning his maiden call-up. Pope will fancy his chances of earning the bulk of the game-time, although Henderson is likely to feature in one of the more straightforward fixtures.
Luke Shaw is the most noteworthy selection on either flank; the Manchester United full-back is enjoying a stellar season but has not played for England since injuring himself against Spain in September 2018. He is joined on the left by Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka. Chilwell has had to share the left-back berth at Chelsea with Marcos Alonso since new manager Thomas Tuchel came in, while 19-year-old Saka is versatile enough to have adopted a number of more attacking wide positions for Arsenal this term and may no longer be used as a full-back by England.Embed from Getty Images
The right side is England’s most competitive position, and as usual there are three players included who are right-backs by trade. Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has been dropped in what comes as a big surprise, owing to his club’s significant drop-off in form in 2021. In his place, Reece James of Chelsea and Manchester City’s Kyle Walker have all made the cut. Kieran Trippier is also in, despite having only just returned following an — albeit reduced — ban from all football activities for breaching betting laws.
England’s lack of strength in depth in the centre-back position led the England manager to revert to a three-man backline last September. His squad features five centre-backs this month, suggesting the 3-4-3 formation which a number of fans and pundits have criticised will be retained. City’s resurgent John Stones is back in, as are Harry Maguire from the red half of Manchester, Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings, Conor Coady of Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier.
With Henderson unavailable and thus limiting England’s already restricted midfield options further, West Ham’s Declan Rice can expect a lot of game-time this month as the team’s standout holding midfielder. Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips has returned from injury at just the right time to also be named. James Ward-Prowse, Mason Mount, Bellingham and the ever-improving Phil Foden have also made the cut.Embed from Getty Images
Sancho and Grealish both played key roles for England in November, but this international break has just come a little too early for them both. In their absence, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling are obvious inclusions out wide. While his loan spell at West Ham has started excellently, perhaps the injuries to other wide players and the fact Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Greenwood will travel instead to the U21s Euros this month is a key factor in Jesse Lingard’s recall. Last capped in the summer of 2019, it’s no secret that Southgate has always been a big admirer of Lingard. He shouldn’t get his hopes up about playing a major role in this international break, though — Southgate said he was probably a little more “fortunate” to return than Shaw and Stones.
Callum Wilson, Danny Ings and Tammy Abraham are all with their respective club doctors at the moment, and so England’s striking options will be fewer this month than they were last autumn. Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will probably share most, if not all, of the game-time between them, but there is also a first call-up at senior level for Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. Only four men have scored more in the Premier League this term than Leeds United’s Patrick Bamford, but it’s the 25-year-old Villa man with 12 goals in all competitions to his name who provides the back-up.
The squad list is as follows:
Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Wolves), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Kieran Trippier (Atlético Madrid), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Declan Rice (West Ham United), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jesse Lingard (West Ham United), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)