Alexander-Arnold gets World Cup call
Southgate’s squad based on promise, rather than experience.
Gareth Southgate has named a bold World Cup squad focused on promise rather than experience.
After months of speculation, scrutiny and conjecture, the 23 men charged with bringing the country success in Russia were revealed on Wednesday afternoon, along with the five-strong stand-by list for the tournament.
While the Liverpool attacking midfielder has not started a Premier League match since New Year’s Day, he is a favourite of Southgate. However, his lack of fitness means he has to settle with a stand-by place alongside Jake Livermore, Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski and Lewis Cook.
Gary Cahill received a surprise reprieve having been excluded from March’s squad – the only member of the group to have reached a half-century of caps.
But the most striking inclusion is uncapped teenager Alexander-Arnold.
An impressive performer in Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final, the 19-year-old briefly trained with Southgate’s side in March and has now been named in the senior squad for the first time.
The other uncapped squad member is Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, having been selected ahead of 75-cap Hart to take the third spot behind Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was rewarded for his fine form on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, with versatile Fabian Delph – who last played for his country in 2015 – coming in after winning the title at Manchester City.
“I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about,” England manager Southgate said.
“It is a young group, but with some really important senior players so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance.
“We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we’ve been looking to develop.
“The selection process has been over months really, it’s not just been the last few weeks. We feel the team are improving and we want to continue that momentum.
“The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it.
“We’ve also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.”
Southgate said the decisions to leave out Hart and Bertrand were “really tough” but the England manager is happy with his main selection and five-man stand-by list.
“History tells us that one of those stand-by players may end up in the squad, as it’s very unusual for us to get through the end of the season and our two preparation games without any issues,” the Three Lions boss added.
“All of the guys on standby have been really professional in their approach to this. They recognise there’s still an opportunity and we’ve had a lot of conversations over a period of time with them about their situation.”
Southgate’s balance between versatility and ability, as well as fitness and form, will be discussed further at a Wembley press conference on Thursday morning.
The identity of England’s captain and first-choice goalkeeper in Russia are also sure to come up when Southgate speaks to the media.
The Three Lions manager has until June 4 to whittle down the 35-man long list given to FIFA – but he always intended to name his 23 early in a bid to strip unnecessary anxiety and pressure from preparations.
Most players will kick-off their World Cup preparations on Monday, although Manchester United and Chelsea players will get time off after the FA Cup final – just as those involved in Liverpool’s Champions League final will.