5 talking points from England squad: Inexperience galore, where’s the midfield?!
We run through five talking points from England boss Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement…
If you said to Raheem Sterling after the 2014 World Cup that he would be the joint-third most experienced member of the England squad when Russia rolled around, there’s not a chance he would have believed you. But at the age of just 23, that’s the reality for the Manchester City winger. His 37 caps are bettered only by the returning Gary Cahill (58) and captain candidate Jordan Henderson (38). Eight players have fewer than 10 caps, while two – Nick Pope and Trent Alexander-Arnold – are awaiting their first. Don't be surprised if Sterling pulls on the armband at some point in the warm-up friendlies...
Where are the goals coming from?
With a lack of collective appearances inevitably comes a lack of goals. Danny Welbeck is England’s top marksman with 15 goals, three ahead of Harry Kane. Ashley Young and Jamie Vardy have found the net seven times for their country, while you’ll never have predicted that England’s fifth most prolific member of the squad is… Gary Cahill. With four goals. No pressure, Harry...
Harry Kane celebrates with Jamie Vardy after scoring the first goal for EnglandReuters
And where is the midfield?
Southgate has named nine defenders, 10 if you include Fabian Delph. But where are the midfielders, Gareth? Only Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Delph could be expected to hold fort in the middle – and the latter has been deployed as a left-back all season. If England pick up a couple of knocks or suspensions, there is going to be gaping hole in the middle – the same can’t be said for right-back, with three specialists in the squad (even if Kyle Walker is supposedly being fielded in a three-man defence). The bunch definitely has a bottom-heavy feel.
Eric Dier right, with Jordan HendersonReuters
The goalkeepers have fewer than 10 caps… BETWEEN THEM
Fans rejoicing at the prospect of a World Cup without Joe Hart would be advised to check how many caps the chosen trio – Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Nick Pope – have got between them. It’s nine. 9. NINE. Now experience isn’t everything, but are England really comfortable heading into a major tournament when their expected starting goalkeeper, Pickford, has just two caps? With 75 caps, Hart has over eight times their combined experience. Or baggage, if you view it from another angle…
England goalkeepers Jack Butland (L), Nick Pope (2L), Joe Hart Jordan Pickford reactGetty Images
No wildcard option
Excitement spread across social media as Jamaican-born Leon Bailey was supposedly on the verge of a call-up, while there have also been people clamouring for Ryan Sessegnon, Jadon Sancho and Ademola Lookman to make the squad. None happened.
It’s hard not to feel slightly disappointed. Fair enough if the squad was chock-full of indispensable players, but England have so few outstanding talents that it seemed ripe for a shock arrival. Do England really need Welbeck, who will presumably be on the bench and offer little different to the other options in attack, or would his place be better served by one of the aforementioned, and unpredictable, hotshots?