Sterling should make the most of the break
Gareth Southgate’s revelation that Raheem Sterling “didn’t think he was performing at the level he needed to” after leaving the forward out of his latest England team was a display of surprising candor by player and manager.
Sterling’s move to Chelsea last summer didn’t work out as expected, which isn’t necessarily a criticism of the 28-year-old, but more a reflection of the Blues’ poor season.
But for Sterling to recognize that he’s not living up to his and others’ expectations of him, to the extent that he feels it’s best to pass on an international call-up, shows just how unhappy he is with his are displayed.
Sterling’s decision also reflects the seniority he enjoys in England as one of the most experienced members of Southgate’s squad. A player on the periphery will certainly not pass up the opportunity to connect with the international team, even for relatively low-key fixtures like this.
Of course, Sterling’s decision also gives him a longer summer break, which could be valuable as he looks to recover from a hamstring injury and put a dark season behind him.
But with a number of attacking players no doubt looking to make the most of Sterling’s absence, he will need to ensure he uses the summer to return to his former level if he is to retain his place in the squad. Southgate plan.
Could this be Trent’s last season for England?
Is it possible to see a new look in England, especially when it comes to the right back position?
Trent Alexander-Arnold joins the England team with John Stones featuring in hybrid right-back-midfield roles that have changed the recent form of Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
With Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier also called up, Southgate has the chance to return to a more traditional right-back role. But against less quality opponents like Malta and North Macedonia, is this the chance for Southgate to experiment?
Asked about Alexander-Arnold’s “slightly different role”, Southgate said: “His new role is something I’ve been talking to him about for the last two weeks.”
Southgate has shown a desire to play the Liverpool defender in a midfield role before, most notably a failed experiment in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra nearly two years ago.
Perhaps this is the international opportunity Alexander-Arnold has been waiting for.
Eze resurgence under Hodgson earns first England call-up
Eberechi Eze is one of the Premier League’s talents, but Gareth Southgate is clearly keeping an eye on his former club, Crystal Palace, and their attacking prowess.
This is Eze’s second time lucky. He was set to be included in England’s Euro 2021 squad, but he suffered an Achilles injury in training, sidelining him for almost a year. It took another 12 months for Eze to find himself in contention for a senior call-up.
It is another former England manager who may have also given Eze a helping hand. As Crystal Palace struggled in the final few months of Patrick Vieira’s reign, the 24-year-old found himself relegated to the bench – although he has featured in every Premier League game this season.
But under Roy Hodgson, Eze started all nine league games and played in total. He has scored six goals with one assist as well, having scored just four goals with three assists in the last 28 Premier League games.
England is often accused of being too passive and not doing enough. Eze can provide a solution to problems with his creativity, enthusiasm and skill, and provide a ‘super-sub’ effect to try and swing the game in England’s favour.
“We’ve liked him for a long time,” Southgate said of Eze.
“He finished the season very strong. He can play both positions on the offensive line.
Southgate has also previously spoken of wanting to develop a team of good people as well as talented players – Eze fits both moulds. The June internationals could be just the start of a long career for the England senior.
Is White’s future in England over?
Gareth Southgate has reportedly linked up with Ben White ahead of announcing his latest England squad which will be without the Arsenal right-back.
White left the World Cup early for personal reasons after not playing a single minute in Qatar and then not being selected for the qualifiers in March. Southgate has previously said that White is still in his plans.
The 25-year-old has shone for Arsenal this season even though the right-back trio, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker, have been chosen ahead of him.
The trio all have more international experience than White, although Walker is expected to miss England’s first game this summer in Malta to recover from the Champions League final.
Trippier has been deployed at left back with Southgate in the past while Alexander-Arnold has yet to be a regular starter on the right. His good form towards the end of this season makes him a definite choice though and Southgate may want to experiment with the Liverpool player’s new hybrid position in midfield.
The injured Reece James could be another option at right back closer to Euro 2024 leaving White’s future in England uncertain.