Call-ups for Chelsea duo of Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham garnered headlines – but this England squad is as notable for who is not included, as it is for those who are. In particular, a key question is: what now for Kyle Walker’s international future?
Since the summer, Gareth Southgate has had a selection headache at right-back, with four stellar performers at his disposal in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Walker. It’s simply not practical to have four in the squad.
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However, that dilemma didn’t really apply for this selection decision – Wan-Bissaka has been left out because of a bout of tonsillitis. Southgate could have included Walker as back up to Alexander-Arnold and Trippier (he had three RBs in the squad for last month’s double-header).
The fact Southgate chose not to speaks volumes. Especially when Walker was used as a centre back for the entire World Cup in Russia, and could have offered cover in that position too.
Walker has played in every one of Manchester City’s Premier League games so far this season, which makes his non-selection even more striking.
Southgate said very clearly in his news conference that Walker’s omission is not because he’s playing badly – he believes Walker is playing well. Rather, the England manager said Walker is a more defensive full back, compared to Trent and Trippier. And clearly wing-backs who push forward and add width and creativity to the team are a key characteristic of the way Southgate wants to play.
You have to say – barring injuries – it now looks like Walker’s chances with England are on the wane.
Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard will no doubt be worrying that the same is true of them, with both having been left out of this squad.
Southgate said Lingard is having a difficult time, and the player himself is aware of that – that’s code for the England manager saying the Manchester United forward is horribly out of form.
And the stats back that up – Lingard hasn’t provided a goal or an assist for Manchester United since January.