On Thursday afternoon Gareth Southgate announced his first England squad since being confirmed as the permanent manager of the national team in November.
The 46-year-old admitted that he was wary of making too many drastic changes to the squad whilst he was in temporary charge after the departure of Sam Allardyce, but he has certainly looked to stamp his mark on the team now that he has been handed the managerial reigns on a full-time basis.
Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott were both omitted from the 26-man party that will face Germany in a friendly on Wednesday before taking on Lithuania four days later in a World Cup qualifier. Southgate chose to recall Jermain Defoe, Luke Shaw, and Jake Livermore whilst the uncapped quartet of Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse, Michael Keane and Michail Antonio were also included.
The spotlight will undoubtedly now fall on Wayne Rooney after the striker was omitted from the England squad to face Germany and Lithuania despite informing the FA that he is fit and available to play for Manchester United on Sunday.
This could well signal the end of 31-year-old’s international career with Gareth Southgate making in abundantly clear that he will not be selecting players based purely on past achievements and reputation alone. Rooney has been a bit-part player at Old Trafford this season following the arrival of Jose Mourinho in the summer and has struggled to amass regular game time or find any form. He has scored just five goals in all competitions, his last coming against Stoke City almost two months ago, and has found himself stranded on the bench due to a number of injury issues and the superb form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Rooney may well be the captain of England and the country’s all-time leading goal scorer but Southgate has sent a clear message that his international career is under serious threat.
Theo Walcott was another noticeable absentee from the latest squad.
The 28-year-old has been in good form for Arsenal this season and has scored 17 goals across all competitions. However, his impressive form at club level has not been enough to convince Southgate to select the winger with the new England manager electing to choose younger, more dynamic players such as Raheem Sterling, Nathan Redmond, and Jesse Lingard. Arsenal teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s inclusion signifies that Walcott is now way down the pecking order at international level.
Gareth Southgate certainly proved that he is not afraid to ring the changes as he looks to mould an England team capable of providing a genuine challenge at the World Cup in 2018.
Jermain Defoe received a well-deserved recall. The 34-year-old has continuously proven his goalscoring pedigree since signing for Sunderland in 2015 following a short spell playing in Canada. Despite the Black Cat’s poor performances and seemingly constant battle against relegation the striker has scored 14 times in the Premier League this season, an impressive achievement considering his club’s poor form. Defoe’s return to international football was undoubtedly aided by injuries to Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge but few will argue with his inclusion.
Jake Livermore is also set to return to international football almost five years since he won his first, and only, England cap in a 2-1 victory against Italy in 2012. The central midfielder signed for West Bromwich Albion for £10,000,000 in the January transfer window and has made a positive start to life at the Hawthorns with The Baggies sitting eighth in the Premier League. His performances have attracted the attention of Southgate despite the 27-year-old having been banned from playing in 2015 after testing positive for cocaine.
Southampton pair Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse have both been included in the senior England squad for the first time, as have the uncapped duo of Michael Keane and Michail Antonio. All four have been in good form this campaign for their club side’s and their inclusion comes as little surprise. Southgate is certainly keen to promote younger, more dynamic talent into the international team on the premise that they are performing and playing on a regular basis in top-flight domestic football.
Luke Shaw was the only other noticeable inclusion. With first choice left-back, Danny Rose currently unavailable due to injury Southgate has opted to recall the Manchester United defender despite the fact that the 21-year-old has been short of game time over the previous eighteen months after recovering from a double leg fracture in September 2016. It is difficult to justify Shaw’s inclusion on his current form at club level, however, Southgate clearly sees the full-back as a vital part of the England team in the future.
Gareth Southgate has definitely looked to stamp his mark on the England team following his permanent appointment as manager and the 46-year-old has made some big calls.
The omission of Wayne Rooney will come as little surprise but it demonstrates that Southgate will not be afraid to drop players that have big reputations or personalities. England’s all-time leading goal scorer will need to consider a move away from Old Trafford in the summer in search of regular playing time at club level if he is serious about playing at the World Cup in 2018. Dropping Theo Walcott was a surprise, but the inclusion of a number of younger faces probably signifies that Southgate is looking to freshen things up.
Overall, the squad selection is a positive one. The 26-man party that will face Germany and Lithuania in the next seven days includes players that are in good form and playing regularly at club level whilst there is a new, fresh feel following the inclusion of a number of new faces.
Overall Grade: 8/10
England Squad (Announced 16/03/2017)
Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Man City)
Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
Phil Jones (Man Utd)
Michael Keane (Burnley)
Luke Shaw (Man Utd)
Chris Smalling (Man Utd)
John Stones (Man City)
Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Dele Alli (Tottenham)
Michail Antonio (West Ham)
Ross Barkley (Everton)
Eric Dier (Tottenham)
Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
Jesse Lingard (Man Utd)
Jake Livermore (West Brom)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
Raheem Sterling (Man City)
James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
Marcus Rashford (Man Utd)
Jamie Vardy (Leicester).
Feature Image: All Rights Reserved 23H News (23H News)