Home Soccer Form vs. loyalty: England’s World Cup selection issues

Form vs. loyalty: England’s World Cup selection issues


DOHA, Qatar. Perhaps the biggest test of manager Gareth Southgate’s loyalty to some of the England players comes now. England advance to the round of 16 of the World Cup where they play Senegal on Sunday. In previous tournaments under the leadership of a 52-year-old football player, there was no selection problem: to choose players by form or by past international performances?

Until 2016, there really was no “past international activity” worthy of attention. England were humiliated by Iceland in the round of 16 that summer, and the gradual transition to a new generation initiated by Roy Hodgson was accelerated by Southgate after Sam Allardyce’s brief 67-day tenure.

However, Southgate subsequently hosted the first World Cup semi-final in 28 years in Russia in 2018 and then the first major tournament final in 55 years at Euro 2020. This has come about through a pragmatic methodology that he doesn’t want to completely abandon, even as his team composition has gradually shifted towards a highly skilled, creative talent pool.

Central to the work he has done to reimagine the players’ relationship with the England shirt, in particular using the opportunities it provides rather than feeling the weight of past failures, has been a team spirit immune to club adversity. And the key aspect of this separation is the knowledge that the previous contribution to the common cause is not forgotten. That’s why Southgate has some big decisions to make ahead of the game against Senegal, in part because his loyalty is still being rewarded in Qatar by the team’s other players.

Here, Sportzshala takes a look at the players from England who most prominently represent the debate over form and reputation.

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Harry Maguire

Make no mistake: Maguire, 29, was lucky to be in the England squad thanks to his form at Manchester United. The centre-back has made just nine appearances for United this season, one of which has started in the Premier League since August, and Milan’s Serie A winner Fikayo Tomori may feel especially sorry to be left out. However, Maguire’s first three appearances in Qatar brought the clock back to 2018, when he was a key figure behind the lines and an important component of the Love Train, the nickname given to the chain of players who flocked to play in the corner of the England team.

Maguire earned cult hero status during that tournament and once again proved himself in England’s defense squad in five of the seven Euro 2020 games (having only missed the first two due to injury), where he was named to the UEFA Team of the Tournament. There were times when Maguire and John Stones toiled in possession, trying to play from behind – primarily against the United States – and there is suspicion that any major mistake in the departure of the England team will cause someone to rethink his inclusion in the team. “Southgate’s Stubbornness”. But his authoritative group stage performance settled any debate about whether Maguire deserved to start ahead of other defenders on this team.

Luke Shaw

Shaw is England’s only natural left-back in these finals. Ben Chilwell’s hamstring injury sustained early last month left Southgate the 27-year-old’s most obvious opponent, who fell out of favor at Manchester United as Erik ten Hag initially favored newcomer Tyrell Malasia over Shaw. regained the spot to start the last seven Premier League games before the World Cup.

But something more is going on here. In March 2021, Shaw spoke of feeling regret about leaving several England camps in previous years, thinking about how much he “let Gareth down”. When he reapplied, Southgate gave Shaw another opportunity and he hasn’t looked back, scoring against England in last summer’s Euro 2020 final and securing his place in Qatar with three solid performances. As a result, the couple resumed communication.

Kieran Trippier could play at left-back and Bukayo Saka acted as left-back (unconvincingly) for England, but Shaw was sent off with 25 minutes left against Wales when the game was already won, a clear sign that , short of injury, he will definitely start against Senegal.

Raheem Sterling

This is where the difficulties begin. Sterling was included in the UEFA Euro 2020 squad (Harry Kane was not) and was a vital link between midfield and offense for England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, his club form was below par following his summer move from Manchester City to Chelsea, where he admittedly had to go through a change of manager and an even more frequent repositioning as Graham Potter occasionally used him as a forward cornerback.

There is stiff competition for England in attacking positions on either side of striker Kane, with Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford making a strong case for their inclusion in goals scored against Wales, while Saki and Jack Grealish also have their backers.

But Southgate has never started a knockout game without Sterling in their squad. And when Sterling scored from Kane’s pass against Iran, it was the 16th time the pair had scored together for England in 60 matches (now 61). Kane only has a better record with Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, with whom he has played three times as many games at Tottenham.

Southgate acknowledges Sterling’s past efforts and as he struggled for City last season reportedly, the manager regularly offered his support if needed, maintaining a close relationship. Only Kane (54) has started more games under Southgate than Sterling (49). While Foden, Rushford and Saka make a strong case for inclusion, it would be a big surprise if Southgate didn’t find a place for the winger given their history. together.

Jordan Henderson/Calvin Phillips

The moans were almost audible when Henderson was Southgate’s first sub, as England narrowly won a 0-0 draw against the United States. But the Liverpool midfielder has brought some energy and momentum to the England midfield, proving he can play a more visible role than just being one of the key figures behind the scenes to maintain standards and professionalism at camp.

In this regard, Henderson is important to the team’s dynamics – another example of this is defender Conor Cody, providing such a positive presence in the group that Southgate assistant Steve Holland called him an unofficial England international of the tournament last summer without actually kicking the ball. – and in truth, he was probably closer to the line-up mainly due to Calvin Phillips’ injury more than anything else.

Man City have always been optimistic about Phillips’ chances of recovering from a shoulder injury in time to qualify for the World Cup, but he needed more time at England’s Al Wakra base to develop his edge. In his absence, Henderson started against Wales.

Jude Bellingham has been very impressive in England midfield and will no doubt keep his place, but Southgate would have been bold to pick the 19-year-old and Mason Mount in a 4-3-3 formation with Declan Rice as England’s only defensive midfielder. against Senegal. Last summer, he favored two disciplined central midfielders in Rice and Phillips, who were scolded for their conservative passing despite Southgate’s emphasis on the stability and cover they provided to a fragile defence.

Going 3-4-3 is another option, although that would likely mean the Phillips two, Henderson and Mount, will miss out. Henderson will likely drop to the bench with a cameo to see the game through if all goes according to plan.

Source: www.espn.com