England don’t have any players that need to be dropped urgently, but a few – Harry Maguire – need to be phased out of the picture on the way to the Euros.
Looking at five players we proposed to drop after the 2018 World Cup really shows how far England have come. And here it is five, which they should build by 2024 euro zone.
This pre-World Cup concern about a lack of playing time and all that energy spent mocking and deliberately misunderstanding Gareth Southgate’s long-ago point about form was misplaced and wrong. Harry Maguire, at the mildest level of surprise possibleperformed well in a more comfortable team-centric environment to emphasize his strengths rather than enhance his weaknesses.
The 29-year-old was destined for tournament football: a busy schedule that left less time for such intense testing between games; the nature of the international game, which limits managers’ ability to coach attacking formations properly, meaning that defensive organization often thrives; the recent proliferation of Proper No. 9 and the subsequent tendency for teams to cross his giant head; a role for the team based on ownership; the opportunity to ride inflatable unicorns in swimming pools without retaliation.
Maguire played all but 45 minutes at the 2018 World Cup, was extended into the starting line-up at the Euros as early as possible due to injury, and didn’t come on in Qatar until about half an hour after picking up the knock against Iran. Southgate trusts him. Southgate loves him.
But Southgate must move on. England conceded just three goals in this World Cup, and Maguire was at least partly responsible for two of them. He is a brilliant player who continues to confound his country’s critics, but the sense of unreliability remains at an all-time high and at a time when ruthlessness is needed, there is room for concrete and obvious improvement in his position.
These decisions are not easy. Raheem Sterling has been a mainstay for England at the last five major international tournaments, creating a gamut of perceptions: emerging as the bright new spark in 2014. scapegoat in 2016a potential offensive weak point in 2018, a national hero in 2020 and then, through no fault of his own, an aging elder statesman in 2022. He has experienced the highs of this wonderful era and the absolute lows of the lows that preceded and indeed required it.
Much to the chagrin of what remains a depressingly large minority of detractors, Sterling still has a role to play regardless of what this England team does or doesn’t achieve. Eighty-two caps can’t just be put to one side, not just the manager who is responsible for 55 of them. Southgate has only stayed on Harry Kane more often (63 games).
But with the attacking vigor that England have shown and established, Sterling’s main job is done and his time as a guaranteed starter is over. Still an important figure for the national team on and off the field at 28, he should reach his century and will be on the plane to Germany. However, the role he played against France should become a more regular feature; now this is Bukayo Saka’s world and he’s nice enough to let us all live in it.
Vague disbelief greeted Southgate’s claim that Kieran Trippier’s “all-round game” had “outstripped” that of Trent Alexander-Arnold. it feels like it happened in another era. Within three months, long after the usual bloodshed and casualties, this particular culture war had no winners.
Alexander Arnold was given a half-hour walk against Wales and while Trippier started the first two games as expected, he was also handed a substitute role in the win over Rob Page’s side. The 32-year-old failed to even get off the bench against Senegal or France.
It seemed instructive when Southgate moved away from his tournament system of a back three. Kyle Walker filled in at right-back once the injury issues had cleared, and when the left side of the defense finally felt more secure, Trippier’s security blanket was stowed away. England will show it every now and then and feel a rush of World Cup 2018 nostalgia, but their wardrobe has been updated.
Can you phase out someone who has only played four times for England in the last two years but has already had quite a successful exit from the game before he returns? I do not know. Maybe. He was in that team and it seems reassuring that on both occasions when Southgate was forced to break up his trusted central defensive partnership, he reached for Dier’s button. The Tottenham defender played every game for England at Euro 2016, missed one match at the 2018 World Cup, was left out of Euro 2020 altogether and then returned as first-choice centre-half back-up in Qatar, completing a strange run that saw Fikayo Tomori, Mark Guehi , Ben White, and the talent and ability of many others should really carry over to the conclusion.
Southgate, a player described as “profile-wise really rivaling Bellingham and Henderson, maybe Gallagher to a lesser extent”, was “right behind those guys” in November but was almost certainly on his second consecutive England reserve team list. Nice how it would have been to see him take that free kick against the break In Franceit’s time to move past the notion that he’s somehow good enough for an advanced midfield that has some exciting options ready to break through.