Forget Alexander-Arnold and Maddison – Southgate is stupid for leaving out this England player

Date published: Wednesday 28th September 2022 10:11 - Editor F365

Trent Alexander-Arnold could be Gazza for England. But daft as it is for Gareth Southgate to overlook him, there is a more egregious omission.

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Almost there
Blimey, what a miserable international break.

Next weekend can’t come quick enough, we need proper football back….asap.
Stu, Twickenham


Does he get on the plane?
I agree with the Mediawatch stance on certain the papers focussing on Trent not playing rather than those that squeezed out a comeback against the Germans last night, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with the way he appears to have been treated.

We are all aware of certain shortcomings in regards to positional discipline that Trent on occasion can suffer from – this gets more greatly exposed when playing in a back 4. England will not be playing a back 4 against the better teams in the WC it seems.

The role filled by Reece James is the perfect position for Trent for England as it affords him the extra defensive cover whilst encouraging influence further up the pitch. Reece James delivery is of a very high standard (I really rate him) … Trent’s is better (Reece is the more complete ‘defender’ in my mind).

What I find hard to fathom is how little we appear to value the incisive quality of Trent’s delivery and recognising that over the last few years it has been one of the most potent tools in the greatest club league in the world in terms of delivering goals (would love to see the ‘net goals’ stat of his ‘assists – errors’ compared to others).

All I want from this WC is for other countries around the world to see us and think ‘they play great football / great to watch’, so I am more in the ‘have a go’ camp, fully accepting that this may create weakness in certain areas. We can either be a nation that takes the Rafa approach of 1) don’t lose .. then 2) try to win .. or we could actually try to have a real go.

Thank god Telly Vegetables chose to do that in ’96 when picking Gazza when there were calls in certain circles not to pick him – what sweeter memories we have of that time as a result ….. and who knows if Hoddle had picked him in ’98 whether we would have been better in that tournament.

This is not a mail stating ‘Trent has to start’ … but this is a mail saying that he bloody well needs to be on the plane.

We know Walker can play right side of a back 3 effectively (based more on being an athlete than footballing prowess it appears to me).

Why have we not tried James in that position, which then opens up the potential for both he and Trent being in the same 11 ?

James is a better passer of the ball than Walker which would give us benefits when trying to play through the lines from the back and on at least a par with Walker in terms of defensive capabilities.

Be glass half full, Gareth … believe we can hurt teams at least as much as they can hurt us and have the cahoonas to pick players that will give you the best chance of doing so.

Give us something to cheer and passionately get behind then you’ll be broadly forgiven for failing to get close to the silverware.

… chest out … play with pace and passion with the best tools at your disposal.
Sparky, LFC

(Frightening how good Bellingham looks – his glass is at least half full ! ……….. Maguire dropped and smashed his pint glass on a Greek nightclub floor)


Trent can’t defend, yet Liverpool have conceded less league goals than anyone else 3 times out of the last 4 seasons, and are second only to Brighton this season, level with Man City.

Over that time he has the most assists for a defender.

To not have him starting is a crime, to not have him in a 23 man squad, with the level of defenders we have is just embarrassing. I can’t imagine any other top 10 country not starting Trent, and this is why we will never win anything.

We don’t play the matchwinners, the mavericks, the players who will create something from nothing. We opt for the safe and the boring, and we’re far too comfortable and content with not winning.
Steve Johnson, Not even a Liverpool fan. 


Big Mike Smalling
I should caveat this by saying I’m a Welshman who’s only real investment in England’s World Cup squad is Nov 29th…but I have, like most I’m sure, have been mildly swept up by the Maguire furore.

I read Danny Mills quotes this morning claiming that Maguire will play because the other options (Coady, White, Tomori) aren’t experienced or good enough.

I was in Rome a couple of weeks ago and attended the Roma v Atalanta game. It was utterly dire- but the one obvious standout was a surprisingly imperious Chris Smalling. Calm on the ball, press resistant, fast, strong in the tackle, won seemingly every aerial dual. He was Manchester United’s best defender when he left the club and he has clearly matured further since then. He really did look the Smalldini that the Italian press are so enamoured with.

How he is being overlooked in the England squad discussions is beyond me. If experience over talent is in the prerequisite for Southgate, then he seems to be the perfect answer to this immobile, sluggish English defence. Far more talented that Maguire and Dier and more experienced than both. At least he’s bloody won something.

Southgate is a very bizarre manager who is letting down the depth of attacking talent he has at his disposal.
Tom (England will need to improve to get out of the group)


Gareth’s biggest weakness remains
I like Southgate very much. He is a good man, which counts for more than we probably realise in this day and age and he has managed this group superbly. We’ll miss that when he’s gone. BUT he has made footballing errors, of that there is no doubt.

It’s strange that in all of the hysterical waffle about starting line ups, and systems and formations and personnel this week, for me that is not the issue. Those systems and starting line ups have got us to, and ahead in, a World Cup semi-final, and a Euro final. It’s honestly a bit baffling seeing everyone losing their minds about this. It has literally been proven to work in tournaments. These last few games before Germany have been boring and bad, for various reasons, but Gareth and the squad know this system now. It works and it is not going to change. Move on.

Southgate’s biggest flaw, and one that hardly gets spoken about this week, has been his in-game management in those big pressure moments. After going ahead (due to aforementioned system and personnel) in both games against Croatia and Italy, they almost played out identically. He should’ve learned from the Croatia game. Everyone could see the final against Italy slipping away and the inevitable equaliser. That’s one thing that is hard to justify about Southgate and where criticism is deserved. Especially with the options we have on the bench.

These nations league games should have been used to tinker with systems and personnel, I agree, but not for the reasons most people are thinking. I still don’t really see any fluid tactical mid game changes ever being implemented. That was, until, last night. But it could be argued that there’s nothing ground-breaking in making subs when you’re 2-0 down and have nothing to lose.

I guess the only way to find out if he has finally learned from the last two tournaments, in a real pressure situation, is if we’re fortunate to get into that sort of scenario deep into a tournament again. Until then, there is really nothing else to do but support him and the boys.

This baying for blood about the starting line-up and system we’re going to use as our Plan A, after a few poor performances in glorified friendlies, is misguided and doesn’t make sense.

Everyone just calm the f**k down. Wait until you actually have something to moan about before you get the knives out. The bandwagon hasn’t even left its station and people are clamouring to get on board.

Big G


England squad: the historical context
I’ve seen a lot of talk that Southgate has underachieved because he hasn’t been able to win something with the quality of the squad at his disposal.

I would agree England currently have more strength in depth than they’ve ever had since I started watching football in the mid-90s and they are ridiculously overstocked in at least one position (right back)

However I think we are dealing with some recency bias here because people forget about the options that were available to England in the late 90’s up to the mid-2000s.

Take center back- around that period- England could call on Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell, King and Carragher (you could also count Adams although he retired from international football in 2000). Terry, Ferdinand and Campbell were world class in their prime and King would have been an absolute colossus if he hadn’t had such terrible injuries. That’s far more quality than England have in that position today.

What about strikers? During that period, England could call on Shearer, Owen, Cole, Fowler, Ferdinand and Sheringham to name a few.

That’s a truly elite and fairly bonkers list. Fowler only has 26 caps for England! Cole has only 15! With all due respect to the strikers in the reckoning for the current England squad (minus Kane) that’s a huge gulf in quality between the eras.

So yes- England has a deep squad at the moment, but let’s not forget that England have had some truly awesome options in the past and they achieved even less than the current squad.
Turiyo Damascene, Kigali, Rwanda


Attack, attack
While the “debate” about whether Southgate should keep picking the worst defender in recent memory who isn’t playing for his club continues, I just thought I’d throw some bare numbers on the attacking issues.

Clearly, Saka had a great impact from the bench against Germany. Excellent, was great to see, that should be the norm.

So taking numbers from the Nations League only:

— Sterling – 12 games (1,047 minutes played), 3 goals, no assists
— Saka (England Player of the Year) – 8 games (458 minutes), no goals, 1 assist
— Foden – 5 games (336 minutes), 2 goals, 1 assist.
— Rashford (off form – dropped) – 7 games (547 minutes played), 4 goals, 1 assist
— Sancho (off form – dropped) – 10 games (289 minutes!), no goals, 1 assist.

For kicks and as a reference point, let’s throw this in too.
— Shaw (161 minutes) – 3 games, 1 goal, 1 assist.

Maybe the attack needs a freshen too, no?


Maguire and Alexander-Arnold – club and country
I don’t really care whether Trent is picked for England, in fact I would prefer if he doesn’t get picked to ensure he stays fresh and injury-free for Liverpool.

I certainly hope that Maguire continues to be picked for England, because I’d like to see USA yet again not-lose-to and yet again finish above England in a World Cup.

That said, I feel like Mediawatch/F365 are ignoring the old adage about how “form is temporary, class is permanent”. It seems like the penny is finally dropping with Maguire – it might have taken a while, but it seems his ManUtd form has finally caught up and spilling into his time playing for England. While Trent has never performed well for England, is it really implausible that a player who plays excellently most weeks* would eventually find his footing for England too?

I dont think its easy to argue with the idea that Trent’s style of play isn’t suited to Southgate’s preferred system. Fair enough and that could simply be the end of that. But I find this idea that Maguire will always continue to magically perform well for England + Trent would always continue to perform mysteriously badly for England, to be preposterous.
Oliver (Dempsey vs Rob Green playing on repeat in my mind’s eye) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland 

Harry Maguire reflects after England draw with Germany.


Some mild Southgate praise
So they lined up 3-4-3 with only one right back on the pitch and everyone seemingly playing in their proper positions…not the highest bar, but ok.

Then, the wingbacks were allowed to cross the halfway line and attack…I’ve never seen that before from a Southgate team, apart from the first 10 mins of the Euro’s final. Has a lesson been finally learnt from watching something other than Question of Sport?

Bellingham started again. And was great, again.

First half didn’t really happen, and then Maguire happened…and then…

Two things, Bellingham really seemed to happen; and two Southgate substitutes came on at the right time and actually made a difference. Wow, I’ve literally never seen that happen before. I’d actually go so far and say they improved the team shape.

Of course, reality then intervened again, and I’m not really sure if England are actually in a better position than when they started the game. Chilwell, Tomori, and Tony will all feel ostracised, even though they might be needed. TAA may as well go home, and given that Shaw, Stones, and Maguire are unlikely to play much in the next month or so, not many back up options are being bedded in even though the players (Tomori, White, Guehi, Coady, Chilwell) are all hanging around. Oh, and let’s hope Kane doesn’t get injured.

Southgate’s still a terrible coach, tactician, and man manager, but that’s not going to change anytime soon…so our usual destiny awaits. QF exit it is. As long as we don’t lose to Team USA or Wales.
Matthew (ITFC) – upping the Prozac dose


Crock of shirt
I feel like no one is talking about one of big discussion points from the match; the Germany kit.

Traditionally Germany have had some good kits (1990 an obvious zenith).

But their new one? Not for me, Clive. Kind of looks like they all got runover by a motorbike before the match.

Although England’s red one does look pretty good actually, I feel. So at least in that battle the Three Lions were victorious last night.

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