Gareth Southgate rewarded Ollie Watkins with a first appearance in England for his excellent debut in the Premier League. The 25-year-old Aston Villa striker has scored ten times in competition, two more in the Carabao Cup, and is part of a 26-man squad for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland.
The biggest surprises in Southgate’s announcement were the absence of Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Leeds forward Patrick Bamford. Southgate said Alexander-Arnold was dropped because he did not match the « extraordinary » form of Reece James and Kieran Trippier. Kyle Walker, another right-back, joins that pair in the squad.
« There are some areas of the field where we have incredible competition for seats and Trent is very unhappy, » said Southgate. « I don’t think he has played at the level he has found in recent years, but I think he is getting very close now. I think in the last few weeks he has definitely taken steps in the right direction .
« It just so happens that we believe Reece James and Kieran Trippier had exceptional seasons with their clubs. Kyle Walker is in great shape and we have other players in the league who are also playing well – [Matty] Cash at Aston Villa, [Luke] Ayling in Leeds. We have two very good right-backs in the U21s. It’s a remarkable position of strength.
« What I said to Trent earlier today is that I’ve called Kyle and Kieran the same way in the past and their answer was good. You took on the challenge and found yourself back in the squad and Trent is obviously a super talent and I’m sure he will play a big role at England in the future. This time he missed it. But we could be sitting here before summer and he’s with us. «
Bamford was expected to nod in front of Watkins and at the center forward’s injuries, and Southgate said he was“ very close. ”The previously capped Harry Winks, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Michael Keane were left out.
As expected, Southgate selected the formidable defenders Luke Shaw and John Stones of Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, and recalled Jesse Lingard, who is on loan at West Ham from Manchester United.
Southgate also includes the 17- year old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, although his club is reluctant to release him because he has to return to Germany from the UK for 14 days to isolate himself. The situation is fluid and the hope at the football association is that this will change could, although Southgate said he didn’t expect it to come.
West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was first seen in the absence of the injured J ordan Pickford selected.
Southgate said of Watkins, “We like his push, the speed and the runs behind it. He needs to make some tweaks in linking the game, but did exceptionally well in his first season in the Premier League with a big club. «
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