Since England’s World Cup success in which Gareth Southgate’s side reached the semi-finals in Russia, there has been an attempt by the manager to give younger players a chance to represent their national team. These opportunities are not being taken for granted though and the depth of talent breaking through this season is giving Southgate plenty of options when it comes to squad selection. Not only is young talent breaking through, but players who have been out of the picture have been working their way back into contention too and there is reason for optimism around the current Three Lions side.
Since the summer, a handful of England players have moved away from international football. Gary Cahill stated “It’s time to take a step back” but did not confirm his retirement whilst Jamie Vardy announced his official retirement from his duties with the Three Lions. Vardy’s statement referred to how Southgate “wants to make the squad more youthful” and his last squad selection certainly appeared to do so.
Jordan Henderson, Danny Rose, and Kieran Trippier were the oldest players selected with all three of them aged 28 whilst Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho, and James Maddison were all selected. The draw against Croatia behind closed doors and a memorable night in Spain showed that this squad can challenge against any team.
However, it is not only the international scene in which England youngsters are flourishing. When they feature at club level, they are proving their worth and impressing their club managers and fans too.
Ross Barkley has been a key player for Maurizio Sarri, who has assigned him a forward role which seems to be suiting the playmaker’s game. He has featured in 10 of the 11 fixtures so far this season, scoring three and assisting three in these fixtures. Barkley should be credited after a long-term injury before signing for Chelsea and despite criticism from former manager Antonio Conte, the midfielder has transformed his game and put himself back in contention for Southgate’s side.
Another Chelsea player who has made himself noticed is Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Despite being part of the World Cup squad, Loftus-Cheek has not had much game time at club level. Yet his hattrick against BATE Borisov shows that he should be considered more for Premier League fixtures and the England squad too.
Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell is providing a challenge to the left back position. With Ashley Young perhaps moving away from the England squad, the left backs currently challenging on the international stage are Chilwell, Danny Rose, and Luke Shaw. Chilwell has put in a number of man of the match performances for Leicester this season and has impressive defensive statistics. Not only is his defensive game strong, but his offensive play also gives his side a significant threat from wide play. His ability to shift from defense to attack is something that Southgate likes and he does encourage his full-backs to play in more advanced positions. Chilwell is likely to get a lot more playing time for England if he continues to be a major part of the Foxes defense which will likely be the case.
One player that everybody wanted to see in an England shirt this recent international break is Jadon Sancho. The 18-year-old has impressed since signing for Borussia Dortmund and English fans have kept a keen eye on his progression in the Bundesliga. Sancho did feature as a substitute in the 0-0 draw against Croatia but was given little time to show what he is made of. The tricky winger’s league performances have merited his selection with the youngster scoring four and assisting six in 10 league matches this season. Notably, he has also scored and assisted his first Champions League goals this season. He looks to be a player on the rise who made a risky move, leaving Manchester City and heading to Germany for more playing time. However, his gamble seems to have paid off and he is proving to be a star in the making who could be essential to future England success.
There are players that should not be missed out in this discussion; James Maddison’s electric start to the season earnt him a place in the squad alongside young defender, Mason Mount. Meanwhile, the players who were key to the World Cup campaign have remained impressive. Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling’s performances against Spain won England the game and showed why they should remain in the squad.
Why are more England players being selected?
The World Cup success came with a relatively new side. The introduction of players such as Harry Maguire, Jordan Pickford, and Trent Alexander-Arnold gave the squad a fresh look. Most players had not featured in an international competition and the embarrassing Euro 2016 exit to Iceland meant that the England set-up needed a drastic change. A new manager, new system and new players all added to the semi-final and fourth place finish. The performances in Russia restored faith in English football and fans now want to see improvement. This demand for improvement has led to English talent striving to succeed and work their way into their club first teams.
What does this talent mean for English football?
Since the FA established a new headquarters for the national team at St. George’s in Burton there has been a clear vision for the England set-up that Gareth Southgate has been a key figure in establishing. There has been a restructure on coaching and how to develop young players. This model has been used to help develop players such as Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford and is the same model that is developing the upcoming players that are making their way into the top leagues. With success in an array of youth competitions, it is hard to argue against the system working. In relation to English football, it means that the development of players is probably at the best standard it has ever been, and more and more talents are breaking into top-level football than have before.
The World Cup left England fans with an enormous sense of pride. The group of players went above and beyond their expectations and now there is a new task in hand. With the European Championships taking place in 2020 there is a fight for a place in the 23-man squad. England’s future now lies in the hands of the next wave of players but who will be key players in the years to come?