England manager Gareth Southgate has named his initial 27-man squad for the upcoming Uefa Nations League finals.
The Three Lions face the Netherlands in the semi-finals on June 6, with a potential final against Portugal or Switzerland on June 9.
England’s chances of winning the trophy have been thrown into doubt due to the success of Premier League clubs in European competitions. Chelsea and Arsenal contest the Europa League final on May 29, while Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur face off in the Champions League on June 1.
But that has not stopped Southgate naming the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Trent Alexander-Arnold in his initial squad, with those names also likely to make it into the final cut.
England’s 27-man squad
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland, Tom Heaton, Jordan Pickford.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Harry Maguire, Danny Rose, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Ross Barkley, Fabian Delph, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse, Harry Winks.
Forwards: Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Nathan Redmond, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Callum Wilson.
Southgate will name his final 23-man squad for the Nations League on Monday 27 May, but who are the biggest winners and losers from the initial list of 27?
Winner: Nathan Redmond
In the past England fans have berated managers for picking players based on the clubs they play for rather than form. But Nathan Redmond is proof that Gareth Southgate does pay attention to those outside the biggest clubs in England.
The 25-year-old has been in very good form for Southampton since the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl, playing his part in the Saints’ fight against relegation.
Between December 5 and the end of the season, when Hasenhuttl took charge, Redmond was directly involved in 10 Premier League goals – scoring six and recording four assists. Among Englishman only Jamie Vardy (16), Raheem Sterling (13), Harry Kane (12), Troy Deeney and Marcus Rashford (both 11) were involved in more during that time.
But it isn’t just Redmond’s goal contributions that has earned him a place in Southgate’s squad. Hasenhuttl’s style of football is somewhat similar to that of Southgate’s, with emphasis on pace and pressing high up the pitch – something the England manager noted in his press conference.
He said: “I think he finished the season really well. I think the new manager [Ralph Hasenhuttl] has had a positive effect: a lot of pace, playing the high press and he has started to score more regularly.”
Redmond has a lot of competition for places in the England squad including Sterling and Jadon Sancho, but there is no telling what the Southampton man could do if given a second cap at the Nations League.
Loser: Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Ruben Loftus-Cheek just cannot catch a break. After initially struggling to get into Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea team, the midfielder worked hard to prove his manager wrong.
— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) May 16, 2019
He had finally turned into the midfielder Chelsea needed and was predicted to start in Chelsea’s Europa League final at the end of the month, before heading to Portugal with England.
But in a post-season friendly for Chelsea, disaster hit. Starting on the bench in the Blues’ 3-0 win over New England Revolution on Thursday, potentially to try and protect him from injury, Loftus-Cheek came on at half-time at the Gillette Stadium.
Though the game was not too intense, Loftus-Cheek lasted just 25 minutes before having to come off with a suspected ankle injury. It was later confirmed to be a ruptured Achilles – ruling Loftus-Cheek out for the foreseeable future.
Not only did it take Loftus-Cheek’s Europa League final away but also the Nations League, with Southgate confirming he would have been included in the squad.
“I went to bed last night and Ruben’s playing well and in the squad,” he told reporters. “But today he will miss a major European final and a huge opportunity with us.
“I’m really disappointed for him.”
Winner: James Ward-Prowse
Sometimes good club form is not enough to earn you an international call-up. Sometimes you need a lucky break – or an injury to go your way.
While England fans will be upset with Loftus-Cheek’s injury, one beneficiary is James Ward-Prowse who has been named in a senior England squad for just the third time.
There is no denying the 24-year-old has had a good season at Southampton, as another player to impress under Hasenhuttl – though his impact may slightly have gone under the radar compared to the likes of Redmond.
Since Hasenhuttl took charge of Southampton in December, Ward-Prowse has scored an impressive seven goals in the Premier League – the fifth-most of any Englishman. But he has also proven his threat on the ball, creating 38 chances, 25 of which have been from set pieces – a fine example of the danger Ward-Prowse poses.
And given England’s recent history with scoring from dead-ball situations, it looks set to be a match made in heaven if Ward-Prowse is given game time.
Loser: James Maddison
While Ward-Prowse and Redmond have been celebrating the fruits of their hard work, one big surprise omission for the England squad is James Maddison.
Most chances created in the 2018-19 Premier League season:
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 12, 2019
The Leicester City man has been simply superb for the Foxes this season, really thriving under Brendan Rodgers and forming part of an impressive young squad.
Maddison ended the Premier League season above the rest in terms of creating chances, with a round 100 – the only player to reach that number for the campaign.
When the 22-year-old was left out of England’s squad for European Championship qualifiers in March, Southgate gave the reason of Maddison’s No.10 position not existing in his current tactics.
But this time around it seems Maddison has been left out of the squad so as not to disrupt his preparations for England U21s’ European Championship campaign which kicks off in June. Despite being 22, Maddison is still eligible and expected to turn out for the tournament due to being born after January 1, 1996 – the cut-off point for age restrictions.
However, this goes against Maddison’s previously-expressed wishes, with the 22-year-old saying in March that it would be “perfect” to play in both the Nations League and the U21 European Championship.
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Winner: Fabian Delph
While the call-ups of Redmond and Ward-Prowse showed Southgate’s willingness to focus on form, the inclusion of Fabian Delph showed the England boss is not perfect.
Delph has played just 20 games across all competitions this season, amassing 1,219 minutes of football, an average of 42 per match. His last appearance for Manchester City came in their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham in the Champions League semi-final, and Delph hasn’t been in a matchday squad since
This shouldn’t be good enough for a player to earn a call-up, especially when there is a trophy on the line.
And it’s not just the lack of minutes that should count against Delph. The Englishman has failed to have the same impact on Man City this season as he did last year, when he deservedly earned a place in England’s World Cup squad for his option as a utility player.
But now England have good depth in their squad and there are better players who have missed out with Delph involved.
Loser: Luke Shaw
The 2018/19 season was not a good one for Manchester United, but Luke Shaw can exit the campaign knowing he was one of the few to prove his worth.
Shaw entered the campaign with his future in doubt after concerns of his fitness were very publicly aired by Jose Mourinho.
But, rather than sulk, Shaw fought for his place and became United’s number one choice at left-back while also earning a return to the England set-up.
His performances for United were enough to win the club’s Player of the Year award and might have seen Shaw on his way to Portugal with England.
But instead, Southgate opted for Ben Chilwell and Danny Rose – who have both enjoyed similarly good seasons. And the England boss was particularly blunt on why he left Shaw out.
When asked if it was a difficult decision to leave Shaw out, Southgate told reporters: “No. Ben Chilwell and Danny Rose have been excellent.
“At the moment they’re ahead. They’ve been completely committed to the England shirt and they’re two very good players.
“There’s high competition for places but in that one in particular we are blessed with options.”
Winner: Harry Winks
While Loftus-Cheek was ruled out of the England squad through injury, Harry Winks has been given a chance to recover from a lay-off of his own to play for the Three Lions.
The midfielder underwent surgery in April for a groin injury he picked up in March but is in contention for Tottenham’s Champions League final at the start of June – just days before the Nations League kicks off.
As a result, Winks has been given the chance to prove his fitness for the England squad, with Southgate set to announce his final-23 list on May 27.
Winks has had a good season with Tottenham, looking at home in Mauricio Pochettino’s midfield alongside Moussa Sissoko – an unlikely partnership which played its part in helping Spurs’ run to the Champions League final.
And it’s clear Southgate thinks very highly of Winks, with the England boss saying: “I think Harry Winks deserves to be in this initial squad and then we’ll see from there.”
Loser: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Like Maddison, Wan-Bissaka is likely to be included in England’s U21 squad for the summer European Championships, but the Crystal Palace defender would have every right to be annoyed for not making the senior team.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka's Premier League season by numbers:
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 12, 2019
Wan-Bissaka has been phenomenal for Palace this season, reminding some of the best right-backs in the league that defending is still a big part of the role.
The 21-year-old made 84 interceptions in the Premier League, with only Etienne Capoue (86) performing better. Wan-Bissaka also proved a titan at tackles, attempting 129 – the third-best record in the league – with a success rate of 69.78%.
But that was not good enough for a call-up. Instead, Kieran Trippier – who has had a torrid season for Tottenham – retains his place in the England squad, most likely due to his previous international exploits.
And this could eventually spell bad news for England, with Wan-Bissaka also eligible to represent DR Congo, who could pull of a coup to get the right-back – in a similar way to Ivory Coast winning Wilfried Zaha’s allegiance.