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Five Players Knocking on Gareth Southgate’s Door

When the England squad got together for the first time following their impressive World Cup performance there were few new faces. Gareth Southgate rightly gave the players who performed so well in Russia the chance to stake their claim in the England squad for the longer term but he’s since shown that he is casting his net further and wider in his search for the right recipe for success.

Southgate called up Marcus Bettinelli, Lewis Dunk and Mason Mount from Fulham, Brighton and Derby respectively to his most recent England squad. The message was clear: any English player performing well in the Premier League and any youngster making waves in the Championship has a chance to play for the Three Lions.

By going deeper into the available talent pool Southgate has actually improved the good will around England. Fans always enjoy watching one of their own players getting a chance to play for England whilst a whole new range of players up and down the country will believe there’s a decent chance for their hard work to be rewarded.

Southgate and his assistant manager, Steve Holland, are always being picked up by the television cameras taking in some match or other up and down the country. They clearly have a long list of players who are yet to make it into the England squad. We’ve picked out our selection of the five England players deserving a place in the next squad for the matches against the USA and Croatia. Will any of them join the list below of recent England call ups?

Player Age Club Position
Marcus Bettinelli 26 Fulham Goalkeeper
Ben Chilwell 21 Leicester City Defender
James Maddison 21 Leicester City Attacking Midfielder
Mason Mount 19 Derby County Midfielder
Nathaniel Chalobah 23 Watford Defensive Midfielder
Jadon Sancho td> 18 Borussia Dortmund Attacking Midfielder
Lewis Cook 21 Bournemouth Midfielder

Wilson the Obvious Second Choice for Kane

No international football team can afford to stand still if it wants to even think about competing with the best in the world. Managers must not get set in their ways in terms of their tactical approach nor can they simply pick the same players year in, year out. England and Southgate are no different. Harry Kane is the England captain; he is also the best goalscorer and arguably most important player. And yet even he cannot rest on his laurels.

There have been a few subtle changes in the way that Kane has played lately. He was noticeably more withdrawn during the stunning win over Spain, dropping deeper and playing an important role in the build up to goals rather than only getting on the end of chances created for him by others. It’s a mark of Kane’s ability as a footballer than he is able and willing to adapt when seemingly at the peak of his powers as an out and out striker. Kane’s added versatility is also a great thing for Bournemouth striker, Callum Wilson.

Like Kane, Wilson has taken on the mantel of being his club’s main goalscorer. He was Bournemouth’s top scorer when they won promotion to the Premier League in the 2014/15 season, top scored for them last season and is the evens favourite to do so again in this campaign. The 26-year-old has overcome two injuries which threatened to end his career so he understands the importance of making the most of his opportunities and he’s certainly doing that.

Wilson is a fast, powerful and intelligent striker who can score all sorts of different goals. He’s also good enough on the ball to string together attacks and often picks the right pass even when running forwards at full pelt during a counter attack. That makes him almost the tailormade player to play as back up to Kane. Southgate cannot help but have been impressed by Wilson’s performances so far this season and it would be a big shock were he not to get a chance at least to train with the England squad.

Wan-Bissaka Putting Pressure on World Cup Hero

One of the areas of prowess for which Gareth Southgate has been rightly praised is his tactical flexibility. Along with his coaching staff, Southgate hatched a plan to play a flexible 3-5-2 formation at the World Cup which they believed would maximise their chances in Russia. That turned out to be the right call but Southgate subsequently grew concerned about England’s chances in the long term if they stuck with that approach.

In recent matches, England have reverted to a flat back four. That gives them more options in midfield subject to the quality of their opposition and also gives Southgate the chance to change things up during the match. The one thing that both formations have in common is the importance of the roles of the full backs so the performances of Kieran Trippier this season will have caused some consternation amongst the England coaching team.

The Tottenham full back was a revelation at the World Cup but has been poor by his own standards since. There’s every chance he will lose his place in the England team to Kyle Walker in the short term but in the long term could it be Aaron Wan-Bissaka of Crystal Palace who forces Trippier out?

The 20-year-old has already caught the eye of the England set up. They convinced him to shun the attentions of DR Congo and play youth team football for England. Wan-Bissaka’s performances for Palace this season mean he’ll certainly get more chances to play for the England Under 21s but he may just force his way into the first team sooner rather than later. Wan-Bissaka is a combative defender who is very strong in the tackle and is still learning the positional side of the game. He’s also exciting going forwards which is something that Southgate sees as a priority when picking a full back. His ability on the ball could see him play an important role in England’s counter attacks if given the opportunity. Could that opportunity come against the USA or Croatia?

Left Side Up for Grabs As Well

It’s not just the right hand side of England’s defence that provides opportunities to younger players. Ashley Young’s performances in Russia were impressive but he has already been jettisoned from the running to play left back, with Danny Rose and Luke Shaw the top two in the pecking order. Those two are both capable of getting forwards and impacting the game from either left back or left wingback but there’s a feeling that they may simply be keeping the left hand side warm for Ryan Sessegnon.

Like many Fulham players, Sessegnon has not found the going easy in the Premier League. So much has been made of his abilities that it is easy to forget that he won’t turn 19 until May though. Making his way in the game under such pressure and scrutiny could actually be the making of him. If he is able to develop when every mistake is criticised and every positive leapt upon to make him out as the future of English football, he can cope with the pressures of playing for England.

The big question about Sessegnon is exactly where his best position is. Many Fulham fans will tell you that he is certainly not a full back whilst some believe he is good enough to play as a striker. Whether he goes through a Gareth Bale style transformation into a talismanic forward to reverts to full back like so many talented attacking players before him remains to be seen. Either way it seems certain Sessegnon will be in touch with Gareth Southgate sooner rather than later.

Barnes’ Creativity Catching the Eye

The rejuvenated interest in England has, paradoxically, opened the Three Lions up to more scrutiny. When the general feeling around the team was one of apathy we took it for granted that there were gaping holes in the way that England played. Now that they’ve had an appearance in the World Cup semi final and secured some good results in the Nations League, everybody’s interest in how the side can hope to improve has gone up tenfold.

The most obvious problem that England face is the lack of a classy ball player in midfield. Southgate is clearly hopeful that Tottenham’s Harry Winks is the man who can plug that gap. The 22-year-old is highly competent on the ball and if he continues to improve he could well go on to have an accomplished international career. England will need more creative options though and it’s a couple of Leicester players who could fit the bill.

James Maddison has already shown enough in the Premier League this season to win a first call up to the England squad. Southgate’s not afraid to dip into the Championship though which will give Harvey Barnes hope that his chance to play for England is not too far away.

Barnes has been sent out on loan to three different clubs since signing for Leicester. That is not easy for a young footballer but he’s so far been able to learn from spells at MK Dons and Barnsley and has become a key player for West Brom this season as they look to secure a swift return to the Premier League. Barnes is incredibly confident on the ball and is able to beat opposition players with a drop of the shoulder or a turn of pace. He’s also a creative player who is just as capable of fashioning chances for others as taking them himself.

He must improve defensively to be considered the complete midfielder but Barnes has time on his side and has already impressed for England at youth team levels so Southgate may decide to throw him in with the first team to see how he fares.

Hughes Ready to Step Up

Will Hughes made a big impression for the England Under 21 side but is yet to make the step up to the first team. His form for Watford at the start of this season suggests that is about to change. Hughes is now a Premier League regular and is close to becoming the complete midfielder. He’s combative, creative and capable of scoring goals. It’s that sort of all round game that makes him such a great potential option for Southgate.

We’ve already seen that there is room for improvement in the England midfield. Is Eric Dier really the answer as a holding midfielder? Can England continue to play Jordan Henderson for his work rate and leadership alone? How can Southgate best balance attack and defence when taking on the world’s best international teams? It’s too early to say that picking Hughes will answer those questions but his ability to play different roles (sometimes in the same match) will be vital providing his performances reach a consistent enough level to play international football.

As Hughes showed when signing for Watford from Derby, he is capable of raising his game when playing alongside better players. It would be interesting to see if Hughes would improve similarly if given the chance just to train with the England squad. That’s an option Southgate may well take this season.

Whoever Southgate brings into the squad in the coming weeks and months, though, there are certainly plenty of very promising young players for the England boss to consider.