Just as the Premier League season is getting into full swing again, we must pause for another round of internationals.
England manager Gareth Southgate – finally allowed back into stadiums in recent weeks to assess players first-hand – announces his latest squad on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s set to be much larger than the usual selection of 23 players because England have three fixtures this month and because managers are on edge about player burn-out.
England manager Gareth Southgate watches last week’s match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United as he prepares to name his latest squad
All at Wembley Stadium
October 8 Wales Friendly
October 11 Belgium Nations League
October 14 Denmark Nations League
The Three Lions first play Wales in a friendly on Thursday next week before a home double-header in the UEFA Nations League.
First up are Belgium, the world’s No 1 ranked team, on Sunday October 11 and then Denmark on Wednesday October 14.
All three games will be at Wembley but behind closed doors and England fans will certainly be hoping for a bit more life from their team after last month’s drab 1-0 win in Iceland and goalless draw with Denmark.
Southgate switched from his familiar 4-3-3 set-up to a 3-4-3 shape for the match in Copenhagen though it failed to have the desired effect.
Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood made their senior England debuts in Reykjavik but were subsequently sent home in disgrace after breaching Covid-19 protocols by inviting two girls into the team hotel.
The pair are unlikely to be called up this time but Harry Maguire is expected to return having been dropped from the last squad following his arrest in Mykonos.
Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden will miss out after being sent home from Iceland in disgrace
Kyle Walker’s selection is in doubt after the defender was sent off in Iceland last month
Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are ruled out through injury and Kyle Walker’s place is in doubt following his red card against Iceland.
Everton’s in-form striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Harvey Barnes of Leicester are among those pushing for a first call-up.
We take a look at the team Southgate should pick based on stats from the opening matches of the season. We’ve gone for the 4-3-3 formation.
Manchester United’s Dean Henderson is pushing hard for a first cap after a couple of clean sheets in early season Carabao Cup outings.
That comes off the back of an impressive Premier League season on loan at Sheffield United.
But Henderson has yet to play a Premier League match for United and, accordingly, Southgate is likely to keep faith with Jordan Pickford for the October games.
Pickford continues to perform well for England despite some well-publicised errors for Everton in the recent past.
But the Toffees have started the season superbly and Pickford, with a 70 per cent save success rate and just three goals conceded in his three league outings, should keep his place.
Jordan Pickford has made some errors but has also been solid during Everton’s bright start
Manchester United’s Dean Henderson will be pushing hard for the England No 1 spot
Here’s an area where England have an embarrassment of riches at the moment.
If Walker is overlooked, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold would appear to be Southgate’s natural pick in this position.
But actually, the stats suggest that Chelsea’s Reece James should be given a first call-up and an opportunity to impress.
While Alexander-Arnold has had more shots so far this season, James has actually scored – that thunderbolt against Brighton – has a better pass completion and has delivered more crosses.
Defensively, James has also won more tackles, made more clearances and won more duels in the air than Alexander-Arnold in roughly the same amount of Premier League game time.
But, of course, the Liverpool man has the prior international experience even if James is in superior form.
Chelsea’s Reece James deserves a first England call-up and a chance to impress Southgate
James has performed better in many departments than regular right-back Alexander-Arnold
Though Maguire will return to the England squad, his performances so far this season for Manchester United suggest he shouldn’t necessarily walk straight back into the team.
Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who is being used more and more at centre-back rather than in defensive midfield by Jose Mourinho, deserves a place.
He started both of England’s games last month in that position and his club stats show more clearances both on the ground and in the air than anyone else in the squad.
Dier is also comfortable with the ball at his feet, with a pass completion nearing 88 per cent, and will be a good outlet if England play from the back.
Eric Dier looks increasingly strong at centre-back and should keep his place for England
Harry Maguire won’t necessarily walk straight back into the England team after a few uncertain moments in Manchester United’s back line
While Maguire has the edge on Gomez when it comes to clearing the ball, he is more likely to commit a foul and isn’t as reliable in moving the ball forwards out of defence.
United have also looked far more susceptible in defence so far this season than Liverpool.
Not far behind Gomez, however, is Everton’s Michael Keane, who has enjoyed a really solid start to the season and should be in Southgate’s squad.
Southgate didn’t actually name an out-and-out left-back in his last squad, opting to play Kieran Trippier in the role in both games.
This time, it will be between Manchester United’s Luke Shaw, who was out injured last month, and Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, who has only featured in the Carabao Cup so far.
Shaw will likely get the pick almost by default as he’s actually played in the Premier League though that could change if Chilwell makes his league debut for Chelsea against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Shaw’s stats are decent enough though he didn’t have the best game in the defeat to Palace and long-term Chilwell is likely to be the better England option.
Luke Shaw could well get the England nod with options scant in the left-back position
Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell is likely to be the first choice pick in the position going forward
Southgate was criticised for playing two holding midfielders against Denmark – Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips – last month.
He’s be justified in doing so (and perhaps fielding a 4-2-3-1) against the top class Belgium side, but in the other games one will suffice.
With Dier at centre-back, this boils down to one of Rice or Phillips.
And there isn’t much to split the pair. West Ham’s Rice has the better passing stats this season and is more likely to move the ball forward.
West Ham’s Declan Rice is the lead contender to play England’s defensive midfield role
Kalvin Phillips of Leeds (left), in action against Sheffield United, isn’t too far behind Rice
He’s also intercepted the ball more often and the Hammers have conceded fewer league goals than Leeds, so he must be doing something right.
But Phillips is more effective in the tackle and has the ability to deliver a good corner kick.
They could play in tandem against Belgium but the nod must surely go to Rice purely because of his greater experience at this level.
In the absence of Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Foden, the options elsewhere in midfield are a little more limited than usual.
Chelsea’s Mason Mount looks as close to a shoo-in as it’s possible to be this time around.
He was excellent as Chelsea stormed back from three goals down to draw at West Brom last weekend, scoring once and setting up another.
Mount has been busy this season creating chances, has a high pass completion at 85 per cent and isn’t afraid to put his foot in and make a tackle either.
Chelsea’s Mason Mount is surely a shoo-in to the next England team after a bright start
Tottenham’s Harry Winks also has a good chance of playing the No 8 role for England
For the other spot, a case can be made for both Tottenham’s Harry Winks and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse.
Ward-Prowse received an opportunity in Iceland in the injury absence of Winks but the Spurs man shades the all-important passing stats in their early Premier League games.
Mind you, Ward-Prowse certainly deserves another opportunity to impress at some stage. He offers a set-piece threat and isn’t afraid to have a shot from distance.
Jadon Sancho was the understandable first choice pick in this position for both games last month.
The Borussia Dortmund star enjoyed an exceptional season in 2019-20 with 20 goals and 20 assists across all competitions.
Jadon Sancho remains the natural pick on the right side of England forward line this month
He’s also started the current campaign brightly though has been suffering from a (non-Covid) respiratory infection.
Assuming that clears up, and with no competition with Greenwood, Sancho will continue here for England.
The big question is whether he’ll be a Manchester United player by then!
Here’s an interesting one. If you were to pick England’s centre-forward based solely on form this season, then Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin would not only be getting a first call-up but would be straight into the team.
Calvert-Lewin has five goals in three Premier League games and eight overall in a blistering start to the season.
Compare that to regular Harry Kane, who has scored just the once for Tottenham so far.
Everton’s in-form striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin will surely be called up for the first time
Calvert-Lewin would start up front ahead of Kane if the team was selected just on current form
Even Southampton’s Danny Ings, who has three in four games, would be higher in the pecking order than Kane as it stands.
Obviously, Calvert-Lewin isn’t going to dislodge the England captain in the big games this month but surely he will receive a first call-up and his first senior cap.
If he doesn’t, Southgate surely hasn’t been watching properly.
This is another position where England have an abundance of options at the moment.
Raheem Sterling started there in last month’s internationals in the absence of Marcus Rashford, but the Man United forward is now fit again.
Jack Grealish also made his debut in that role and Leicester’s Harvey Barnes is pushing for a call-up following a bright start to the season.
Aston Villa’s in-form Jack Grealish has every chance of further England involvement this month
Leicester’s Harvey Barnes (left) is knocking on the door after a fine start to the campaign
The pick would go to the Aston Villa man, who scored one and set up another in Monday night’s victory over Fulham.
His passing has been on point, he delivers plenty of crosses and gets into good positions behind opposing defences.
Barnes also has a goal and an assist in Premier League action this season and a 70 per cent shooting accuracy, so may make the squad.
It will take a fair bit to dislodge Sterling and Rashford from this role in the long-term, however.
HOW ENGLAND WOULD LINE-UP IF PICKED ON EARLY SEASON FORM
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