Marcus Rashford returned to the England squad for the first time since Euro 2020 but Manchester United team-mates Jadon Sancho and Jesse Lingard missed out.
Gareth Southgate named a 25-man squad for the final World Cup qualifiers at home to Albania and away to minnows San Marino.
Rashford returned after undergoing shoulder surgery following the Euro 2020 final, but Lingard and Sancho were absent.
Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James returned from injury for this month’s fixtures, although Kieran Trippier and Fikayo Tomori dropped out.
Jude Bellingham and Kalvin Phillips came into the midfield, while Ollie Watkins was out and Mason Greenwood was again absent.
Southgate said: “Always difficult (to pick a squad) because we’ve got so much competition for places and we had quite a few players missing last time, which means you bring others in. Then you’ve got more decisions to make.
“Also, some young players who are playing well that haven’t quite made the squad.
“So, we’ve kept a reasonable amount of consistency, really, with the groups that they were with in the summer. They did so well, we’re only five international games on from that. But also there are players pushing that group really strongly.
“Emile (Smith-Rowe), Conor Gallagher, Marc Guehi, in particular are all playing well with their clubs and to put them in we’d have to leave some of these on the sheet out.”
Tino Livramento, Tariq Lamptey and Max Aarons were also praised when the Three Lions boss was talking about the glut of right-back options that saw Alexander-Arnold come in and Trippier omitted.
“We’ve got fantastic competition for places there because Kyle (Walker) was in the team in the tournament for the Euros,” he said.
“Kieran Trippier, who we haven’t selected this time to give a bit of an opportunity to Reece (James) and to Trent.
“But Kieran has always performed brilliantly for us, has been a huge part of us getting to a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final.
“He’s a player that we have so much respect for and I’m sure he’ll be back with us in the future.”
The Manchester United trio of Greenwood, Sancho and Lingard were the most striking omissions from Southgate’s selection.
“Well, I think with Mason, I discussed the situation last time so we’ve been through that,” he said, having spoken of the focus on long-term development after leaving Greenwood out last month.
“With Jesse and Jadon, I mean they just aren’t playing a lot of football compared to the other players in their positions.
“I know people say I’m inconsistent, but I don’t think I am. If you’re playing regularly for your club, you’ve got a much better chance of us assessing your level compared to the rest of the group.
“Sometimes there’ll be a lot of depth in one position and there might not be as much depth in another position and the player that is in the position with less depth might have a better chance of getting in with less club time.
“With these two lads (Lingard and Sancho), they’ve got great competition for places in the positions they play. Jesse has had 10-15 minutes. I don’t know what his form is, what his fitness is, really, to be able to assess him against the rest of the group.
“Both of those boys when I spoke with them totally understood that. They get it. They know that at the moment they’ve got to get playing for their club and playing well and then England is a bonus on the top. But they’re both players that have done well for us and I’m sure they’ll be back with us.”
While forthcoming about his selection decisions, Southgate clammed up about contract negotiations with his deal due to expire after Qatar 2022.
“Well, with the greatest respect, what I discuss with the FA about my contract is nobody’s business but me and the FA,” he said.
“So, as I said, the only thing that I will absolutely share is I think we’ve got to nail qualification before we sit down and have those conversations in real depth because I think focus has got to be to get the points we need to qualify, to get the team to the World Cup finals. And then there’s plenty of time to talk those things through.”
Southgate was speaking for the first time since UEFA ordered the Football Association to play their next competition home match behind closed doors as punishment for the disorder around the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
“I’m aware of lots of people who were at the game who have explained to me what was happening outside and inside,” he said.
“We understand the decision and we’re totally respectful of the decision.
“It is for us as a team of course a blow that we have to play with no fans in the stadium for a game because that’s the advantage of being at home, that’s why home advantage is so important.
“But we’ve got to get on with that. That’s the decision that has been made and we’re totally respectful of it.”
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1