Gareth Southgate's latest squad - for England's upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland - is not necessarily the final roll-call he'll be taking to Euro 2020. It is, however, one of the final opportunities the England gaffer will have to cast an eye over hopefuls before he names his final list of 23 players in April.
England Euro 2020 squad The complete line-up for March's internationals
With that in mind, this selection was always going to be a big one. Those left out will have no further chances to show what they can do before the final squad announcement, while those included have a valuable opportunity to impress.
Here, we answer some key questions around the latest squad.
Why are no Liverpool players in the squad?
Were this to be Southgate’s squad for the Euros, it would be the first England squad without a Liverpool player to go to a tournament since Mexico ‘86.
While some players have been left out due to injury - Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez, for example - the Three Lions gaffer confirmed form was the reason behind Trent Alexander-Arnold’s omission.
There have only been two England squads for major tournaments without any Liverpool players: the 1954 and 1986 World Cups. https://t.co/FMAk1OmWWoMarch 18, 2021
"I don't think he's played at the level he's been at during the last few years,” Southgate said following the squad announcement on Thursday. “He’s a big talent and I’m sure he will play a big role for England in the future.”
Alexander-Arnold played a key role as Liverpool lifted the Champions League in 2018/19 and then the Premier League last season - registering 14 assists in the process - the right-back has seen his form dip this season. Liverpool’s defensive frailties have been clear since the season-ending injury of Virgil Van Dijk last October, leading Southgate to consider other options over the international break. Chelsea’s Reece James, Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier and Man City’s Kyle Walker have an opportunity to impress in the 20-year-old’s absence.
It remains likely that Jordan Henderson, once fit again, and Alexander-Arnold will be part of Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad.
Who is the biggest shock pick?
Jesse Lingard’s England career looked dead and buried at the turn of the year. Frozen out of the Manchester United first team and seemingly devoid of confidence, few would have expected a return to international duty ahead of a major tournament.
Yet the 28-year-old’s sensational form since joining West Ham United on loan in the winter window means he fully merits this chance. Four goals and two assists in six Premier League appearances for the Hammers have helped David Moyes’ side climb to fifth in the table and Southgate’s decision to reward that form will only help build confidence.
Lingard was a key member of the England side which reached the World Cup semi-finals three-years ago - scoring once and assisting two in six appearances in Russia - and now has a chance to make the Three Lions squad this summer as well.
Is this experimental, or how you expect England to look?
This has the look of a team that Gareth Southgate hasn’t quite decided on yet. A debut call-up for Ollie Watkins, and the inclusion of Kalvin Phillips, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and even Jesse Lingard suggest that this is a squad guided by form rather than past international performance. Notable injuries – Jordans Pickford and Henderson in particular – mean we’re unlikely to see Southgate’s first-choice XI in this international break, so some experimentation is forced.
But the England manager seems to be leaning into this; expect to see more than one starting formation in the coming weeks. A key question is whether he opts for three in defence with wing-backs, or a more popular 4-3-3. There’s scope for both in this squad, and while flexibility is a plus, it’s not clear whether there’s a preference yet.
Anyone not in the squad still expected to make it?
With Jordan Pickford not in the squad this time around - due to injury - the Everton keeper may lose his status as Gareth Southgate’s no.1 come the summer. Leaving him out altogether, however, seems unthinkable at this stage.
Jack Grealish may yet be sweating on his chances of making the Euro 2020 squad, though. Grealish had to wait a long time for a call-up and misses the March internationals through injury. He’s been in scintillating form but given Southgate’s reluctance to pick him last August - he was a late call-up, in the end - he could miss out due to the plethora of exciting players already better-established in the national set-up.
Harry Winks, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Tammy Abraham have slipped down the pecking order and will probably be unlikely picks for the squad this summer. Michael Keane will be disappointed not to have made this squad but still stands a chance of making the Euro 2020 cut, while Danny Ings may well find himself there if he has a strong end to the season. Jadon Sancho will surely be a part of this summer’s 23, too.
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