Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been left out of Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad, with Jesse Lingard, John Stones and Luke Shaw all included for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Jude Bellingham, meanwhile, could make his competitive debut – if Covid-19 quarantine rules allow him to play – while Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins has earned his first call-up having edged out Leeds United star Patrick Bamford.
The big news surrounds Alexander-Arnold’s absence, with Southgate explaining that he doesn’t feel the Reds right-back has been playing well enough for his club to warrant a call-up.
Who is in the England squad?
England face San Marino at Wembley on March 25 before further fixtures away at Albania on March 28 and then Poland – who will be without Robert Lewandowski due to quarantine rules – at home on March 31.
Southgate has made plenty of changes from his last squad, with Manchester United defender Shaw having been welcomed back from the international wilderness.
The last of the 25-year-old’s eight caps for England was won back in 2018, with struggles for form and fitness seeing him slip down the pecking order. He has, however, been in the best form of his career in 2020-21 and has earned a place back in the squad.
Another man who was in danger of becoming a forgotten figure at Old Trafford, Lingard, is also back in Southgate’s plans.
The 28-year-old has been thriving during a productive loan spell at West Ham, with his creative qualities returning to the fore on an English top-flight stage.
Manchester City centre-back Stones is also looking to make the most of a domestic reversal in fortune as he returns to the national team fold.
The 26-year-old defender has not represented his country since November 2019, but has made himself impossible to overlook with a string of fine performances under Pep Guardiola.
Uncapped Aston Villa striker Watkins has also earned a place in the squad following an impressive season in the Premier League for Aston Villa that has seen him score 10 league goals.
Dortmund midfielder Bellingham, meanwhile, has also been called up despite doubts about his availability amid travel restrictions in and out of Germany due to coronavirus.
Southgate said of Bellingham: “We’ve left him in at this moment and it looks like we won’t be able to take him. The quarantine rules in Germany look like they will rule him out. As we have seen, those rules can change so quickly while we are investigating, we wanted to name him in the squad.
“We have got a really good relationship with Dortmund, so there are no issues between us and the club. We have explained to Jude, we are leaving him in there but it’s looking doubtful at this moment of time unfortunately for him to join up.
Who missed out?
The most glaring omission is Alexander-Arnold, who has been a mainstay of England squads since the 2018 World Cup but has been overlooked amid his poor form for Liverpool, which has coincided with the Reds’ slump in the Premier League.
Southgate said of the decision to leave out the right full-back: “There are areas where we have incredible competition for places. Trent is very unfortunate but I don’t think he’s played at the level that he found in the last couple of years.
“He’s getting close to that now. In the last few weeks he’s definitely taken steps in the right direction. It’s simply we think Reece James and Kieran Trippier have had exceptional seasons with their clubs and Kyle Walker is in great form with Manchester City.
“We have other players in the league who are also playing well in that position – Cash at Aston Villa, Ayling at Leeds – and we’ve got two very good right backs in the Under-21s. It’s a remarkable position of strength and what I said to Trent earlier today was I have made the same call to Kyle and Kieran in the past.
“Their response was a good one. They took up the challenge and found themselves back in the squad. Trent is a super talent and I’m certain will play a big part in the future. He misses out this time but we could quite conceivably be sitting here in the summer and he’s with us.”
Also missing from the squad is Leeds forward Bamford , despite the 27-year-old impressing this season following his club’s promotion to the top-flight.
Jack Grealish, meanwhile, has not recovered from injury in time to take his place in the squad, while Danny Ings is also absent having suffered a muscle issue in Southampton’s win over Sheffield United.
England squad in full
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Sam Johnstone (West Brom), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Wolves), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (West Ham), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Declan Rice (West Ham), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Strikers: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)