Chelsea’s Reece James has been included in the England squad for this month’s triple-header of World Cup qualifiers because of his “exceptional” club form, manager Gareth Southgate has said after taking the ruthless decision to drop Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.
England face San Marino, Albania and Poland later this month as they being their road to Qatar as well as build up for this summer’s European Championship.
While the decision to include James and Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier instead of Alexander-Arnold is unlikely to go down well on Merseyside, the Three Lions boss was clear in his reasoning.
“There are are areas where we have incredible competition for places,” Southgate said. “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.”
Southgate also hinted at using James’ clubmate Mason Mount in a deeper midfield role later this month, likely using him as a double pivot with West Ham’s Declan Rice if he sticks with a 3-4-3 formation.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham was included in the squad despite questions over his availability around quarantine regulations in Germany, while Tottenham’s Harry Winks and Fulham’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek were left out.
“Kalvin Phillips and James Ward-Prowse have played particularly well,” Southgate said of his midfield options. “But we think Mason Mount can play in that deeper role as well and we have Jude who has had a super first season with some great experiences for a young player, particularly the Champions League games against Seville recently, so in every area of the pitch we have difficult decisions with good players.”