Gareth Southgate has announced the England squad for the November World Cup qualifiers. The Three Lions host Albania and are away to San Marino, needing four points to secure the top spot in their group and qualify for the World Cup. Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka have once again been called into the squad. Emile Smith Rowe and Ben White did not make the cut.
Gareth Southgate said that Emile Smith Rowe was “unlucky” not to get the call this time around. Heading into the last break, Southgate said the Arsenal attacker was just on the cusp of making it.
Hm. “Unlucky.” If only there were somebody who could change that luck.
Since Southgate said he was close to making the England squad, Smith Rowe has three goal involvements in three matches. He has five in his last five Premier League matches. That’s more than Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, and Marcus Rashford and the same number as Mason Mount (who padded his stats with two meaningless goals against Norwich City in a 7-0 blowout). In fact, only Jamie Vardy has more Premier League goal involvements than Emile Smith Rowe among English forwards.
I’m not saying that Emile Smith Rowe is better than all, or maybe even any, of those players. But on current form, he’s earned the call-up. Especially when you consider the upcoming opponents. England should win both matches comfortably. Surely there will a spot for a 30-minute, energy attacking sub that would be better served giving ESR an England debut than meaningless minutes to an established veteran like Sterling or Kane.
On the defensive side of things, the names that jump out at me are Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady. Mings was recently dropped by Dean Smith at Aston Villa and for good reason — Villa have conceded the third-most goals in the Premier League. On form alone, it’s tough to understand why Mings was called in ahead of Ben White. My guess is that with Harry Maguire’s spotty injury record this season, Southgate wanted to ensure he had a backup with significant experience in competitive matches. As for Conor Coady, picking him over Ben White feels like a toss-up. Coady is in fine form on a streaking Wolves side, so if there was only room for one inexperienced CB, that’s the way it goes.
And now for the less-fun part: I was wrong. I know. I’m as shocked as you are, but it does happen. I expected all four Arsenal players - Ramsdale, White, Saka, and Smith Rowe - to get called in and to play this time around. I was convinced Emile Smith Rowe would get the nod given his strong run of form. But the call-up will come eventually for him, especially if he keeps playing like he has this season. And you can say the same for Ben White getting called back in.