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Eddie Nketiah earns first England call-up

Gareth Southgate called. Eddie Nketiah answered.

England U21 v Albania U21 - UEFA Euro Under 21 Qualifier Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Eddie Nketiah has been given his first senior call-up to the England team. The all-time England U-21 leading goalscorer is off to a strong start in the Premier League with two goals in three matches, and Gareth Southgate decided to reward his performances by putting him on the roster for the upcoming matches against Poland in Euro 2024 qualifiers and Scotland in the 150th Anniversary Heritage Friendly Match.

Nketiah will be joined in the squad by Arsenal teammates Aaron Ramsdale, Declan Rice, and Bukayo Saka. Ben White, who left the England World Cup squad mid-competition for “personal reasons” last year, was not included. Whatever the issue or rift was, it clearly has not been patched over, and it seems increasingly likely that it won’t be until Gareth Southgate is no longer the manager.

Ben White’s non-inclusion isn’t the worst thing for Arsenal. The right back is a key piece for the Gunners, and he logs a lot of minutes. Fewer chances for him to pick up an injury and more time to rest will help keep him fit and available for Mikel Arteta.

It’s unfortunate for England, however. White is clearly better, even at centerback, than Harry Maguire. And while Kyle Walker should probably still be picked ahead of White, the Manchester City man is 33. He’s the England right back of the past and the squad doesn’t have a clear successor other than White.

Raheem Sterling is the other notable exclusion from the squad. On form, the Chelsea attacker deserved a call-in. He’s been fantastic in the opening three Premier League matches and looks back to the player that terrorizes opposing defenses with his dribbling and pace after a down year last season.

Sterling’s absence is in part due to Southgate giving Eberechi Eze and Nketiah their first call-ups. You can only include so many attackers in the squad, and Sterling is a known quantity. Most national teams, England included, try to include a few younger players / debutantes for each international window. It’s generally a good practice and bad luck for Raheem Sterling that he’s the odd man out.