SOUTHGATE'S YOUNG LIONS: THE LATEST IN A LONG LINE OF ENGLAND CALL-UPS
Gareth Southgate’s latest squad selection has seen debut inclusions for three of England’s most talented youngsters - it’s exciting times to be an England fan.
Southgate has chosen an inflated 30-man squad to face Wales, Belgium and Denmark, and after impressing last year, and in the early weeks of the 2020/21 season, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Bukayo Saka and Harvey Barnes are on that list.
Now approaching four years in the England hot-seat, Southgate has given an incredible 36 players their national team debut during his time in charge, with six occurring just last month.
Calvert-Lewin, Saka and Barnes will be hoping to be the latest on that list, and they’ve got every chance, considering the quick turnaround of games next week and their form so far this season.
A different beast under Carlo Ancelotti, Calvert-Lewin has transformed himself into one of the league’s most complete strikers over the past nine months and is in sparkling form this season already.
Since Ancelotti’s appointment in December 2019, no player has scored more Premier League goals than Calvert-Lewin’s 13, a bold statement that most likely earned him his first senior call-up.
In his six appearances in all competitions so far this season, Calvert-Lewin has scored nine, equating to a goal every 53 minutes - an incredible feat for any player.
Of players to play more than 90 minutes so far this season, only Mohamed Salah (5.7), Aleksandar Mitrovic (5.7) and Sadio Mane (4.5) have taken more shots per 90 than Calvert-Lewin’s 4.3, and, using the same metric, the Englishman also ranks fourth for aerial wins per 90, with 10.4.
His link-up with Richarlison and James Rodriguez has been delightful so far this season, and Everton are looking like a force to be reckoned with, largely down to Calvert-Lewin’s all-round game.
Harry Kane will likely start most games for England, but Calvert-Lewin will be fighting the likes of Danny Ings and Tammy Abraham for the role of back-up to the Spurs striker.
On current form, the Everton man deserves it.
The most versatile player in the game? There’s certainly an argument for it.
Since breaking into the Arsenal first-team squad at the start of last season, Saka has played: left-back, left wing-back, left-wing, right-wing and in central midfield, and performed exceptionally in each one.
Mikel Arteta’s favouring of a 3-4-3 system this season surprisingly hasn’t benefitted Saka, with the youngster accumulating just 89 minutes in the three Premier League games.
However, his talent shone through last season, and it was a shock to many that he wasn’t called up in September, especially considering the injury issues at left-back for England.
His best position is certainly up for debate, but with 15 goal contributions in all competitions last season, his attacking endeavour can’t be denied.
Thanks to his spell at left-back, his defensive contribution was also high, completing 2.4 tackles and interceptions per 90, and this is evidently something that has impressed Southgate.
At just 19 years old, the future is bright for the boy from Ealing.
One of the most underrated talents in England, Harvey Barnes has quietly gone under the radar at Leicester and has finally reaped the rewards of his impressive early career.
His end product might need some work if he wants to become a regular in the England squad, but he still managed 14 goal contributions in the Premier League last season, which was more than the likes of Bernardo Silva (13), Adama Traore (13), and Nicolas Pepe (11).
Barnes’s expected goals and expected assists per 90 tally of 0.54 last season also bettered his Foxes’ teammate James Maddison’s 0.37 as well as Jack Grealish’s 0.40.
With a goal and an assist already to his name this campaign, Barnes looks set to replicate last season’s impressive form, and could well book a space on the plane for the Euros next summer.
Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford will rotate out wide for the Three Lions, but Barnes has the quality to challenge for a spot on the bench, and if Leicester continue their early season form, he has every chance of achieving this.
Whether or not any of these three manage to play in the upcoming games is yet to be seen, but if they do, then expect to be impressed.