With the build up to the World Cup in Russia firmly underway, England manager Gareth Southgate has some big decisions still left to make. The debate over who will start between the sticks for England in the first game at the biggest tournament in International Football, may not be concluded until the first game. Is there a similar situation at centre-back?
In recent times Southgate has opted to use a system containing three centre-backs. It could be said that John Stones and Harry Maguire are the two front runners to be included all being well. However, who will join them is yet to be made clear. There are a lot of candidates. One that springs to mind would be a more experienced option, Gary Cahill.
Having said that, Newcastle United defender Jamaal Lascelles has gained a lot of admirers this season. The 24-year-old Englishmen has started 26 Premier League games this term, helping his side maintain a total of eight clean sheets. A return which when taken in to account his side are dubbed to be scrapping relegation, isn’t bad.
The Magpies have had plenty of different types of issues this season, on and off the pitch but one bright light has certainly been Lascelles’ Premier League break through.
Especially after he was rumoured to have been out of favour before the season started. Something that the young centre-back is well renowned for is his outstanding leadership qualities. An asset that helped him claim his club’s captaincy at the age of just 22. Why is it though that he isn’t getting an opportunity for England?
Former Middlesbrough head man Southgate, has given several players opportunities to wear their country’s jersey for the first time. Quite a few of the surprise inclusions being from club’s closer to the foot of the table. Since his appointment, Lascelles though, has not been one.
Surely, Lascelles not being included can’t be down to Newcastle’s league position then, when you consider the likes of Tammy Abraham and Lewis Cook have been involved in the national set up recently. Both of whom have been featuring for struggling sides throughout the season. In his most recent squad for the friendlies against Netherlands and Italy, he chose to add uncapped centre-back duo James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson.
Tarkowski, of Burnley had arguably been among England’s better centre-back’s over the course of the Premier League season. A season in which Burnley were superb with the resources they had available. It was almost a matter of when, not if he would be called upon. Although, the inclusion of Swansea’s Mawson may well have been a bitter pill to swallow for Newcastle’s captain. Impressive since Carlos Carvalhal arrived, yes. Good enough throughout the whole season to earn an England call up? I’m not so sure. A benefitting factor mind, may well have been his involvement at the 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Lascelles was last involved with England (at any level) way back in 2014. The lack of recent international experience may well hinder his chances of a late surge for a place on the plane to Russia.
Another sign that Lascelles’ chances of a call up in the near future could be limited, is the surprise use of Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker on the right of a back three in England’s last friendlies. The preference to experiment with use of a full back in a more central position over giving a natural centre-back the nod does seem rather conclusive to his chances. Southgate claimed it was due to his bond with Manchester City team mate Stones.
What are your thoughts? Is Jamaal Lascelles asking the question of an England call up?
By James Miller