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Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards?

Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards?

Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards?  - PA/Martin Rickett

Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards? – PA/Martin Rickett

Gareth Southgate has warned that future England managers will have to select players from the Championship if the number of homegrown talent in the Premier League continues to fall.

As the battle-lines were drawn between the Football Association and the country’s biggest clubs, Southgate launched an outspoken critique of the Premier League, saying that the record breaking £815 million spent in the January transfer window by clubs had diminished the chances of game- time for English players. He added that the English game faced an “ethical question” over the 10,000 boys in the academy system and “whether or not there is a realistic chance of them having a career”.

Southgate says that the number of Premier League minutes played by England qualified players [EQPs] has fallen since the World Cup in Qatar from a relatively stable 32 percent over recent years to 28 percent in some recent matchday rounds. He also warned that too few EQPs were getting their chance in the Champions and Europa League and that as a consequence there would be long-term damage to the prospects of the England team.

The Premier League says that the 28 percent EQP figure is an anomaly and that the figure has been stable at 32 percent, the average for the previous five seasons. It also says that at the so-called big six – the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – EQP minutes have been around 27 percent for the last four seasons, 16 percent higher than the average for the four seasons that had preceded that.

Southgate’s comments come as the government white paper on football governance pledged to revisit the new work permit rules for overseas players post Brexit. In previous negotiations the FA had insisted on, among other things, that clubs could no longer sign boys as young as 16 from academies in other European Union nations. The clubs believe the new rules mean they end up signing the same talent for considerably more later in their careers.

Southgate acknowledged the strength of the Premier League but sounded a warning for the future of the England team. “It [EQP percentage of minutes] has been around 32 [per cent] but that’s down from 35 when I took over [in 2016] and 38 in the previous years, so the graph is clear – there’s no argument about that. The concern would be the most recent trend. [In] January there were 55 [inward transfer] deals. [Of those] 44 were either new foreign players coming in or the two that were already here – Jorginho and [Albert] Sambi Lokonga moving inside.

“Of the English deals, a couple of those were second or third-choice goalkeepers, three were youth transfers – one was Romeo Beckham – so that’s 80 percent of the deals coming through January were non-English. That impact of January has played out in the last couple of weeks. If we keep going in that direction it is clear that those numbers are going to drop again.”

He added that some of Chelsea’s best homegrown talents like Mason Mount and Reece James had got their chance because of a Fifa-imposed transfer embargo on the club in 2019. Marcus Rashford, Southgate said, got his chance at United because “there were injuries in the first team”. He added: “If nobody takes a position of trying to protect young English players and their chance then the numbers will continue in the same way.”

Southgate added: “What’s the best way to judge our players? The Champions League. If you look at Champions League minutes this year, we are sixth on that list [for players minutes by nationality]. We’re actually behind Brazil and Portugal. If breaking into the team is the foundation, the Champions League and the upper echelons of the Premier League is the finishing school. The rest of Europe get their foundation in their own domestic leagues and then the cream is sold around the big five leagues and they get the finishing school at the end.”

The Premier League says that cumulative Champions League minutes played by EQP players under the age of 21 was the highest of any nationality for the five seasons between 2017-2018 and 2021-2022. The league points to a dip in transfer activity because of Covid in the previous three seasons before this, which has prompted the current boom in spending. The Premier League also says that the independent rating of the quality of leading Under-21 players in Europe has consistently placed EQPs at the top.

Southgate, however, was unmoved. “I think it won’t hit us [in the England team] necessarily in the next 18 months but if there are 66 [EQPs] players every week [in the Premier League] it does mean that positionally you have to add in what that means. I think we’ve got four left-footed left backs in the league at the moment. So we will have to start looking in the Championship or elsewhere because the additional part for us is that we don’t export many players.

“Of course, we’ve got Jude [Bellingham in Germany] and [in Italy] Fik [Fikayo Tomori] and Tammy [Abraham] but there’s 30 Spaniards playing here, there’s 30 French playing here. We’ve got nobody playing in Spain, not one. We’ve got a couple in Italy. We’ve got a couple in France and we’ve got a couple in Germany. So that is what it is really.”

Asked why he had selected Kalvin Phillips, who has not started a league game for ten months, Southgate suggested that he had done so because he had few other options for what he calls the “single pivot defensive [midfielder]”. He named Declan Rice, Phillips, and Jordan Henderson as having done it. He said that James Ward-Prowse, Oliver Skipp and Harrison Reed all played in the “double pivot” position.

“That’s pretty much it I think,” he said. “So yeah, that’s why we’re picking Kalvin. We think he’s a bloody good player and of course to get into Manchester City’s team is much harder than to get into other teams.”

How the World Cup squad has performed since Qatar

By Luke Edwards

Jordan Pickford (Everton)

It has been another difficult season with Everton, but Pickford has at least remained one of the better players. Rewarded with a new contract last month, he remains first choice for Gareth Southgate but is under pressure from Nick Pope.
Verdict: Stayed the same

Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Still has a tendency to get himself into trouble off the pitch but remains important to Pep Guardiola and there is no sign, at the age of 32, that he has lost any of his pace. Will that still be the case at the Euros in 2024.
Verdict: Stayed the same

John Stones (Manchester City)

Has been deployed at right back at times at the club and has had injury problems but appears untouchable at the international level. If he is fit, he will continue to start for England. Enjoyed a really good World Cup campaign
Verdict: Stayed the same

Harry Maguire (Manchester United)

Surely needs a move away from Manchester United at the end of the season and has found himself behind left back Luke Shaw under Erik ten Hag for one of the center back berths. His career at the club level has been on the skids for some time but also did well at the World Cup.
Verdict: Gone backwards

Harry Maguire - Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards?  - WCNP

Harry Maguire – Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards? – WCNP

Luke Shaw (Manchester United)

He has been solid for Manchester United since the World Cup and seems to be trusted and liked by ten Hag. The Dutchman rates him so highly that he has even played at center back this year. A lot better than he was last season.
Verdict: Improved

Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

Gave the England midfield a really nice balance in Qatar and remains an influential figure at club level too. But there is a suspicion that his best years are behind him and Liverpool are desperate to strengthen their midfield this summer.
Verdict: Gone backwards

Declan Rice (West Ham)

He has become a lightning rod for some critics of West Ham this season and has not been in the same sort of impressive form as last season. Seems eager to find a new club to raise standards.
Verdict: Gone backwards

Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund)

He had such an impressive World Cup campaign that it would have been difficult for him to have even more impact at the club level. At the age of 19, the England team should be built around him for the next decade.
Verdict: Stayed the same

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Has benefited from playing in the best Arsenal side for many years and has embraced the challenge of being one of the most important players. Had an excellent World Cup and continues to get better.
Verdict: Improved

Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Is not necessarily getting better but the England captain has maintained his high standards. Spurs’ challenge for a Champions League place seems to rest solely on his shoulders. But at the age of 29, he may start agitating for a move again this summer.
Verdict: Stayed the same

Phil Foden (Manchester City)

Had a testing time with his club, in and out of the starting XI. There have been positive signs since the World Cup that he is getting back to his best but has not really kicked on from the exciting youth stage.
Verdict: Stayed the same

Jack Grealish (Manchester City)

Has emerged as a far more integral piece of the jigsaw under Guardiola this season and seems to be more comfortable in his surroundings. Southgate surely has to find a place for him in the starting XI.
Verdict: Improved

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

There were green shoots of a recovery emerging before the World Cup, but Rashford’s form since has been scintillating. Prolific in front of goal he has looked like one of the best attacking players in Europe.
Verdict: Improved

Marcus Rashford - Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards?  - Getty Images/Alex Pantling

Marcus Rashford – Gareth Southgate laments lack of England squad depth – do you agree some players have gone backwards? – Getty Images/Alex Pantling

Raheem Sterling (Chelsea)

Has had injury problems which have not helped him settle into a rhythm at Chelsea but his return to the side has helped improve form under Graham Potter. Needs to find more consistency.
Verdict: Stayed the same

Mason Mount (Chelsea)

It has been a poor season by his own high standards and there is a very real possibility that he will leave Stamford Bridge as his contract edges closer to expiration. Needs to rediscover his mojo.
Verdict: Gone backwards

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