England boss Gareth Southgate adopted a more stern approach to his squad announcement on Thursday afternoon, opting for youth over experience, and has revealed the reasons behind leaving big names Chris Smalling, Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshire out of his squad ahead of the duo of international friendlies with Germany and Brazil later this month.
The news of some players' exclusion from the 47-year-old manager's selection came as a shock to many, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jermain Defoe also alongside the aforementioned trio who missed out.
However, a particular one of note was Smalling, whose fine defensive form so far this season was not enough to secure him a Three Lions place after being doubted over his ability to play out from the back.
"We have players like (John) Stones and (Eric) Dier and (Harry) Maguire who are even better", the Watford-born orchestrator told the media regarding the Manchester United man's lack of inclusion. "That’s probably the toughest call I’ve had to make because of the team that Chris is playing for and the fact he’s playing and keeping clean sheets.
At last. An England manager finally recognises the fact Chris Smalling is not good enough for England.— Jeremy Cross (@CrossyDailyStar) November 2, 2017
"We want to play a certain way. The players we’ve brought in we want to see using the ball from the back and building up in a certain way. That’s a style I want to have a look at.
"It’s no use us playing from the back and giving goals away. We had the best defensive record in Europe in qualifying. But we’re nowhere near the highest scorers and so we’ve got to address that. Part of that is being able to build and create chances.
"There are some young players for whom this is a good opportunity. I know what Chris can do. We’ve picked young defenders who haven’t got as many games under their belt so this is a great chance to look at them."
However, Smalling was not the only England regular of recent times to whom Southgate had strong words for.
"He’s not playing regularly", the former Three Lions international responded when asked about Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge's omission. "I think it’s very difficult. I don’t remember the last time Daniel had 90 minutes. So again, to come into games like we’re playing, and be able to be at his very best, is very difficult.
"The six attacking players that I’ve picked are the highest English goal-scorers in the league: Abraham, Sterling, Kane, Vardy, Rashford. So bar Rooney who’s retired and Welbeck who’s injured. If data is a thing that floats your boat, they’re in on merit through that."
Midfielder Wilshire was also one to miss out ahead of the high-profile friendly double next week, with his injury-prone nature and again lack of regularity in appearances forcing Southgate to look elsewhere.
"The concern for me with Jack is that it’s not just this one injury, it is many injuries over a long period of time", the 44-year-old added. "If you look at seven or eight years and how many matches he has played, I think it is important that he is able to have a real run of games that we are able to say he is robust, he is ready.
"I don’t need to see him in terms of his quality, so if I am picking him in March I will be delighted because I think he’s a really exciting player.
The year is 2039. People still demand Jack Wilshire be in every England squad even though he retired 10 years ago.— Tim Smith (@timsmith_83) November 2, 2017
"I just want to be certain before I bring him in that he’s able to fulfil the games and robust enough to go into a tournament."