Image: Wikimedia Commons / Ardfern
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Ardfern

Get him on the plane, Gareth? Why it’s too soon to call up Jarrod Bowen

In recent times, West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has been garnering a great deal of attention for his performances. As a Welshman, though, I can remove myself from the hysterical bubble that often emerges once an English player starts putting together a string of impressive performances.

This level of hype is exacerbated further when it comes from unlikely sources, outside of the usual suspects – the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, or any of the other heroes from Euro 2020 which took place this past Summer. We can certainly see this trend happening with Jarrod Bowen. This is not to say that Bowen’s statistics and performances this season are not impressive. However, this displays a bigger problem with English football, fans, and media more generally speaking.

I am not trying to take anything away from Bowen. So far this season, he has scored six goals and contributed another seven assists. He has also looked like the brightest spark for West Ham United, which is a big compliment given that they have had emphatic wins against Norwich, Crystal Palace, and Watford of late.

As a winger he can beat players off the dribble, whip crosses into the box, set up his teammates with great vision or calmly place the ball in the back of the net. All of this has led to many journalists, pundits and fans crying out for Bowen to be included in Southgate’s next England squad for their upcoming friendly against Switzerland in March. Does Bowen really deserve a spot in the England squad though?

Looking at the last England squad that decimated San Marino, there are four players that can play on the wing (Jarrod Bowen’s position) – Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling. Importantly, all these players are household names in both domestic and international English football so it would be hard to see any of them being dropped for Bowen. In terms of team selection, I have never been a fan of managers selecting players on reputation so let us dive into the statistics.

Statistically, Bowen has outperformed Foden, Grealish, Saka and Sterling so far in the Premier League. Firstly, Foden sits at five goals, three assists. Grealish – two goals, two assists. Saka – six goals, four assists. And, finally, Sterling – seven goals, one assist. While it is quite close between Bowen, Saka, and Sterling, he has clearly outshone both Foden and Grealish. Surely then, this should secure his place at least in the England squad, if not even the starting eleven.

Until Bowen works on his versatility, I do not think he will be getting an England call-up

Still, there is a danger in Bowen’s case being purely based in Premier League statistics. Most of Bowen’s goals and assists have come against clubs such as Norwich, Crystal Palace and Watford, as previously mentioned so questions can be raised over whether Bowen would be able to flourish against tougher opposition on the international stage. For example, when West Ham played Arsenal in December, Bowen did extraordinarily little.

Furthermore, one must remember that Foden and Grealish have proven themselves both in the Champions League as well as in the England shirt. Therefore, I think it would be hard for Southgate to select Bowen ahead of any of the current wingers in the England squad. Unless Bowen can show his versatility by playing more centrally for West Ham; either slotting into a central attacking midfield role or taking on the role of striker, I do not see him being included in the upcoming England squad.

There is of course always the possibility of injuries. As we have seen with both Ben Chilwell and Reece James, who have recently sustained injuries that will keep them out for some time, this can lead to opportunities for other English players that have been in the back of the mind for Southgate. Should England suffer from more injuries in the attacking areas of the pitch, I could certainly see Bowen getting his call up.

Overall, Bowen is a skillful player who is in an extremely rich vein of form right now. However, his statistics are not impressive enough to displace players such as Foden, Grealish, Saka or Sterling who have impressed at times this Premier League season as well as having experience in big games, against tough opposition. These players also have a level of versatility that lends itself well to international football. Until Bowen works on this, I do not think he will be getting an England call-up.

Beyond Jarrod Bowen and his on-field displays this season, it raises questions about English fans and media more generally. Should a few impressive games lead to cries of England selection? We see this happen often with players such as Patrick Bamford, who soon lose their form and are forgotten just as quickly. Therefore, as a last point, I think we as fans should be careful when it comes to squad selections as more needs to be thought about than just what a player has done over a brief period.

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