Image: Wikimedia Commons/Антон Зайцев
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Антон Зайцев

Bowen in, Henderson out: analysing the UEFA Nations League England squad

Gareth Southgate announced his 27-man squad for this summer’s UEFA Nations League fixtures, where England will travel to Hungary and Germany, before hosting Italy and Hungary at Molineux.

Bowen and Justin are in, while Henderson and Mings are out. Elsewhere, Eric Dier, James Maddison, and Jadon Sancho are overlooked. In this article we’ll break down some of the thinking behind Southgate’s decisions around the latest squad.

Jarrod Bowen’s inclusion should come as no surprise. He has performed extremely well for West Ham in domestic competitions and in Europe. His 18 goals and 13 assists in all competitions make him the third-highest goal-contributor of any English player in the top five leagues this season.

Gareth Southgate has a wealth of attacking midfielders at his disposal. Among just some of those players, Bowen appears a standout candidate, with only Mason Mount boasting a higher rate of goals and assists per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season.

Player      Goals / Assists / Goals+Assists per 90
Jarrod Bowen 12 / 10 / 0.66
Phil Foden 9 / 5 / 0.59
Jack Grealish 3 / 3 / 0.28
Mason Mount 11 / 10 / 0.80
Bukayo Saka 11 / 7 / 0.54
Emile Smith-Rowe 10 / 2 / 0.56

Out of those same players, Bowen ranks highest for most interceptions across all competitions, something which may have tempted Southgate if he wishes to adopt a high press for upcoming games.

There is no doubt that West Ham’s tactical approach is much more defensive-minded than England’s, but Bowen’s increasingly impressive all-round performances this season offer Southgate yet another option as we get ever closer to Qatar 2022.

If Southgate chooses to adopt the 4-2-3-1 formation that got England to the Euro 2020 final, then Bowen would fit nicely into the right-sided attacking midfield player role. This is a position he knows well, having excelled in that exact position and formation for West Ham this season.

But he could also perform well in 3-5-2, a formation Southgate used for the Euro 2020 final and for much of the 2018 World Cup. He has occasionally played through the middle for West Ham, when first-choice striker Michail Antonio has been unavailable.

Bowen might not start for England, but his performances this season show he can be a valuable asset on and off the ball. A place in the World Cup squad beckons if Bowen carries his form into next season.

With Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw injured, England look short of left-backs. Instead, Southgate has looked to the experienced and versatile full-back Kieran Trippier. While Trippier’s inclusion might’ve seemed obvious, James Justin’s was not.

The full-back has appeared intermittently for Leicester since returning from the anterior cruciate ligament injury he sustained back in February 2021. After a year out on the sidelines, Justin returned to make 13 appearances in the league this season.

Despite a lack of playing time this season, James Justin’s inclusion makes sense. Much like Trippier, Justin is very comfortable playing at right and left-back, offering great speed and athleticism.

He also has good knowledge of the England set-up. He has made eight caps for the Under-21 international side, meaning he is well equipped to ease into preparations at St. George’s Park.

He might not expect to start every game, nor make the England squad for the World Cup, but he may prove a useful asset for Southgate.

Jordan Henderson, Tyrone Mings, Eric Dier, and James Maddison are just some of the names missing from Southgate’s 27-man squad for the Nations League. Here are some thoughts behind why they’ve been excluded.

At the time of writing, Jordan Henderson has made 57 appearances for Liverpool this season, and will most likely make his 58th in the Champions League final against Real Madrid. To say it’s been a long season for the entire Liverpool squad is an understatement. Southgate knows what Jordan Henderson can bring to the England squad and will likely feel it’s in everyone’s best interests to give the Liverpool skipper some time off in the summer. His exclusion should not mean he is not in contention for Qatar 2022.

This summer will likely prove a time for experimentation for Southgate, where he’ll hope to learn more about this group of players

Tyrone Mings has been a regular feature of England squads for three years now. In that time, he has continued to assert himself as a very solid Premier League defender, and Southgate already knows he capable of doing a very sturdy job in both a back-four and back-five for England.

However, the inclusion of Marc Guehi and Serie A title-winner Fikayo Tomori could have the potential to move Mings down the pecking order. Guehi and Tomori have had marvelous seasons for Crystal Palace and AC Milan respectively. If they were to continue their form into the nations league in the summer, Tyrone Mings will have a battle on his hands for a seat on the plane to Qatar.

Eric Dier enjoyed a superb end to the season with Tottenham Hotspur. The defender was a stalwart in a back three that kept six clean sheets in their final eleven league games, helping the club secure Champions League football for next season. While Dier has enjoyed something of a resurgence in form, the 28-year-old still can’t find his way back into the England squad.

However, according to Southgate, this does not mean that Dier is out of contention to feature in Qatar 2022. The England boss already knows what he can bring to the international squad. Dier featured heavily in the 2018 World Cup, while his 45 caps for England make him a reliable and experienced option.

Nevertheless, it does seem that Southgate considers Dier to be an option if England play three or five at the back; a role which is currently unofficially held by Wolves skipper Conor Coady. Eric Dier is not out contention, but at this current moment, it seems unlikely he will feature in Qatar 2022.

England’s wealth of options in attacking midfield make them a very exciting team to watch, and potentially one of the favourites to win the World Cup this December. The likes of Mason Mount, Phil Foden, and Bukayo Saka have all excelled for their respective clubs, and are some of the most creative up and coming superstars in World football.

Unfortunately for James Maddison, it means the Leicester City playmaker may find it hard to wangle his way into the England set-up. Maddison has enjoyed a bright spell of form this season; He has directly contributed to 27 goals this season for Leicester in all competitions. The only midfielder to score higher – Mason Mount (29).

It was only four years ago where we were bemoaning the lack of creativity in the England side, as Mario Mandzukic fired Croatia into the World Cup final at the Three Lions’ expense. If such creativity was still needed in 2022, Maddison would be totting up the caps for the national side. He is certainly a good attacking option for England, but more so than Mount, Foden, and Saka? Southgate doesn’t seem to think so.

Other notable players to miss out are Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who both missed out on the previous England squad due to poor form with Manchester United.

The Nations League is in the foreground but coming up over the horizon is Qatar 2022. In the meantime, this summer will likely prove a time for experimentation for Southgate, where he’ll hope to learn more about this group of players.

In Russia 2018, England used a 3-5-2 formation. In 2021, the 4-2-3-1 got us to a European Championship final. We’ll undoubtedly get a better idea of how the Three Lions will lineup after this summer’s UEFA Nations League fixtures, before we look forward to England vs Iran on November 21st.

Saturday 4 June – Hungary v England

Tuesday 7 June – Germany v England

Saturday 11 June – England v Italy

Tuesday 14 June – England v Hungary

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