This week, Gareth Southgate finalised his England squad for the upcoming European championships. There was considerable media coverage surrounding the challenge facing Southgate in trimming the provisional 33-man squad down to the final 26. Much of the discussion centred around the wealth of options England have at right back and whether Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold would make the final squad.
I have previously discussed England squad selection (here) with the results suggesting that much of Southgate’s success has come down to selecting players based on form rather than reputation. This piece explores whether Southgate has again opted for form over reputation in his squad and sets out some potential reasoning for the inclusion of some players at the expense of this season’s ‘in-form’ players.
Table 2 compares players selected for the actual Euro squad with players selected for the optimal squad based on FPL points. Overall, there are twelve differences between the actual squad and optimal squad. However, if we dig a little deeper into the data three key underlying factors emerge for these differences.
Firstly, as previously mentioned, there are three selection differences resulting from the inclusion of players playing outside of the Premier League. Secondly, squad rotation amongst Champions League chasing clubs may explain the inclusion of a further four players that did not make the optimal squad. Dean Henderson (started less than half of Manchester United’s games), Kyle Walker (only played back-to-back 90mins once for Manchester City in second half of season), Reece James (13 games didn’t complete 90 mins), Luke Shaw (11 games didn’t complete 90 mins) all made the squad despite not accruing enough FPL points for the optimal squad. Thirdly, the inclusion of Jack Harrison, James Ward Prowse and Jared Bowen in the optimal squad at the expense of Jordan Henderson, Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice may be explained by the FPL points system. FPL is weighted heavily towards rewarding attacking returns for midfielders thus holding midfielders tend not to perform very well in the game.
The one player that may justifiably be feeling disappointment at not even making the provisional 33-man squad is Patrick Bamford (Leeds United). Bamford has outperformed expectations this season with 17 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League, ranking only second to Harry Kane in FPL points. However, he was unable to displace Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Gareth Southgate’s plans despite Calvert-Lewin only ranking fourth amongst internationally active English forwards behind Kane, Bamford and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins.