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Published 10 November 2022 5 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Gareth Southgate on his World Cup squad selection

Written by:

Frank Smith

James Maddison, Conor Gallagher, Kyle Walker and much more was discussed when England head coach Gareth Southgate sat down with the media

Few things get conversations flowing in sitting rooms and pubs across the country like a manager’s World Cup squad selection and today’s was no different.

Just 15 minutes after England’s 2022 FIFA World Cup squad was announced, Gareth Southgate sat down with the media to answer any of their questions.

Here we pick out some of the key selection talking points and if you want to watch the media conference in full, you can do so via the video below.

Balance in the squad

“We wanted to make sure we had the balance of the squad right. I think in this day and age, the squad is more important than ever. With five substitutes, you can have half of your team change during a game, so you want different options for different moments of matches and for different stages of the tournament as well.

“We have had to cover a couple of players who are not yet fully match fit so having 26 available meant we were probably able to take a couple of risks that you might not have been able to with 23.

“But we think the balance is there and we have cover in the positions we need. We're lighter on depth in some positions than others in our country but we think we've got everything covered.”

James Maddison's first and only senior cap came in a game with Montenegro at Wembley back in 2019
James Maddison's first and only senior cap came in a game with Montenegro at Wembley back in 2019

Selection of James Maddison

“He's playing really well. Look, he's a good player. We've always said he's a good player. He's earned the right and we think he can give us something slightly different to the other attacking players that we've got. 

“So I think at various stages there have been conversations and debates about James. There have been moments where ahead of the EUROs, I don't think he was in contention because he had a bit of a problem with his hip. And then I think September was probably a fair debate. But I think he's playing as well as any of the attacking players in this country. And he is a bit different to the others. We've got different types of threat and I think we could need that.”

Later on in the press conference, he added: “He's always been up against some really good players in that area of the pitch and there have been moments where we were playing 4-3-3 with no number ten type profile and that didn't necessarily fit. 

“But he's playing exceptionally well. We like the fact that he finds those pockets of space. He turns, he plays forward and not enough players play forward in this day and age. And of course, his set-play delivery is outstanding and he can score goals from distance, which against low-block defences is another attribute that is a little bit different to some of our other players.”

Conversations with those not selected

“My priority always on these days is the difficult conversations and the sad news, and that is really tough. There are not many situations in football harder than that, maybe releasing a young player at the early stages of their career, but the nature of those conversations, good and bad, reminds you of how much it means to a player to go to a World Cup and I'm very conscious of that. 

“So it is a great day. But also for some I've had to disappoint them.”

10 Nov 2022 33:00

Media conference: Gareth Southgate

The England manager discusses his selection for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The omission of Tammy Abraham

“Tammy's had a poor run of scoring form at the wrong time, really. And it's not a case where we're three or four weeks away from a finals and the start of the first match. We're now ten days away so form could be more important.

“We're watching their club form but we don't really know where they are until we see them face to face and until we see them on the training pitch. We get regular medical updates from all their clubs, but there'll be medical issues that we're not completely aware of yet. We know the form we're seeing in the matches, but even so, you still don't get the full picture from the players until you're able to speak with them and work with them and see how they train with each other.”

Selection of Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker and the absence of Reece James

When it was put to Southgate that Phillips and Walker would not be available to play in the first game due to their recovery from injury, he replied: “No, that's not the case. Kalvin played last night so I think with him, he's free of injury. We are aware that he's not been able to play 70 or 90 minutes. That won't be possible. We're going to have to build his fitness level but he's available, he's free of injury and we don't really have [that type of player]. We have Declan Rice as a defensive midfielder, Hendo can play there, but it's not his number one position, so we don't have a lot of cover for that role in the country. 

“Kalvin is a super player and we feel that's a risk worth taking because generally his fitness is good and we think he can add to the group. 

“Kyle is a little bit different in that he's not back in full training yet but he he's going to be available before the end of the group stage. And of course, we had to make a very difficult call with Reece, who we think is a fantastic player, but he wasn't going to be available until, if everything went perfectly, the latter stages of the tournament and there were too many unknowns on that road to recovery. 

“Also, I don't think we can take a player who's not available for the group - that would be deemed arrogant in some circles, but also if everything went well and he was available and he was ready and we were picking him, then you'd be dropping him into a quarter-final after eight weeks out and that would be really demanding. So it was a tough call but Kyle is a long way ahead of that and is progressing really well.”

Harry Maguire continues to be an important member of Gareth Southgate's squad
Harry Maguire continues to be an important member of Gareth Southgate's squad

On Harry Maguire and communication with clubs around fitness

“Physically, we've had really good communication with all of the clubs in this period on the training loads of all of the players, because we've got to pick that up immediately as it will be Wednesday before we see them on the training pitch. 

“So we needed to know those who are playing, what's their load, those who are playing less regularly, some have had an unbelievably intense schedule, some have had less so. So we're picking up various fitness levels and we've got to get that right on the training pitch.

“We've picked our more experienced defenders and we think that at this moment in time, the younger ones have got some really good qualities, but we don't think they've quite done enough to push the more experienced ones out and we think the tournament we're going into and the level of the matches, that needed to be the pecking order.”

Later in the press conference he added: “Harry is one of our best centre-backs so I think we know within the squad we've got a lot of players that we know have been to tournaments, have performed at the level and know what's required. We've got other players who are playing well, who are in form right at this moment, and we've got to balance all of that when we're picking our team.”

Non-selection of James Ward-Prowse

“He's really competing profile-wise with Bellingham and Henderson and maybe to a lesser degree Gallagher. I don't see him in the same profile as Rice or Phillips as they're different types of players, and he's just behind those guys, frankly, and it's as simple as that. 

“Now, we've still got another round of games to get through, so I've spoken with a few of the players to say that things can still change over the weekend.”

Conor Gallagher played and scored for England MU21s in September, before getting his World Cup call-up
Conor Gallagher played and scored for England MU21s in September, before getting his World Cup call-up

Is there a formal World Cup standby list?

“No, we had to name basically every English player that was available on a long list [at the start of the month] and there are some conversations I've had with players in the last couple of days where clearly they're going to be the next ones in their positions. But then we just don't know what might happen in the next few days. 

“I think there are two left backs that got injured last night, for example, so we've got to be fluid, adaptable and ready for anything really.” 

Conor Gallagher selection

“He's fantastic at pressing the ball and I think there are going to be moments in these games where we need certain attributes and there are any number of players in this squad with different attributes to be able to utilise at those moments and we feel he could be that sort of a player. 

“So he's not as experienced with us as some of the others, but he has an impact in games and he's got a goal threat. When you talk about midfield players, you look at do they stop goals, do they create goals, do they score goals? He does a little bit of all of that, actually. 

“So we were really pleased with the way he responded to being left out of our squad and went with the Under-21s. He performed really well, his mentality was excellent and it's a great example that if you approach it in that way, there's always a route back with us and he's managed to achieve that straight away.”