Gareth Southgate’s England are of course primed to return to action in just shy of a fortnight’s time.
Fresh off the back of another pulsating Premier League campaign, which saw a host of the nation’s best battle it out amongst one another for crucial honours, the Three Lions’ finest will reconvene for a quartet of Nations League group stage fixtures.
Highly-anticipated meetings with all of Hungary (twice), Germany and Italy lie in wait, the latter of whom England will of course be eyeing revenge against owing to their Euro 2020 finale heartbreak at the hands of the Azzurri.
Ahead of the nation’s return to action, we at 101, in turn, have decided to take a look at some of the players most deserving of inclusions in Southgate’s latest panel of stars, set to be unveiled on Tuesday.
For this piece specifically, though, the focus is on those to have previously lined out for England, only to fall out of favour at international level.
This of course rules out the likes of Jarrod Bowen and Ivan Toney, as well as Kyle Walker, Kalvin Phillips and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, all of whom missed out on a spot in the Three Lions’ setup last time out owing to injury.
The absolute priority.
If Fikayo Tomori is not afforded a fresh international call-up this week, then claims of Gareth Southgate ‘bias’ against the former Chelsea man will become even more difficult to ignore.
On current form, one would be hard pressed to find a better performing central defender available for selection to the Three Lions.
Tomori is fresh off playing an absolutely integral role in AC Milan returning to the very summit of Italian football.
En route to a first Scudetto title in over a decade, the 24-year-old first formed a sterling partnership with Simon Kjaer, before doing likewise with Pierre Kalulu on the back of the Dane’s long-term injury, showcasing not only his ability to thrive in various situations, but also the stopper’s impressive leadership qualities.
Technique, athleticism, pace, ability in the air, reading of the game – Tomori has got it all.
With the likes of Conor Coady, Harry Maguire and Tyrone Mings as his competition, his worthiness of a place in Southgate’s latest squad shouldn’t even be open for debate.
🏴 Fikayo Tomori for Milan this season:
✅ Serie A Champion
✅ Most minutes of any outfield player
✅ Serie A team on the season
A huge fan favourite. If Gareth Southgate doesn’t call him up again he’s off his head.
— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) May 23, 2022
Next up comes a defender whose stellar form of late may have gone slightly more under the radar.
The man in question? Eric Dier.
Tottenham star Dier has of course long divided opinion amongst fans, amid suggestions throughout his career that the 28-year-old is simply not of the standard required for the top level of the game.
If his endeavours across this past season, particularly since the arrival of Antonio Conte in north London, are anything to go by, however, then perhaps such detractors would be well served reconsidering their stance.
Whilst the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and even defensive partner Cristian Romero took the plaudits for Spurs’ resurgence, Dier remained an unwavering presence in the Lilywhites’ backline, the very definition of solid in his role as an understated leader.
The 45-time capped international, all told, started and saw out the full 90 minutes in all but five of Tottenham’s 38 Premier League fixtures.
His ability to step into midfield in emergency situations should also not be overlooked…
Dier will never be the flashy name, or performer that so many may crave at the heart of England’s defence, but the point stands that, based on form, and the competition he is up against, the Spurs star is fully deserving of a recall to the Three Lions setup.
Turning attentions towards matters further up the pitch, centre stage in the thoughts of Gareth Southgate ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, without question, should be James Maddison.
The Leicester City creator closed the campaign in some of the best form of any player across the Premier League landscape, notching four goals and three assists in his last four appearances.
Such exploits mean that, across the season as a whole, Maddison directly contributed to a head-turning 29 goals across all competitions.
Let’s compare this to the numbers of some of the 25-year-old’s contemporaries, regarded as shoo-ins for a spot on England’s Nations League squad list.
Mason Mount: 26 direct contributions
Phil Foden: 26 direct contributions
Jack Grealish: 12 direct contributions
This, of course, is by no means an argument that Maddison is a superior player to those mentioned above, but more to highlight the fact that the Leicester standout’s brilliance often simply goes unrecognised in the grand scheme of things.
The unique qualities which he brings to the table, though – set-piece prowess, ability to score from long range – mean that Maddison is, at the very least, a potential game-changing option off the bench for Southgate and co.
LEICESTER ARE LEVEL ⚡
What a strike from James Maddison!
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 14, 2022