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If not Kobbie Mainoo, then who?

Posted by john smith on

I do not really get the criticism of Gareth Southgate for calling up  Kobbie Mainoo.

Now I may not be a huge Southgate fan (a better manager would have seen England at least one trophy during his period in charge), but it does feel like criticism for criticism sake.

Recently we have all complained about Southgate selecting Jordan Henderson (whilst playing semi-professional football in Saudi Arabia) and Kalvin Phillips (whilst not even getting off the bench for Manchester City.

England's upcoming games against Brazil and Belgium are friendlies. These are the perfect time for Southgate to select a few youngsters to see how they train, integrate into the squad and perform ahead of the Euro's.

Now I get that Mainoo has primarily played further forward during his time in Manchester United's senior team, but I think it is clear that he has both the legs, awareness and passing ability play deeper.

I would not be surprised if we see Southgate try out Trent Alexander-Arnold or Conor Gallagher alongside Declan Rice in the deeper midfield position, with Jude Bellingham further forward. Mainoo could develop into cover for all 3 central midfield positions.

Yes, he is just 18-years-old and this is his first season for Manchester United, but if Southgate does not have a look at Mainoo, who else is there?

Newcastle United fans will immediately say Lewis Miley, and that is a far shout. But also the criticism they give for Mainoo (inexperienced, not an out and out defensive midfielder, first season), also applies to Miley. The 17-year-old has played less than 100 minutes more than Mainoo this season, and tends to play in a more advanced position.

In a blog not too long ago, we also name checked a few other options for Southgate.

James Ward-Prowse - Now 29, has been in and out of the England team for years. Feeling is he does not have the legs to play defensive midfield. Take away his set pieces and he is an average midfielder (and England have plenty others who can take free kicks and corners). Recently dropped to the bench by David Moyes.

Sean Longstaff - Like many at Newcastle, has not reached last years high. Maybe his chance has gone as Southgate looks younger.

Josh Brownhill - One of Burnley's few bright lights this season, but at 28-years-old, he would actually be the oldest midfielder (aside from Henderson) in the England squad if selected.

Lewis Cook - Always been a fan of Lewis Cook, and good to see him back playing regularly after losing a lot of his career to injury. Was capped by England way back in 2018. Now 27.

There really are not many Englishmen playing defensive or central midfield to high level right now.

If you assume that Declan Rice will start, with Jordan Henderson backing him up, the options for that midfielder further forward are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Galagher (throw in Mason Mount as well if he ever returns to fitness), and the even more advanced midfielder will be Jude Bellingham / James Madison / Phil Foden

As above, Mainoo could develop into cover for all 3 central midfield positions, and I would prefer Southgate pick a talented young player rather than someone in their late 20's who has proved over their career that they are not at the expected level.

And I do get the questions as to why Miley was not selected. It could have been a toss of the coin between Mainoo and Miley, and Southgate has gone for the man who is a year older.

Looking towards the Euro's, only really one of Mainoo or Miley will go, so Southgate has had to make his decision now as to which one he will look at.

Post-Euros, with Henderson likely to retire, I would not be surprised if both Mainoo and Miley become regulars in the England squad.

So I ask, if not Mainoo, who would you have liked to have seen selected? Join the conversation on Facebook.