Why does Gareth Southgate continue to call-up Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson?

Posted by john smith on

Morning and Happy Friday.

As we look towards another international break commencing this week, there is one question I see continually asked on Twitter (or do we call it X now?).

Why does Gareth Southgate continue to call-up Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson?

It is a valid question, as Kavlin Phillips has played less than 400 minutes of Premier League football since joining Manchester City, and Jordan Henderson has gone into semi-retirement moving out to Saudi Arabia.

The argument against either of them being in the squad is very easy to make. But there is follow up question which is not quite as easy to answer.

What other options does Gareth Southgate have?

Southgate has selected 3 "out and out" defensive midfielders in his squad - Declan Rice, Phillips and Henderson. Are Phillips and Henderson continually getting called up because the England manager has very few other options?

To explore this line of thinking, we thought we would look at the other English defensive minded midfielders playing in the Premier League (minutes correct at time of writing).

Declan Rice - Arsenal

Comfortably England's best defensive midfielder. Will start if fit. The issue here is who partners him if Southgate decides to go with two defensive pivots, and also who should be the 3rd choice defensive midfielder if not Phillips and Henderson. Rice would be in everyone's squad.

Conor Gallagher

Has kicked on to another level for Chelsea this season, but not really a defensive midfielder. Tends to play further forward for his club side with Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez behind him. Not really considered as a defensive option. Also, like Rice, in Southgate's squad. 

Sean Longstaff

Can probablt consider himself unlucky to not be in the squad.Started 28 games for top 4 Newcastle last season in the league, and started every Champions League game for them this year. I am sure he is on Southgate's radar and if he continues to play regularly, it will be hard for anyone to make an argument that he should not be in the squad ahead of either Phillips or Henderson.

James Ward-Prowse

I was surprised when so many West Ham fans were dismissive of the signing of James Ward-Prowse. He is an experienced leader and has been brilliant this season. Those same fans who did not really want him are now up in arms that he is not in Southgate's England squad. The issue here surrounds what sort of player is Ward-Prowse?

He might sit deep, but he is not do the bulk of West Ham's defensive work. Ward-Prowse often plays advanced of either Edson Álvarez or Tomáš Souček, and often in a midfield containing all 3 - where he is most advanced. That means his competition in the England squad is with Jude Bellingham, James Maddison, Conor Gallagher and Phil Foden. There is also Mason Mount who has also been excluded.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is also listed as a midfielder in Southgate's squad. He is the option if England decide to go with someone who is not quite as good defensively, but can launch attacks from deep.

Josh Brownhill

A solid professional with nearly 100 Premier League games to his name. Probably not England level. Not playing at the same level as Kalvin Phillips was at Leeds. Southgate would have seen the Manchester City man in training to establish whether he still reaches that level despite very little club football. You certainly would not be picking him ahead of Sean Longstaff.

Harrison Reed

Same as Josh Brownhill. Decent Premier League player, but not England quality.

Lewis Cook

Captain of England's 2017 U20 World Cup winning team, he won his only England cap in 2018 and was one of five players named on standby for the 23-man England national team squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Back 5-years ago, you would have had him in an "England squad for Euro 2024" prediction. Two cruciate ligament tear in 2018 and 2021 have stopped his career getting any momentum. Needs to play more, prove his fitness. An outside bet for the 2024 squad if he does that.

So who is there?

I think Longstaff is the only one that can be aggrieved of not being in the squad. He is playing regular football in both the Premier League and Champions League.

Ward-Prowse is a fantastic player, but he does not do what Southgate wants a defensive midfielder to do, and Alexander-Arnold can do the same job in the middle of the park.

The outside bet is Cook. Always been a fan. If he maintains his fitness and plays regularly, he will be in with a shout.

Who would you have in the squad? Join the conversation on Twitter (or X?)