England squad analysis: Gareth Southgate won’t be swayed by off-field issues involving Ivan Toney and Kyle Walker | Soccer News

Gareth Southgate won’t be swayed by off-field issues when he names his first England team since the World Cup, Sky Sports News has learned – which could be a big boost for Brentford striker Ivan Tony.

Whether or not to include Toney for the start of the Euro qualifiers is the toughest decision Southgate will have to make, ahead of naming his first England team since the World Cup on Thursday.

The fact that England’s first two Euro qualifiers are by far the toughest – in Italy on March 23 and then at home to Ukraine three days later – may mean that a few untested players , who are no doubt on Southgate’s mind, could miss this camp nonetheless.

England have not won a game in Italy since 1961.

Ivan Toney and the strikers

Ivan Toney has admitted many of the 262 charges the FA have brought against him for alleged breaches of football’s strict playing rules

Southgate was at Goodison Park on Saturday to watch Brentford’s 1-0 loss to Everton, and Thomas Frank said that in his current form Toney is Harry Kane’s natural understudy and deserves his place on football merit.

“If you look at the performances,” the Brentford boss said, “I don’t think you can top him.”

With his goal in the 2-0 win over Southampton on Wednesday night, he has netted nine times in his last 12 appearances, with Kane the only England striker ahead of Toney’s 17 goals so far this season.

However, Toney has admitted many of the 262 charges brought against him by the FA for alleged breaches of football’s strict playing rules – charges which could mean a possible six-month ban on playing football.

It is in these difficult circumstances that Southgate must make its selection decision.

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Jamie Carragher says Ivan Toney’s penalty technique is “special” and thinks goalkeepers don’t think they’ll save it when he shows up on the spot.

When Toney was dropped from the Qatar squad in November, Southgate was adamant that it had nothing to do with the charges leveled against him by the FA.

But Toney – who expressed anger that the confidential matter was in the public domain – has since pleaded guilty on a number of counts.

If Toney is out, Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins could benefit, as the Premier League’s most prolific England striker. He can do little more to catch Southgate’s attention, having scored six goals in his last seven matches.

Watkins has not added to his seven England caps since scoring against the Ivory Coast in a friendly at Wembley 12 months ago.

Kyle Walker and the full-backs

Kyle Walker on the Man City bench at Selhurst Park
Kyle Walker is being investigated by police over allegations he exposed himself at a bar in Wilmslow

Discipline off the pitch will also be on Southgate’s mind when considering whether or not to include England stalwart Kyle Walker in his latest squad.

Walker is being investigated by police over allegations he exposed himself at a bar in Wilmslow.

Pep Guardiola insisted it was a private matter and shouldn’t affect his football.

Walker has only played four minutes for Manchester City since the incident was reported by a national newspaper.

Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell is pushing for a recall at left-back, alongside Manchester United’s Luke Shaw. Chilwell hasn’t featured for England since San Marino’s 10-0 thrashing in November 2021, due to a mix of injuries and poor form.

However, he appears to be back to his best and has made eight Premier League and Champions League appearances since the start of last month, with one assist and one goal in his last two games.

Ben White’s form for Arsenal at the top of the table would apparently make him a spearhead for this England side. He left the camp in Qatar halfway through the World Cup, with little public explanation, and his Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said he is available again.

Shaw, Kieran Trippier, Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold are likely to be the other full-backs included in the squad.

James Maddison and the wingers

James Maddison celebrates after equalizing for Leicester at Aston Villa
James Maddison celebrates after equalizing for Leicester at Aston Villa in February

After all the public clamor for James Maddison to be included in England’s World Cup squad for Qatar, an injury kept him out for a single minute.

However, I’ve been told that Southgate and the rest of the England players were genuinely impressed with his attitude and personality around camp, despite his obvious frustration. His continued good form in a struggling Leicester side should see him retain his international spot.

It will be fascinating to see if there is a recall for Jadon Sancho who, after missing 20 games, has looked much sharper and has scored two goals in eight games since returning to the Manchester United squad.

Brighton winger Solly March is in the form of his life, scoring the winner on Wednesday against Crystal Palace, and although there are clamors for him to get his first call up (he has never been involved in any English team, at any age group) Southgate’s wealth of options in wide attacking positions means he is likely to miss out.

Jordan Henderson and midfielders

Jordan Henderson after Liverpool's loss to Wolves
Jordan Henderson missed Liverpool’s Champions League second leg with Real Madrid through illness but is expected to be in the England squad

Jordan Henderson has missed Liverpool’s Champions League second leg with Real Madrid through illness. But he was one of the best English players in Qatar, linked brilliantly with Jude Bellingham, and is therefore sure to be included, if he is healthy.

Southgate will have to make a tough call for Kalvin Phillips, who was England’s Player of the Year last season but has played just 55 minutes of football for Manchester City since Christmas. This lack of playing time means it would be difficult to justify his inclusion at this time – but it is perhaps just as difficult for the England boss to leave him out, such has been his traditional importance to this England side.

The ever-reliable James Ward-Prowse is fully fit again and hoping for a recall. He missed the World Cup but has scored six goals and had one assist since the restart.

It’s clear that 18-year-old Manchester City midfielder Rico Lewis is on Southgate’s radar, but he might be better suited to a call-up for the U21s in the first place.

Harry Maguire and the Defenders

Manchester United's Harry Maguire during the Emirates FA Cup third round match at Old Trafford, Manchester.  Picture date: Friday January 6, 2023.
Harry Maguire has started just one Premier League game since January 3

Harry Maguire, even if he can’t get a kick at Manchester United, will again be controversially included by Southgate.

He has started just one Premier League game since January 3.

But his excellent performances in Qatar, despite a crippling lack of playing time for his club at the time, showed Southgate that he can always be counted on for his country, even though he is going through a very difficult period at Old Trafford. I would be surprised if he doesn’t leave for England at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Napoli next week.

Brighton’s Lewis Dunk will be hugely disappointed if he is left out again. Only Manchester City, Arsenal and Newcastle have conceded fewer xGs than Brighton this season, and Dunk has been hailed by his manager Roberto De Zerbi as “one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League”.

Dunk recorded his 400th appearance for the club earlier this month but has been consistently overlooked by England since his only cap in 2018.

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