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England squad talking points: Jadon Sancho unlucky but worrying times for Marcus Rashford?

Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho not in England squad while Marc Guehi earns first call-up; Man City's Kyle Walker also out of the squad, with Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea's Reece James preferred; England play Switzerland on March 26 and Ivory Coast at Wembley on March 29

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were targeted with racist abuse on social media after England's Euro 2020 final defeat
Image: Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have not been included in Gareth Southgate's latest England squad

After Gareth Southgate named his first England squad of 2022 for this month's internationals against Switzerland and Ivory Coast, Sky Sports' football journalists analyse the key talking points.

Sancho unlucky but on the right path

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were targeted with racist abuse on social media after England's Euro 2020 final defeat
Image: Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have not been included in Gareth Southgate's latest England squad

"The other attacking players in the squad are slightly ahead of him at the moment," Southgate said on why there is no Jadon Sancho in his latest England squad.

But the Manchester United winger's omission will come as a surprise to many.

Having been left out of the previous camp in November after starting just four Premier League matches before the sacking of former United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the 21-year-old has enjoyed a noticeable return to form under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

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England manager Gareth Southgate says the performances of other players have pushed Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford out of the latest national squad

After missing the World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino last year, ex-Germany international Lothar Matthaus told Sky Sports News' Sancho made a mistake when he left Borussia Dortmund in the summer.

But he now has six league starts in the past five weeks, scoring twice and contributing three assists in that time. He is a rare bright spark for United in what has been a disastrous season.

Fifty goals in 137 games in four years at Dortmund, as well as twice being named in the Bundesliga team of the year, prompted United to spend £73m to secure his long-term signature. Sancho is their future and, despite no call-up this time, a huge part of England's.
Dan Sansom

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Worrying times for Rashford

Marcus Rashford shows his frustration at Old Trafford
Image: Marcus Rashford has scored two goals since the end of October

As for Marcus Rashford, his long-term place in Southgate's squad is seriously under threat.

"He's clearly not at his best, but there's plenty of time," the England boss said. With eight months to go until the World Cup in Qatar, though, the clock is already ticking.

A shoulder injury delayed the forward's start to this season but he has struggled to perform in recent months, scoring just twice since the end of October and starting only two of United's past seven games.

He came off the bench in Tuesday's Champions League defeat by Atletico Madrid but looked devoid of confidence, a shadow of his former self. He later issued a passionate statement in response to a social media video showing his reaction to hecklers outside Old Trafford.

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Reports emerged last week that he would consider his future at the club after being benched for the Manchester derby, with his current deal - which includes a one-year extension clause - expiring in 2023.

At 24 years old, Rashford is already an experienced player for both club and country. Having amassed 297 appearances for United and 46 caps for England, scoring a total of 105 goals in the process, his career so far has been a respectable one.

He will still believe he can succeed at the highest level and force his way back into Southgate's thinking, but his current form shows no sign of improving any time soon.
Dan Sansom

England squad an indictment of where Man Utd are

Harry Maguire started in Man Utd's defence
Image: Out-of-form Harry Maguire has been selected

There are only two Manchester United players in the senior England squad of 25 - Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw. One is out of form, the other is not fully fit. It's an indictment of where United are as a team right now - without a trophy for their fifth successive season - that they are so under-represented in the England set-up.

The omission of Rashford was expected. He's enduring a very difficult period in his footballing career, where it just isn't working. Ralf Rangnick has recognised that - that's why the 24-year-old has started just three Premier League games in this calendar year, and scored just twice in four months.

Sancho's omission is more of a surprise, because Southgate himself admitted his level of performance has improved considerably in recent times. Two goals and three assists in six Premier League games attest to that. But Southgate was pointed in saying Sancho's level still is not good enough to make his squad of 25. He is right.

Sancho is competing directly with Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Emile Smith Rowe. Which of those five players is Sancho ahead of? None, according to the England boss. So even though Sancho is performing well enough be a regular, and one of the best players currently, at Manchester United - he is not playing well enough to be one of England's best five.

Harry Maguire's inclusion in this squad is much more about his reliability for England in the past, rather than his form for United currently. Southgate admitted as much. He also said selection can never be a fully objective decision.

Luke Shaw has made a positive impact for Manchester United over the last two seasons (Andrew Yates/Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
Image: Luke Shaw, despite not being fully fit, makes the squad

While he always tries to select players who are most in-form for their clubs, the national manager cannot be held to ransom in this regard, otherwise the England squad would have little consistently from one training camp to the next, and it would make it impossible to prepare a group of players for major tournaments. Remember, Southgate has only three training camps (about 30 full training days) between now and the start of the World Cup in Qatar in November.

So Maguire keeps his place - even though there are significant numbers of English central defenders who are performing better in the Premier League right now: Eric Dier and Fikayo Tomori, neither of whom made this squad, are cases in point. Conor Coady, Ben White and Marc Guehi are similar examples, who will join up alongside Maguire on Tuesday.

Shaw's inclusion on England's list is a symptom of the spate of injuries that have hit a host of other English left-backs. Ben Chilwell is out for the season, Kieran Trippier is still two months from training again, and Bukayo Saka is flying at right wing, and so is not a consideration at full-back.

If Shaw cannot prove his fitness with United this weekend, or if his club physios feel he needs more rehabilitation, it wouldn't be a surprise if he were to withdraw from Southgate's squad. If that happens, it's now clear Crystal Palace's Tyrick Mitchell is first in line for a call-up.

But more to the point, that would mean Manchester United have just one single player in the senior men's England squad. That is almost unheard of.
Rob Dorsett

Could Ramsdale unseat Pickford for the World Cup?

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He's definitely been the best English goalkeeper performing in the Premier League this season, but - and it's a big but - Jordan Pickford, despite the criticism he gets at Everton, has never let Gareth Southgate down.

Before the Euros, there were a lot of question marks over whether he should play, but he was pretty spotless at that tournament.

It would be a massive call if come Qatar, Southgate says 'on your bike' and puts Ramsdale in goal. Any mistake would just be magnified, and everyone would be asking where Pickford was.

Saying that, I would just stress again that he's definitely been the best English goalkeeper this season, so it's certainly up for debate.
Zinny Boswell

A chance for Guehi to prove himself

MArc Guehi

When Marc Guehi was named England U21 captain in September, manager Lee Carsley praised the maturity and attitude of the 21-year-old and said the centre-back made it an easy decision due to the "example he sets off the pitch".

As much as his performances for Crystal Palace in the Premier League this season will have caught the eye of Gareth Southgate and his team, it is these details which have become so important to the England manager when deciding whether to introduce a new player to his squad.

Guehi has proven just why he is thought of so highly in the England set-up this season, starting all but one of Palace's 29 Premier League matches under head coach Patrick Vieira since being signed from Chelsea for £18m in the summer.

As a ball-playing centre-back with solid defensive capabilities, Guehi is well-suited to the style of football Southgate wants to play and has all the attributes to thrive in this England squad. "I've been very impressed with him on and off the ball," Southgate said of Guehi on Thursday, adding: "In the biggest games, he's been very calm."

Marc Guehi's defensive action area for Crystal Palace in the 2021/22 Premier League season
Image: Marc Guehi's defensive action area for Crystal Palace in the 2021/22 Premier League season

Guehi's first senior England call-up may have come sooner than some expected - after 18 months in the Championship with Swansea and less than a season in the Premier League under his belt - but centre-back remains the area of the squad in which England are most lacking.

When injury kept Harry Maguire out of the two opening Euro 2020 group games against Croatia and Scotland, Tyrone Mings stepped in to take his starting berth, and his involvement was met with overwhelming scepticism. The Aston Villa man performed admirably, but the situation highlighted a potential problem area for Southgate, especially in bigger matches.

What do England do when Maguire or John Stones are unavailable?

It is important to remember that Ben White, who was left out of the squad for that tournament, has had an impressive season with Arsenal which has likely elevated him in the pecking order.

But it is clear that there is an opportunity for Guehi, whose performances for Palace may have gone under the radar for many England fans, to demonstrate just how good he is and potentially show Southgate he has what it takes to become a regular part of the senior squads moving forward.
Zinny Boswell

Chelsea players unaffected by sanctions

Reece James, England
Image: Reece James has been selected despite injury

Southgate says he does not expect Chelsea's players to be affected by the sanctions imposed on their squad. Reece James and Mason Mount are both part of Southgate's group.

The England boss said: "In the life of a footballer there are always distractions. Your role is to focus on what you can control and that is the way you train and prepare.

"Everything else is outside of your control. You have to play as well as you can.

"They haven't called me. What is happening at Chelsea isn't my business, but football clubs will go on. Unless there is gross mismanagement, football clubs survive.

"Players and managers come and go and fans are the ones that keep the consistency. Players are adaptable, they are used to change, they are used to change of managers, certainly at that club."

But Tomori overlooked

Another former Chelsea academy graduate who was tipped for inclusion but has been overlooked this time around is Fikayo Tomori.

The 24-year-old has impressed after leaving Chelsea initially on loan in January 2021 and convinced Milan to sign him on a permanent basis. The Italian club agreed to pay £25m plus £5m in add-ons. It has proven a shrewd piece of business, with Tomori establishing himself in Milan's defence.

This season, he has looked imperious at times as he responded to missing out on England's Euro 2020 squad. Tomori played a key role in Stefano Pioli's side qualifying for the Champions League this season but Southgate has opted to give Guehi his first call-up.

The form of Harry Maguire and Tyrone Mings has been questioned at various stages this term, while John Stones is only playing regularly now for City with Ruben Dias currently injured.
Ben Grounds

Untimely blow for Bowen

Jarrod Bowen celebrates his goal with Manuel Lanzini
Image: Jarrod Bowen surely would have been called up

It has been a stellar season for West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen, who has continued his progress under David Moyes and spearheaded the Hammers' Champions League charge.

Bowen's goals have placed West Ham as strong contenders for a top-four spot, having reached the knockout stages of the Europa League. The 25-year-old has 12 goals and nine assists in all competitions - more than any other West Ham player.

Bowen's journey has taken him from the struggles of non-league football to soaring in the Premier League.

"You need people to stand up and Jarrod has been the one standing up and getting goals," manager Moyes recently said. "His performance levels improve every time, he is maturing and looking really calm at the moment."

But an untimely heel injury sustained in the recent 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield scuppered his hopes of an England call-up. Given the poor form of Rashford, Bowen would likely have received his first cap, but his performances have caught the eye of Southgate. His time will come.
Ben Grounds

England's 25-man squad

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Burnley)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Wolves), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

Forwards: Tammy Abraham (Roma), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

England's confirmed 2022 fixtures

Friendlies

Saturday, March 26: Switzerland (h)
Tuesday, March 29: Ivory Coast (h)

Nations League

June 4: Hungary (a)
June 8: Germany (a)
June 11: Italy (h)
June 14: Hungary (h)
September 23: Italy (a)
September 26: Germany (h)

World Cup 2022 starts in November: Dates, draw, schedule, kick-off times

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