Four months on from England’s draw with Spain, they return to international action later this month. But who should Gareth Southgate select for the friendly with Germany and World Cup qualifier against Lithuania?
Captain Wayne Rooney has found himself on the fringes at Manchester United since helping England to a 3-0 win over Scotland in their last qualifier in November. Will he make the squad this time round?
And how about Jamie Vardy, who scored in England’s clash with Spain? The Leicester forward is only just starting to show signs of returning to his levels of last season after a goal-shy winter.
Here, with the help of WhoScored.com’s stats-based ranking system, we weigh up the case for and against 10 players who will be in Southgate’s thoughts over the coming weeks…
IN WITH A SHOT OF A CALL-UP
Luke Shaw – Manchester United (6.92 WhoScored.com rating)
Like Rooney, Shaw lost his place in the Manchester United XI before finally returning to the starting line-up against Bournemouth, his first since the 0-0 draw with Burnley in October.
There was a time when the former Southampton man was destined to be first-choice England left-back, however a serious leg break in the 2-1 Champions League win over PSV in 2015 stunted his development. He’s now behind Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand in the pecking order, though injury to the former could present Shaw with another chance to stake his claim.
Yet, having made just seven league starts, the 21-year-old hasn’t had the opportunities to prove his worth to Southgate, despite time being on his side.
Phil Jones – Manchester United (7.24)
When Jose Mourinho was named Manchester United manager, Jones was one who was expected to leave. After all, he’d only made 10 league appearances under Louis van Gaal last season. However, Jones has instead established himself as a first team regular when fit and very much has a chance of making the upcoming England squad.
An 89.5 per cent pass success rate is the sixth best in the Premier League of players to make 10 or more starts this season and reinforces a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘passing’.
With Southgate implementing a system that relies on his defenders to play the ball out from the back, Jones could well be entitled to an international recall and make his first England appearance since late 2015.
Ross Barkley – Everton (7.14)
Having struggled for consistency in the opening half of the season, Barkley has thrived after being handed more of a free role in a change of system by Everton boss Ronald Koeman.
The arrival of Morgan Schneiderlin, emergence of Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye’s return from AFCON 2017 mean Koeman has the necessary battlers in midfield to allow Barkley the chance to routinely support Romelu Lukaku without concerning himself too much with his defensive responsibilities.
Indeed, a WhoScored.com rating of 7.69 is one of the best in 2017 as he returns to his top form. Barkley was one of just two outfield players to fail to register a single minute of game time in England’s doomed Euro 2016 campaign and he’d welcome the chance to prove he can transfer his club form to country.
Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool (6.65)
Daniel Sturridge has struggled for game time this term, due to a mix of injury problems and incompatibility with Liverpool’s attacking set-up under Jurgen Klopp.
As such, the striker has made just five league starts this season, though for England, he certainly fares better. He has two goals to his name from three international starts in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and it’s his experience for the Three Lions that could see him receive the call from Southgate later this month.
Jordan Pickford – Sunderland (7.09)
Joe Hart remains England’s first choice goalkeeper, even if he has endured a hit and miss campaign in Italy on loan with Torino. A 66.9 per cent save success rate isn’t the best return for the 29-year-old, particularly when a number of his compatriots are performing well in the Premier League.
Pickford, for example, is tipped to earn international recognition this month, with his WhoScored.com rating (7.09) the best of all goalkeepers in England’s top tier this term.
The Sunderland shot-stopper has averaged 4.7 saves per game, the most in the Premier League this season, and that form has earned him countless admirers as a result. Going on current form, Hart should be looking over his shoulder as Pickford goes in search of his first England cap.
Andros Townsend – Crystal Palace (6.97)
With Sam Allardyce needing all three points to help Crystal Palace pull away from the relegation zone, he will have breathed a huge sigh of relief when Andros Townsend confirmed victory at West Brom on Saturday. The winger ran the length of the pitch before tucking past Ben Foster, with his speed and directness key assets to Allardyce.
Townsend has routinely impressed for England when called on, though has played just 28 minutes of their World Cup qualifying campaign so far.
Only Antonio Valencia (39) has played more accurate crosses from open play than Townsend (28) in the Premier League this season and he could be a handy option for Southgate if he needs to lay siege upon the opposition goal and help stretch the Germany and Lithuania defences.
Andy Carroll – West Ham (7.43)
Andy Carroll will have to wait that bit longer to net his 50th Premier League goal having drawn a blank in West Ham’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on Monday night, but behind Harry Kane, he is one of the in-form frontmen this year.
Four of his six Premier League goals have been scored in 2017, while he importantly offers another dimension to the England attack. Only Christian Benteke (9.3) is winning more headed battles per game than Carroll (8.8) in the Premier League this season, reinforcing a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘aerial duels’.
Against staunch defences, a striker of the 28-year-old’s calibre would undoubtedly benefit the team, particularly if a more direct approach is required.
IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT
Wayne Rooney – Manchester United (WhoScored.com Rating 6.82)
As England captain, Rooney’s inclusion in the England squad should be a foregone conclusion. However, his start in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth was his first in the league since featuring from the off in the 2-0 win at West Brom back in December.
Rooney’s made just nine Premier League starts this season, with a WhoScored.com rating of 6.82 his lowest in the time they have been collecting data.
Five assists is a commendable return, but two goals is a poor tally from for the 31-year-old. If the squad was based on form, then it’s unlikely Rooney would make the cut – but it would be a big call for Southgate to leave out his skipper.
Jamie Vardy – Leicester (6.63)
Vardy has struggled to replicate his goal-scoring exploits in Leicester’s disappointing title defence, with just seven strikes to his name this term. Yet his recent return to form – coinciding with Claudio Ranieri’s departure – has come at just the right time, both for the relegation-threatened champions and his own personal England chances.
Six of Vardy’s goals this season have come against teams occupying Champions League spots, so he’s clearly a man for the big occasion and his performances against Manchester City and Liverpool – the top Premier League teams, in terms of possession – suggests he would be a threat for England in Germany later this month.
However, whether he can have a similar impact against a Lithuania team likely to sit deep at Wembley, will be a selection issue for Southgate.
Danny Welbeck – Arsenal (6.39)
In two competitive starts for Arsenal this season, Welbeck has three goals and one assist to his name. Minutes have been hard to come by for the 26-year-old following a recent knee injury with Arsene Wenger managing his return to fitness accordingly.
England managers have traditionally been fans of Welbeck, given his versatility and consistency for his country, and it’s widely accepted he would have more than his current 34 England caps had he avoided lengthy spells on the sidelines.
His three goals have come from just six shots, though his lack of game time and match fitness mean it would be something of a shock for him to secure a place in this upcoming England squad.