The tune is familiar, nothing new: there are too many foreigners in English football. It’s surprising to hear it covered now by Gareth Southgate, even if his version lacks the racist flavor of yesteryear. It’s not that there are too many foreigners in the Premier League. Just not enough English, the subtlety.
Speaking to his country’s media ahead of Thursday’s game against Italy, the coach said:
“What is the best way to evaluate our players? Champions League. Looking at the number of minutes played [par joueur et par nationalité] This year [en C1], [vous verrez que] We are number six on this list. In fact, we are behind Brazil and Portugal. We’re well behind France and Spain in this regard, and it’s interesting that Brazil, who have a really strong national championship, have as many – or more – players than us in the Champions League.“.
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Yes, Southgate is pulling deep into the pool
Southgate’s frustration is understandable. Some of the shelves he has to shop are as empty as the vegetable racks in British supermarkets. For example, who should be called in midfield? Declan Rice, yes. Jude Bellingham, of course. Jordan Henderson, when not injured. And that’s about it.
As evidence of this, Southgate have had to bring in Connor Gallagher and Calvin Phillips to bolster their midfield group, with the former having played just ten of Chelsea’s opening twenty-eight games (and none in the last six) and accumulating a second, if that word, 90 against Bristol City in the FA Cup since the start of the season. Played 344 minutes in all competitions.
Kyle Walker, who has not played at this level with Manchester City – and appears to have limited resources in central defense, rated by four experts – has been called up by the England coach to face Italy and Italy. The inclusion of John Stones goes without saying, and the act of Mark Cuihy, who has been so promising with Crystal Palace, is understandable; But Eric Dier, who didn’t exactly shine with Tottenham, and Harry Maguire, who was replaced by the Varane-Martinez duo at Manchester United, would mean there’s not a lot of material in that department either, and even if that’s true, neither Dier nor Maguire are eligible for selection.
This is how far we can go with Gareth Southgate in reflection; But no further.
The number of Englishmen in the Premier League is stable
For starters, English players’ playing time in the Premier League has remained virtually unchanged since the FA replaced Sam Allardyce in 2017: a third of the Premier League starters each weekend are picked by Southgate. There were times when this percentage dipped below 30%, as on two recent weekends; But these are mere statistical accidents.
The average has remained virtually unchanged, which hasn’t stopped England from reaching the World Cup semi-finals and Euro finals with Southgate as manager, which they failed to achieve. In Europe, it relied almost exclusively on local products.
It’s odd to compare with these countries, especially Brazil, who have more players playing in the Champions League than England. Brazilian clubs can rely on a huge pool of talent, the sale of which allows them to survive, making Brazil the world’s biggest exporter of footballers.
Of course, the nine players called up by boss Ramon Menezes of the Selecao in the interim to play in a friendly against Morocco on the 25th of this month are shaping up well in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A; But eight of those nine have never been capped by Brazil before, and seven are 22 or younger. Let them add a few picks to their roster, and they’ll follow the path of all the best Brazilian players to Europe since the late 1990s.
Whose young player would rather a five-time world champion, without exception, get out as quickly as they could and have the most representatives in the Champions League, crushing a rival championship with their financial might? Will he be exiled only if he feels that his progress has been hindered?
Bellingham is not the only English footballer to ply his trade in a top league
There are these young players, too. Gone are the days when English footballers were considered unexportable and who would doubt what Florin Balogan has achieved with Stade de Reims since the start of the season. Jude Bellingham isn’t the only English footballer to ply his trade in a top league.
If Southgate are looking for centre-backs with Champions League playing time, why don’t they look at 24-year-old Figaio Tomori, with Milan (who pipped Tottenham from Eric Dier), the Italian champions and has been selected in the Serie A eleven for the 2021-22 season? Will Tomori be the new Chris Smalling, neglected by Southgate for more than six years, while Smalling will also be the undisputed starter at another club in Europe, AS Roma?
Why is 24-year-old Marcus Edwards still waiting for his first graduation in all Sporting’s competitions this season, the Portugal League and the Champions League and the Europa League (the Portuguese club have now eliminated Arsenal)? Along with the seniors, who was a regular in the English Youth Test?
This is not to detract from Gareth Southgate’s intentions, nor is it to remind him that the situation is more complicated than his words, and it is not necessarily to say that there is no lack of opportunities for young English footballers to be thwarted in the Premier League – and elsewhere.
A complicated situation
Proof is that eleven of the twenty-one players who led Paul Simpson to the U20 World Championship in 2017 are today playing in the Premier League or Serie A or the Bundesliga.
. This generation has very little “waste” of less than 50%. Many great nations, in fact, would love to boast such a success rate.
Credits: Getty Images
These are not left on the roadside, on the contrary. Faced with the need to impose themselves in a more competitive environment than their elders, they progressed quickly and today form the core of Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions.
It’s better to be happy that England have enough to top world football than to complain that there aren’t enough English players in the Premier League. This is not always the case.
Jonjo Kenny (Schalke 04), Lewis Cook, Dominic Solange (Bournemouth), Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Adam Armstrong, Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton), Ademola Lookman (now representing Nigeria, Atalanta), Esre Konza) Henderson (Nottingham Forest) , Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) and Fikayo Tomori (Milan)
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