Gareth Southgate has shown he will stand by players who have never let him down and that could be a lifeline for Luke Shaw.
England are in action for the final time before November’s World Cup over the next few days as they take on Italy and Germany in the Nations League. As naturally as rivers flow into the sea, Gareth Southgate has inevitably received criticism from some quarters for his squad selection.
The biggest gripe this time around appears to be that he has selected players despite them not playing well, or even playing at all, for their clubs. Manchester United’ s Shaw and Harry Maguire, Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell, Tammy Abraham and Jarrod Bowen haven’t been in form at all while Man City duo Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker have both been injured in recent weeks. They’ve all made the cut while United’s Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have stayed at home.
While frustrations are understandable, these gripes disregard all the work Southgate has done with England. It isn’t just about players who are doing really well for their clubs, it’s about the ones that are best suited to this team, the players do the jobs he wants doing out on the pitch; the ones who have always delivered and taken England to the semi-finals and final of the two most recent major tournaments.
Bringing in a load of fresh faces at this point, so close to Qatar, would risk upsetting the harmony of the squad and throwing the team spirit that has been fostered off kilter. Now is not the time for experimentation.
So Shaw and Maguire still have their places in the squad. Sancho and Rashford remain out in the cold.
Both United defenders have been far from their best since their excellent Euro 2020 campaigns and that poor form has continued into the new season. They weren’t alone, but still had big hands to play in the opening defeats to Brighton and Brentford and since their removals from the starting XI, United have won every game in the Premier League.
Shaw has lost his spot to summer signing Tyrell Malacia, who has taken to the Premier League like a dog to a bone. The young Dutchman has offered a much more composed and assured presence at the back in recent games and doesn’t look to be losing his place any time soon.
But Shaw can put a great case forward to Erik ten Hag as to why he should during the international break. When Shaw is available he tends to start for Southgate and with only Chilwell (who has never been Southgate’s first choice) and Kieran Trippier (a right-back by trade) for competition, there is a good chance he will start at least one of the upcoming games.
If Shaw can recapture his excellent performances for the Three Lions in the international break, against stiff competition, he can prove to Ten Hag that he is over his slump and still has plenty to offer the Dutchman. Shaw thrived at United when Alex Telles arrived to offer competition and that has increased tenfold with Malacia’s arrival.
That should hopefully spur Shaw on to up his game once again and he can spark a bid to return to the starting XI on international duty.