Gareth Southgate discusses latest England squad selection
Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino is facing a conundrum with Raheem Sterling in the coming weeks after the forward was brutally snubbed by England boss Gareth Southgate again. Sterling has now been left out of the last three England squads, having been a regular for the majority of his career, and it points to an issue for Pochettino to resolve in the coming weeks ahead of Euro 2024 next summer.
The Three Lions are set to face Australia in a friendly on October 13 before their crunch clash with Italy in their Euro 2024 qualifier at Wembley four days later. Sterling, however, will be free to train and rest at home with Pochettino and the rest of his players without an international call-up after being left out.
Even if it will give Pochettino more time to work with Sterling on the training ground, there is a clear issue with the £47.5million signing that the Argentinian must resolve. Whether it is confidence, tiredness or a lack of fortune in front of goal, Sterling is not firing on all cylinders yet – and Southgate has noticed, keeping him out of the reckoning while in-form Jarrod Bowen was included.
Explaining the decision to omit Sterling, Southgate said: “We spoke before the last squad and we’ve been happy with the wide players’ performances in the last four games in particular and in the two in March. The team are playing really well and clearly there’s some stability there.”
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The 28-year-old has scored twice this season in the Premier League for the Blues, although both of those strikes came in a 3-0 win over newly-promoted Luton Town. Sterling has since gone five games without a goal across all competitions, with the forward demonstrating a worrying dip in form before illness forced him to settle for a role on the bench last time out against Fulham.
What might have concerned the former Manchester City man is how fluid the Blues looked in his absence. Cole Palmer, replacing Sterling on the right-side of the front three, was outstanding while Armando Broja and Mykhaylo Mudryk bagged their first goals of the season.
Their attacking potency gave Chelsea a certain killer touch in front of goal they had lacked with Sterling and Nicolas Jackson on the pitch, with both players sitting out from the start. And if Pochettino is keen to keep the England star in his starting XI, he needs to find the formula to get him firing again.
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There is an obvious reason behind Sterling’s troubles which relates to Reece James’ prolonged absence from the team. The right-back is often so creative in the wide areas that the Englishman is able to concentrate on moving into the inside channels. But without James, Sterling has been asked to create more chances as well as putting them away himself – and he is yet to impress on both counts.
Pochettino may be tempted to give Sterling a start against Burnley to help him regain his confidence after his England disappointment, but it would be harsh on Palmer or Mudryk to drop either player on the back of their best performance in a Chelsea shirt.
What seems to be abundantly clear now is that unless Pochettino can get Sterling back amongst the goals and to the level where Southgate cannot leave him out, he may struggle to add to his 82 caps for his country.
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