Bukayo Saka’s new role and Arsenal duo’s rise made clear in England selection

England boss Gareth Southgate made seven changes to his Three Lions side for their final World Cup qualifier on Monday night, offering more chances to impress to some of his fringe and young stars

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As Gareth Southgate looks to nail down his England squad for next year’s World Cup finals, he offered more chances to fringe men to impress in Monday night’s meeting with San Marino.

Despite the Three Lions still needing a point against the team ranked 2010th in the FIFA rankings to seal their spot in Qatar, the England boss rang the changes to his starting lineup.

Although Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Kalvin Phillips and Phil Foden retained their places in the lineup that eased to a 5-0 victory over Albania on Friday night, seven players who wouldn’t necessarily be first choice were given the nod to get the job done in the final qualifier.

Defensive duo Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings – both key members of Southgate’s squad despite not being first choice – started at the back, with Jude Bellingham selected in the centre of midfield; the Borussia Dortmund teenager has made a squad place his own since breaking through 12 months ago.

Trent Alexander-Arnold got the nod at right wing-back, replacing Reece James, with that pair both knowing they have to make the most of their opportunities as they battle experienced palr Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier for right-sided spots.

Three Arsenal players were also given the nod, including two full debuts and another changing role for Bukayo Saka, fast becoming Southgate’s flexible friend.

Bukayo Saka has been a key man for Gareth Southgate in the past 12 months


Action Images via Reuters)

The Arsenal No.7 has been England’s Mr. Versatile over the past year or so. He’s been used at left-back, on the left wing, on the right wing and at times almost as a support striker close to Kane

In Serravelle, Saka was chosen ahead of Ben Chilwell at left wing-back, with Luke Shaw having already been sent back to Manchester United.

Retaining Chilwell, eager to impress after a personally disappointing Euros, on the back of his display vs Albania, would have likely been the port of call for many wannabe coaches and the easy decision for the England boss. But Southgate is a huge fan of Saka and the flexibility that he brings to England squad.

The 20-year-old’s quality and tactical intelligence has seen him given the nod in big matches due to his ability to receive information and adapt; provided he’s fit and hasn’t suffered a spectacular loss of form, his place in Qatar is already assured next year.

His two Arsenal teammates, Aaron Ramsdale and Emile Smith Rowe, are now forcing themselves very much into that conversation also.

Ramsdale has been extremely impressive since his big-money move to Arsenal in the summer, a deal that raised a lot of eyebrows after he had suffered back-to-back Premier League relegations with Bournemouth and Sheffield United.

Already he has ousted Bernd Leno as No.1 at the Emirates, and while he has made a number of stellar saves and produced some big performances in recent weeks – notably at Leicester – his distribution is something which the England coaching staff, like Mikel Arteta, are very high on.

Aaron Ramsdale has impressed since moving to Arsenal



With Nick Pope having fallen out of favour, having been so long the No.2 behind Jordan Pickford, due to issues with his footwork and a desire to stay closer to his goal-line, and with Dean Henderson out of favour and struggling for games, Ramsdale now joins West Brom’s Sam Johnstone in being in possession of the back-up ‘keeper jerseys.

Those pair are now battling to be No.2 behind Pickford, with the order far from certain.

For Smith Rowe, a late call-up into the seniors after Mason Mount pulled out last week, the competition is much more fierce as he looks to fight for a spot in among an attacking midfield ranks where there is no shortage of depth; he only needs to see how long Jack Grealish was made to wait to realise the battle he’s facing.

But a full debut for the 21-year-old is another fillip which shows Arsenal’s No.10 is on the right path and making an impression with the senior Three Lions coaching staff.

A couple of months back, both Ramsdale and Smith Rowe would have been big outsiders for Qatar next year.

Getting the nod in Seravelle shows the statuses of the Arsenal pair are growing, and they’re very much in the battle for spots, something which is good news for both them, and their clubs.

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