Gareth Southgate’s decision to omit in-form Chelsea winger Raheem Sterling from his England squad in November has sparked intense debates.
When he first decided to drop the 28-year-old from the national team in the wake of the Three Lions’ 2022 World Cup exit last year, no one could’ve blamed him.
Sterling was in trouble after the Qatar showpiece. Chelsea’s form woes were pulling him back, and like the whole Blues squad, he seemed powerless to turn his fortunes around.
However, Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival at Stamford Bridge has brought a change in fortunes, with the ex-Manchester City forward showing notable signs of improvement under the new manager.
Despite tallying four goals and two assists in 12 Premier League appearances and boasting a league-high 111 touches in the opposition box, Sterling has been left out again.
Nearly a year ago, Southgate named him in the starting line-up for England’s World Cup opener against Iran, even though his form was nowhere near his current standard.
Sterling has not featured for England since Qatar, falling behind Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka in the pecking order.
While Foden and Saka continue to play influential roles at Man City and Arsenal, respectively, Rashford is a shadow of the rampaging forward who tore defences apart at will last season.
The Man United forward’s dip in form has been mirrored by Grealish, who, in addition to only making three league starts for Pep Guardiola’s side this term, has just a single assist to brag about.
But the duo’s woeful start to the new campaign doesn’t bother Southgate. Like many long-serving national team coaches before him, the England boss risks falling into a familiar trap.
That misconception of trusting the same bunch of players to deliver at international level regardless of their club struggles has often hurt national team managers.
Southgate would be wise to learn from previous mistakes and get out of his comfort zone, as his tendency to avoid changes even when they’d make sense could come back to bite England when they need it the least.
The 2024 European Championship is on the horizon, and the Three Lions manager must pick players at their peak powers instead of relying on those living on past glories.
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