Gareth Southgate's selection conundrum: Who was most unlucky to miss out?
(Photo by Dan Mullan/ Getty Images)

If you listen carefully, you can hear the by-products of the England squad announcement all across the country. While in Liverpool, you can hear the delirious roars that Trent Alexander-Arnold has been handed the opportunity to show his worth, in Leeds, you can hear the bewilderment beckoning from the foothills of the Yorkshire dales that a certain 17-goal striker has been pushed to one side. 

Nonetheless, being dealt the prerogative to whittle down a squad for a major international competition is never an easy task, and that is something which is only made more difficult by the generation of superstars that have risen to the forefront in the past couple of seasons.

Youth prospects such as Mason Mount and Phil Foden have already hardened their presence on St. George's Park, cementing their ticket to the Euros beyond doubt, while the more battle-scarred levelheaded stalwarts of Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane have long become the most dependable characters under the polarising reign of Gareth Southgate.

However, football seasons change much like the weather. With its capricious and mercurial temperament, year upon year, some new candidates yearn for an international call-up. 

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Arguably, this year's Euro squad selection is the most difficult to make since the days of Sven-Göran Eriksson and his golden generation.

Despite not being able to live up to the great expectations that anchored itself on the shoulders of big-name players in the mid-2000s, the star-studded lineup, which first engraved their potential on September 1st 2001 by beating World Cup-winning regulars Germany, gave the country glistening hope.

But the likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and David Beckham were unable to attain England's self-fulfilling prophecy that dreamt of the footballing nation returning to the heights of the 1960s. 

And, after underwhelming sovereignty from following predecessors, it is now Southgate's assignment to turn the Three Lions fortunes around.

After all, the landscape of English football is undergoing a resurgence as of late, with Liverpool and Chelsea being recent winners in the Champions League, an illustrious competition that hasn't seen English dominance in a long time. 

So, in 2021, there is now a weight of expectation on the Three Lions.

The country hasn't seen this array of talent in over a decade, and the curse of major competition knockout rounds must come to an end.

The Russian World Cup was the latest episode of English ecstasy, but more must be done this time around. Has Southgate been too harsh on his decisions to leave some key players out, or is it simply too difficult for the Englishman to decipher between the qualities of the galaxy of superstars at his disposal?

  • Patrick Bamford

In the long and undulating history of football, it would be very difficult to find a striker who has scored 17 goals in England's top-flight and still, against all odds, not find himself in with a chance of an international call-up. 

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For Leeds United's focal point, Patrick Bamford, it has been a nightmarish end to his breakthrough Premier League season. Admittedly, he probably wouldn't start for Southgate, but the striker has done all that it would seem to take to get a backup role. 

Marcelo Bielsa has struck fear into the nations top club this season, implementing a system that has seen Leeds attacking bright sparks shine. In a system that looks to force the opponent into mistakes, often diluting the opposition defences room to breathe, Bamford has played a pivotal role at an empty Elland Road this season.

Scoring seventeen goals, the Englishman may have suffered from a dropoff in form towards the end of the season, but it doesn't take away the bewilderment among Yorkshire that players with a worse record have been given the nod over him.

Mason Greenwood and Ollie Watkins have been given the chance to show their worth, but both have contributed to fewer goals than Bamford.

In many aspects, Bamford and Greenwood are similar players who use their pace and clinical nature to break down defences, and so it would make sense for Bamford to get priority in that role.  

  • Fikayo Tomori

Unfavoured by Frank Lampard and seemingly forgotten about by Gareth Southgate, Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori is another name that comes to mind when thinking of who missed out most from the provisional England squad.

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Before the start of this season, fans of The Blues raved about the prospect of the young Englishman, but unfortunately, this didn't resonate with Lampard, who chose to send the central defender on loan.

Since joining AC Milan on a loan deal, he has shepherded the Serie A's sleeping giants to a respectable second-place finish. Additionally, he has highlighted his ability to play the ball out of defence and also playing as a vital cog in Stefano Pioli's resolute defence. 

While England are blessed with options in most positions, the central defensive position is somewhere they lack. Playing on the front foot, with players such as Mason Mount and Harry Kane expected to see a lot of the ball, will suit a player like Tomori, who can hold a high line, play the ball between the lines effectively, and have the pace to help out with defence. 

Perhaps playing abroad hasn't helped Tomori's cause, with Southgate travelling across the country to see Ben White, Conor Coady, Harry Maguire and John Stones play in the Premier League.

Nevertheless, the young defender will return to a Thomas Tuchel led Chelsea team with the hope of proving his boundless potential domestically next season. 

  • James Maddison

Leicester City have had a momentous season under Brendan Rodgers, winning the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history. The Foxes have played free-flowing football that has caught the eyes of football fans across the world, and at the centre of a lot of their perfect performances was James Maddison. 

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However, the central attacking midfielder suffered a hip injury in the second half of the season before being chastened further by fitness problems upon the conclusion of the season.

The midfield situation is one of a lot of congestion for England. Therefore, the exclusion of Maddison is perhaps a more understandable one, even though Jordan Henderson and Jack Grealish have wriggled their way in, despite suffering from their own bouts with injury. 

Just like the right-back situation, there are too many high-quality players in that position to take them all. Injury problems have hit the Leicester City lynchpin at the wrong time, but 13 goal contributions in the Premier League will give the midfielder hope of making next year's World Cup squad. 

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