England boss Gareth Southgate explains his thinking after naming his squad for March

The Three Lions face their first games of 2018 this month and manager Gareth Southgate uses TheFA.com to discuss his thoughts and selection for the games with Netherlands and Italy.

Thursday 15 Mar 2018
The Three Lions boss has named a 27-man squad for March's games with the Dutch and Italian teams
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I think there were a couple of things we were looking for from this squad.

One is players whose performances we were really pleased with in November, when there were lots of new players who came in and did well.

We've kept some of those guys in the squad and one or two were a bit unfortunate in that, with injuries, they're not playing yet – Ruben Loftus-Cheek would be an example of that.

Netherlands v England
  • International Match
  • 8pm, Friday 23 March 2018
  • Amsterdam ArenA, Netherlands
  • Live on ITV

Selection-wise, I've talked before about players needing to be playing for their clubs – and playing well – but it's a bit more of a complex scenario in reality.

We don't have that many English-qualified players that we believe are at the level needed, so I've tried to pick players that we think are of the level required.

It's a combination of players that have played well for us in the past, as well as players that are in-form with their clubs – so the likes of James Tarkowski, Nick Pope and Alfie Mawson, who've come into this squad for the first time, and Lewis Cook, who has been with us before but this is the first time he's been officially named.

We're still a work in progress, but I see signs of improvement though and that's the most important thing.

All of the guys with us are in the running for the 23 going to the World Cup, but there are also some others who aren't available this month – clearly Harry Kane is one of those, Phil Jones is one of those, as are Fabian Delph and Ruben.

In terms of the new players in the squad, I’ll start with Nick Pope. We know a lot about the other three goalkeepers – they're all very experienced internationally.

If we have a problem with any of our other goalkeepers it's important that we find out more about Nick, and form-wise he deserves to be in the squad. It's a great credit to him, his club and – I have to say – Sean Dyche in terms of the way they defend.

On that note, James Tarkowski is a player I've watched since he was at Brentford. He's comfortable on the ball and a strong defender in and around the penalty area, so he's a player we were keen to see more of – as is Alfie Mawson.

Alfie Mawson was one of England's best performers in the U21 Euro Finals last summer


Alfie was one of our best performers in the U21 Euro Finals last summer. We don't just go to those tournaments for fun, we go there with a purpose: to see who can handle that pressure and perform on that stage.

The likes of Jordan Pickford and Mawson, in particular, were the standout performers in that tournament.

I think we're very clear on how we want to play and players that might fit that profile.

We've moved to a back three and maybe, in a four, it'd be different for someone like Joe Gomez, who fits perfectly on the right side of a three at the moment.

It opens up different possibilities for players. When we're watching games, we have a much clearer idea in our heads of what we're looking for.

There's obviously some experienced players who've played well for England in the past who we haven't selected this time, but I was really pleased with the way our defence – our back three – played against Brazil and Germany when Harry Maguire, Joe and John Stones made really strong performances.

We also have Eric Dier who can play in that back three, and there's a couple of other things we want to look at so bringing Mawson and Tarkowski in is a chance for us to see them – what level they are at and whether there's an opportunity for the summer and beyond that as well.

Gary Cahill isn’t with us this time, but he has huge experience, both for club and at international level. He's a guy I respect enormously so it was a very difficult call because he played a lot of our qualifying matches but, as I said, I was really pleased with how the defenders played in November and the others are players I want to find out more about.

Jack Wilshere is back with us and I think the likes of Jack and Lewis Cook are both technically very good footballers. In Jack's case, earlier in the season, he wasn't playing regularly at club level.

England v Italy
  • International Match
  • 7.45pm, Tuesday 27 March 2018
  • Wembley Stadium connected by EE
  • Tickets: 0844 826 2010

He needed that run of games to prove his fitness and for us to be able to look at him more closely. He’s now playing in the bigger matches for Arsenal and has had some good performances for them so it’s a good time for him to come back in with us and for us to work with him closely again.

Of course, we want as many of the players available to work with, as we don't see them regularly and it’s unfortunate that we’re missing Harry Kane this time.

Harry's only been able to play for us in six of the 14 matches we've had, so that will now be six in 16 and he has scored seven goals in those games, so you get an idea of the impact he can have for us.

But we have to be ready for injuries in any area and what's pleased me most is that when we haven't had Harry available, Daniel Sturridge has scored, Marcus Rashford has scored, Jamie Vardy has scored and Jermain Defoe scored.

Other people have stepped up and delivered and we have to be able to do that as a team so Danny Welbeck is with us again.

We've already got a number of players with speed who have a certain profile, but Danny is a bit stronger physically and has similar attributes to Harry, in holding the ball up and linking-up the play.

They are different players but Danny is a closer fit to Harry in terms of some of the others who we might have looked at. Whenever he joins us and you look at his record, he also scores goals. His record for England is fantastic and he's a player we like as a personality and a character.

He played well for Arsenal in Milan last week and that's why we've brought him back into the group

The Netherlands and Italy are both going to be difficult games, but that's why we selected them.

These two teams are football nations that we hugely respect, they both have new coaches so they will have a point to prove and have an impact on the teams.

We want to learn things from the games, about individual players and also get back re-connected with how we train, how we work and how we play because we're only 90 days away from the first game of a World Cup.

Follow the Three Lions here.

By Gareth Southgate England manager at St. George's Park