England boss Gareth Southgate lauds competition for right-backs and goalkeepers

Saturday 31 Aug 2019
Gareth Southgate chats to Trent Alexander-Arnold in training

Gareth Southgate believes right-back is the current hot spot for England, as he assesses his choices for next week’s games with Bulgaria and Kosovo.

The Three Lions boss picked Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Kieran Trippier in his group for the next round of Euro Qualifiers.

That meant there was no space in the squad for Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, who had previously been a regular in Southgate’s teams.

But as Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold continues to impress, the emergence of Wan-Bissaka at Manchester United and a strong start to life with Atletico Madrid for Trippier, it left Southgate with plenty of options.

“It’s arguably our most competitive position on the pitch,” said Southgate.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to really have a look at the two younger boys in particular - I've spoken to Kyle about this.

“It also gives us an opportunity to reintegrate Kieran, who had some difficulties at the end of last season but is still a top player.

Kieran Trippier is back in the England squad following his summer switch to Spain

“He’s settled really quickly at Madrid - they're very happy with him - so we wanted to bring him back in.

“But the main focus in that area is these two younger ones and now's a good opportunity to invest some time in them.

“Trent had a fantastic end to last season and I think Aaron played very well last year, but we wanted to leave him with the U21s - his one-against-one defending is as good as I've seen in the league.

“All of our right-backs are a slightly different profile with different qualities, but we're interested to see whether we can develop them as individuals.”

There’s also a change in the goalkeeping ranks, as Burnley stopper Nick Pope returns to the fold after missing most of last season through injury.

Nick Pope is back in the England squad for the first time since last summer's World Cup

And with even more English keepers featuring for their clubs in the top flight this term, Southgate is satisfied with the growing competition in that area.

“Nick [Pope] was a great member of the squad through the World Cup in Russia but suffered the injury almost immediately when he came back,” he added.

“We know all about him, and we've also got some good young players coming through who are going to push those guys - Dean Henderson, Angus Gunn and Aaron Ramsdale.

“It's a much healthier situation in terms of English goalkeepers playing in the Premier League.”

Southgate’s squad will meet up at St. George’s Park on Monday, before playing Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday 7 September and then Kosovo at Southampton’s St. Mary’s on Tuesday 10 September.

By Nicholas Veevers