Gareth Southgate has recalled Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and John Stones into his latest England squad for the World Cup qualifiers, but has dropped Trent Alexander-Arnold for the first time since breaking into the senior set-up.
The Three Lions face San Marino, Albania and Poland later this month with Southgate naming an experimental 26-man squad.
Lingard’s last England cap came in the UEFA Nations League third-fourth place play-off defeat to Switzerland in June 2019 but he has revived his fortunes since joining West Ham United on loan from Manchester United.
Shaw’s absence is even longer, having earned the last of his eight caps in September 2018 while Stones has been rewarded for his part in Manchester City’s resurgence with a first call-up in 16 months.
“There’s never been any question in our mind about the quality of all three players,” he said.
“All have had difficult times, mainly due to injury. Jesse, of the three, is a little bit more fortunate to be in. Luke and John have performed over a period of time. We’ve got injuries in the attacking areas that have opened up an opportunity for Jesse.
“But I have to say his performances for West Ham have been excellent. He has four goals in six games. We know he can perform at the level, We know he’s been a really good member of our squad, both in terms of his general link-up play but he’s scored goals for England as well. There is no doubting his quality.
“Ideally, you’d be saying ‘you need to do it for a little bit longer’ but that’s not been the option this time around. We’ve lost the likes of Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and then one or two others who haven’t been with us but have been performing well: Harvey Barnes, James Maddison. There is a space there, we trust Jesse and we think he can play a big part in these three games.”
Alexander-Arnold has been part of a Liverpool team that has faltered badly in the defence of their Premier League crown and Southgate admitted the 22-year-old’s dip in form has seen him fall behind several others in the pecking order at right-back with Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker selected this time.
“Trent is very unfortunate,” he said. “I don’t think he has played at the level he found in the last couple of years but I think he is getting very close to that now. In the last few weeks, he has definitely taken steps in the right direction.
“It is simply that we think Reece James, Kieran Trippier have had exceptional seasons with their clubs. Kyle Walker is in great form with Manchester City. We’ve got other players in the league who are also playing well in that position. [Matty] Cash at Aston Villa, [Luke] Ayling at Leeds so it really is a position… we’ve got two very good right-backs in the Under-21s. It is a remarkable position of strength.
“But what I said to Trent earlier today, I’ve made that same call to Kieran and Kyle in the past. Their response was a good one and they took up the challenge and found themselves back in the squad.
“Trent is of course a super talent and I’m certain he will play a big part with England in the future. He misses out this time but we could quite conceivably be sitting here before the summer and he’s with us.”
Southgate also revealed his doubts over Jude Bellingham being able to feature despite calling up the 17-year-old after a fine campaign with Borussia Dortmund.
Current guidelines state anyone returning to Germany must self-isolate for 14 days with no exemptions.
“At the moment it looks like we won’t be able to take him,” Southgate said. “The quarantine rules in Germany look like they will rule him out. But as we’ve seen, those rules can change so quickly and while we are still investigating what is possible, we wanted to name him in the squad.
“We’ve got a really good relationship with Dortmund so no issues between us and the squad. I’ve explained to Jude that we are leaving him in there but we know is it looking doubtful at this moment in time that he’ll be able to join up.”
Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone, Nick Pope, Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Jude Bellingham , Phil Foden, Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse, Ollie Watkins, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling.