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Borussia Dortmund

Trent Alexander-Arnold axed by Gareth Southgate as Ollie Watkins wins England first call-up

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins has been called up to the England squad for the first time ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying, with West Ham’s on-loan Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard also recalled.

But there is no place for Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is a long-time favourite of manager Gareth Southgate.

With regular goalkeeper Jordan Pickford injured, uncapped West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone is named in the party, as is Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, although Southgate admits he is unlikely to be able to join up with the squad because of coronavirus travel restrictions between Germany and the UK.

John Stones is back in the squad after an impressive season at the back for Manchester City, as is Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw, who has not made a senior appearance since September 2018.

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England play San Marino at home, followed by a trip to Andorra and then Poland at Wembley.

The omission of Alexander-Arnold is a surprise, but the defender has struggled to replicate his form of previous seasons, and Southgate admits leaving him out was not down to any physical issues.

“Trent’s very unfortunate, I don’t think he’s played at the level that he found in the last couple of years, but I think he’s getting very close to that now”, said the England boss.

“The last couple of weeks he’s definitely taken steps in the right direction. It’s simply that we think Reece James, Kieran Trippier, have had exceptional seasons really 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.

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“What I’ve said to Trent, I’ve made that same call to Kyle and to Kieran in the past and 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’ll 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.

Watkins has scored 12 goals for Villa since joining from Brentford last summer, and Southgate’s revealed it was been between him and Leeds forward Patrick Bamford for a spot.

“We felt we wanted an extra striker in the squad,” he said.

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Both Ollie and Patrick in particular, their goals record has been good, we like the personalities of both – Ollie is a player that we’ve had less interaction with in the past, it’s going to be good to get to know him.

“We like his pressing, we like his speed and the runs in behind, he’s got some improvements to make in terms of linking the game but for his first season in the Premier League at a big club, he’s done exceptionally well.”

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