James Ward-Prowse enjoyed his best season yet with Southampton in 20/21 season. The midfielder contributed to more goals than ever before, recording 16 goal involvements in all competitions. Yet, even after proving his worth, Ward-Prowse has been denied the opportunity to play a part in the Euros. Instead, Gareth Southgate has opted for another centre-back in Ben White.
The Brighton & Hove Albion defender deserved a call-up, that’s unquestionable, but did he deserve a place over Ward-Prowse? Probably not. Over the likes of Conor Coady, yes the argument could easily be made. But Ward-Prowse, when playing for England, offers something no other midfielder or player can. And that’s a significant threat from a dead ball situation.
Ben White England Call: What the Decision Could Mean
James Ward-Prowse: The Set Piece Specialist That England Will Miss
Without Trent Alexander-Arnold, England lack that threat, that perfect delivery or chance to score directly from a free-kick. So the next man in line to take that mantle seemed to be James Ward-Prowse who dictated play and caused a threat from the aforementioned scenarios against Romania.
Alas, it wasn’t to be in the end for the Saints midfielder despite England’s clear danger from corners and free-kicks proven in the World Cup three years ago. In Russia, whether it was Harry Maguire or Harry Kane, the Three Lions caused havoc from set-pieces. So, naturally, choosing your best set piece taker seemed a certainty with a space presenting itself following Alexander-Arnold’s injury. In truth, however, and, more worryingly, Southgate could not risk picking such a player over a safer option.
The decision gives us all a very worrying indication as to where Harry Maguire is at fitness wise.
Ben White Decision Could Indicate Maguire’s Lack of Fitness
So far, Gareth Southgate has had a nightmare time when it comes to injuries. Alexander-Arnold suffered a competition-ending injury in a friendly against Austria after all the chaos surrounding his selection. Then it didn’t look as though Jordan Henderson would be fit before those worries were eased against Romania. But to put the cherry on top, we are yet to see Harry Maguire return.
Injured towards the end of the season, the Manchester United defender was still picked for the squad. As arguably England’s best defender, Southgate made the right decision, but at what cost? The fact he has picked Ben White should give us a clear indication that Maguire will not be ready and that Coady and Mings are not trusted.
Ben White is a top defender, that’s unquestionable, and an incredible young talent who should have been called up in the first place. That is where Southgate has gone so horribly wrong. If he made the correct decision with his initial 26-man squad, England could have had the luxury of both Ben White and Ward-Prowse or Jesse Lingard.
As soon as Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady were named over the likes of Ben White, Esri Konsa and Fikayo Tomori, Southgate had an unsolvable conundrum. Without Maguire for the first games, the England boss simply had no choice but to pick another defender.
Southgate had plenty of deserving options, including Ben White, and it is the young Brighton man who got the eventual call.
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