Gareth Southgate has stated that he faces a “difficult dilemma” over whether to keep faith with Harry Maguire for England following the defender’s problems at the club level, and he has intimated that he lacks experienced options to pick from.
Despite Southgate defending his inclusion in the squad last week following a poor period of form at Old Trafford, the Manchester United center-back did not play in England’s friendly win over Switzerland on Saturday. Maguire, who was an ever-present during England’s qualification campaign, is in contention to start against Ivory Coast on Tuesday night, which would be his 42nd cap for the senior side.
When asked if Maguire was still one of the greatest players at his disposal despite his recent slump, Southgate said the former Leicester defender has plenty of credit left in the bank with England but cannot be guaranteed a spot.
“He led us to a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final, so there’s no doubt he’s capable of playing at the greatest level,” Southgate added. “He was really good for us in the autumn, and the club is going through a difficult period.” There could be a variety of reasons for this. But that doesn’t mean a player can be bad for a number of years and still make it, and it sometimes depends on the competition for spots.
“Obviously, we’ve left out several forward players who haven’t been in excellent form.” However, there are immediate substitutes, as well as experienced alternatives for those players. As I previously stated, it is a difficult decision.”
Southgate has declined to identify who will replace Harry Kane as England captain against Ivory Coast, despite the fact that the Tottenham forward is due to be rested. Jordan Henderson, the vice-captain, played 90 minutes against Switzerland and might be rested, with Maguire or Raheem Sterling among the potential choices.
“I’ll let Ivory Coast know when we put a squad sheet in,” Southgate said. “If [Kane] had his way, he’d play every game for 90 minutes, which is a fantastic attribute to have because if your captain wants to be at every camp and play every minute of every game, it sets the tone for everything else.” The truth is that we have a strong team. We aim to keep individuals interested and provide chances for them. We need to see certain things over the course of the week to see how people can perform at the level.”