Gareth Southgate has announced his 23-man squad for the upcoming EURO qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo, but the inclusion of Jesse Lingard is a decision that the England boss simply cannot justify on the basis of the midfielder’s current form.
Lingard, 26, is yet to score or assist in the Premier League in 2019, and the performances of the Manchester United midfielder simply do not warrant a place in an England squad with such a high level of competition for places.
The United youth product has shown glimpses of his potential, notably under Jose Mourinho during his tenure at Old Trafford, but with attacking English prospects such as Jack Grealish displaying their qualities in the top-flight and not garnering international acclaim, it does put Southgate’s decision to persist in his support of Lingard under further scrutiny.
Lingard’s domestic image, as a player for England’s most successful club side in the last decade, is arguably aiding his international prospects – it is difficult to imagine a player from a less-established Premier League side being afforded yet another opportunity with the national side despite such poor performances for his club side.
The following four weeks of league football will be simply pivotal for Lingard if he is to maintain a sense of credibility for the next international break in October, and if the United midfielder fails to find form prior to the European finals next summer, then Southgate simply cannot pick the 26-year-old; regardless of the glimpses of greatness he has shown and the jovial nature he may bring to the squad.
Given the emergence of promising English players such as Todd Cantwell, 21, in the current Premier League campaign, it is likely that Lingard’s place in Southgate’s plans for the European Championships in 2020 will be a true dilemma for the England boss, and one senses this could be Lingard’s last chance to impress before potentially facing a culling from the Three Lions squad.