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Does Raheem Sterling Deserve an England Recall?


Does Raheem Sterling Deserve an England Recall?

This week, Gareth Southgate named his England squad for the upcoming European qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia. The Three Lions have already booked their place at next summer’s tournament, but this now marks five squads in a row where Raheem Sterling has not been called up.

The winger has long been a trusted member of the team and was arguably the best player at Euro 2020, in which they reached the final. However, he has since fallen out of favour with his national side, despite his impressive performances for Chelsea this season.

Sterling will be hoping to add to his 82 caps in the future, but in the meantime, it seems as though he has dropped down the pecking order.

Raheem Sterling, England

Header logoEuro 2024 Qualifying - Group C

Team logoEngland
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Last updated 17/05/2024

Rediscovering Form at Chelsea

Raheem Sterling will be the first to admit that his first season at Chelsea did not go to plan, as he and the club struggled in what was a dismal season, finishing 12th with the winger scoring nine goals in all competitions.

However, after a huge summer clear-out, things are looking much more positive for the West London club, with a recent victory over rivals Tottenham and a dramatic 4-4 draw against Champions Manchester City showcasing the potential of their young squad. Such is the nature of the club’s rebuild, they have brought in many inexperienced players, with 28-year-old Sterling now looked at as one of the team’s leaders. He has taken on this role well, with his added responsibilities translating to an improved performance on the pitch.

He was arguably man of the match in the draw against City, a display which followed another strong outing at Spurs. This season he has already scored four Premier League goals and grabbed one assist. In contrast, last year he scored six and created three, so he is already well on his way to surpassing both tallies just 12 games into the campaign.

On paper, the numbers may not look that impressive, but he is playing with a greater freedom and confidence than he was last season. Mauricio Pochettino’s system has allowed him to assume a role in which he can express himself and utilise his best attributes, such as taking on defenders and arriving at the back post.

His advanced stats back up his crucial role in Chelsea’s attack, with the Englishman ranking first in the league in take-ons (67) and joint-third in possession won in the final third (14), which demonstrates his willingness to press from the front.

What has Gareth Southgate said?

Gareth Southgate once again gave his reasoning for Sterling’s omission. Just as he had said prior to the last camp, it was simply a case of there not being any other player deserving to be dropped. He refused to close the door on Sterling’s England career.

"Well, the door is 100 percent open not only for Raheem but for other players not in the squad.”

"We don’t need to know about his quality, his personality. He is a crucial part of why we’ve had the journey we’ve had over the last few years.”

"I can only repeat what I have said in the meetings, we’re playing exceptionally well and who can I leave out?”

Perhaps it makes sense, Southgate knows what he will get from Sterling, who after 82 caps has always shown his quality for England. He could be looking to see what else he has in preparation for next summer’s Euros, and any potential alternatives should injuries arise.

However, there has been a lot of debate and criticism surrounding the decision. Rio Ferdinand showed his support for Sterling on his podcast, Vibe with Five, saying, ‘Free my guy, free Raheem Sterling. I don’t know what he’s done, whose nose he’s put out of joint. Was it him coming back from the tournament or something like that? I don’t know what’s happened but for him not to be in the England squad is beyond me. I know there’s a lot of talent but if we’re talking form then he’s got more assists and goal involvements than Rashford and Grealish together.’

How Does He Compare to England’s Current Wingers?

Southgate explained that no one in his current squad deserved to be dropped. He claims he picks players on merit, but how does Sterling compare to the wingers picked ahead of him?

The England manager named a group of nine attackers in his squad: Jarrod Bowen, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Ollie Watkins and Callum Wilson. Sterling’s Chelsea teammate Cole Palmer was called up as an injury replacement.

In Southgate’s defence, he has a difficult job as he has a lot of talent to choose from. But if he truly picks players on form, there are cases to be made for Sterling over the likes of Jack Grealish or Marcus Rashford, who have just one goal and two assists combined this season. It’s fair to say that Bukayo Saka is undroppable, given his form for both Arsenal and England. He has been voted England’s Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons. Jarrod Bowen has also excelled so far, scoring eight goals already.

It doesn’t help that Sterling’s last England appearance was an ineffective cameo as a substitute in the 2-1 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France, whilst Rashford and Grealish have played well at international level. He also mutually agreed to miss last June’s qualifiers following his disappointing debut season with Chelsea, and that has allowed other players to come to the forefront of Southgate’s mind.

Will Sterling Make the Euros Squad?

The ultimate goal is to make the squad for next summer’s European Championship, not for meaningless games in November. Sterling still has plenty of time to make his way back into Southgate’s thinking. But the England manager will have a tough job of selecting just a few names from a large pool of talent.

If Sterling continues his early season form, it will seem incredibly harsh if he were to miss out. But having been left out of the previous five squads, Southgate may be looking at a younger and fresher approach on the wings, as opposed to the tried and tested Sterling.

However, he is a big game player, and his experience and quality could be invaluable to a squad mostly consisting of youngsters.

There will be players in the current squad sweating over their place, knowing they will have to consistently perform to earn their spot on the plane. Because if they don’t, they know a player like Sterling will be right there to take his chance.