Gareth Southgate caused a few surprises with his England squad for the 2018 World Cup by dropping Jack Wilshere and including Trent Alexander-Arnold – but has he got the balance of his 23-man party right?
Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand have suggested England are hampered by their top stars competing against each other in the Premier League.
Speaking to COPA90 in November, Lampard cited a lack of squad integration as a “real negative of the England squad” during his time representing the Three Lions.
“I stayed with John (Terry), Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joe Cole; you were set in your ways,” he said. “We came in our little groups, we played a game, and then went away again.”
The rigours posed by their lengthy travel requirements in Russia, as shown by Betway Insider’s analysis, will also challenge England’s Group G campaign, but there does at least seem to be a genuinely good camaraderie among this group of players.
Conversely, Ferdinand revealed in an interview with BBC’s NFL show that he and Lampard stopped talking after ending up at rival clubs in Manchester United and Chelsea, despite the fact they had come through the ranks together at West Ham.
“We never spoke about it, we just stopped talking,” he said. “We didn’t hate each other, but I didn’t want to give him anything that he might take back to Chelsea.”
The pair were quizzed about it alongside Gerrard on BT Sport earlier this season, with all three suggesting the rivalry of the clubs they played for prevented the sort of squad harmony perhaps needed for the so-called Golden Generation to have achieved the success expected of them.
Gerrard said there was “more of a respect than a bond” among the players, adding: “When I spoke to other international players, Coutinho for example, they can’t wait to go away with Brazil. It’s the best 10 days of their season.
“You didn’t really get that feeling with England. You looked forward to the games, but (not) everything else around the games.”
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 25, 2017
Gerrard, like Lampard, suggested having so many of England’s players in the same division worked against them.
He said: “A lot of other nations have players playing all over the world and then they come back together and they don’t have that competition – every week we were at each other.”
The question is, do the former England stars have a point?
Most was expected of England at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup when Sven Goran Eriksson’s squads were made up of players from 10 clubs and 13 clubs respectively.
Aside from David Beckham at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s Owen Hargreaves, the remainder of the players in the squads for both tournaments were Premier League based.
However, Spain won the World Cup and two European Championships with squads made up of from just two leagues, while every single member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad was based in Serie A. Being “at each other” every week didn’t affect their performance.
Indeed, in the four seasons between Spain’s two European Championship triumphs, which sandwiched their World Cup victory, Barcelona and Real Madrid went into battle with each other 15 times – once more than Liverpool clashed with Chelsea between the World Cups in 2002 and 2006.
Despite the vast majority of the national squad being made up of players from those two clubs, the Clasico rivalry and their annual La Liga title race certainly didn’t harm La Roja.
England Euro 2004 squad
3 leagues: 21 Premier League, 1 Bundesliga, 1 La Liga.
13 clubs: Man Utd 4, Chelsea 4, Liverpool 3, Arsenal 2, Tottenham 2, Aston Villa 1, Birmingham 1, Everton 1, Leicester 1, Man City 1, Newcastle 1, Bayern Munich 1, Real Madrid 1,
England World Cup 2006 squad
3 leagues: 21 Premier League, 1 Bundesliga, 1 La Liga
10 clubs: Chelsea 4, Liverpool 4, Tottenham 4, Arsenal 3, Man Utd 3, Man City 1, Middlesbrough 1, Newcastle 1, Bayern Munich 1, Real Madrid 1.
England World Cup 2018 squad
1 league: 23 Premier League
11 clubs: Tottenham 5, Man Utd 4, Man City 4, Liverpool 2, Leicester 2, Arsenal 1, Burnley 1, Chelsea 1, Crystal Palace 1, Everton 1, Stoke 1
Euro 2016: Portugal
Players from 15 clubs in seven leagues.
Sporting Lisbon 4, Benfica 3, Fenerbahce 2, Real Madrid 2, Southampton 2, Monaco 2, Lorient 1, Lille 1, Wolfburg 1, Lyon 1, Porto 1, Valencia 1, Braga 1, Besiktas 1, Dinamo Zagreb 1.
World Cup 2014: Germany
Players from 11 clubs in four leagues.
Bayern Munich 7, Borussia Dortmund 4, Arsenal 3, Schalke 2, Freiburg 1, Real Madrid 1, Chelsea 1, Lazio 1, Hannover 1, Sampdoria 1, Borussia Monchengladbach 1.
Euro 2012: Spain
Players from 10 clubs in 2 leagues.
Barcelona 7, Real Madrid 5, Sevilla 2, Athletic Bilbao 2, Chelsea 2, Valencia 1, Malaga 1, Manchester City 1, Liverpool 1, Atletico Madrid 1.
World Cup 2010: Spain
Players from eight clubs in two leagues.
Barcelona 7, Real Madrid 5, Valencia 4, Athletico Bilbao 2, Liverpool 2, Sevilla 1, Villarreal 1, Arsenal 1
Euro 2008: Spain
Players from 11 clubs in two leagues.
Liverpool 4, Valencia 4, Barcelona 3, Villarreal 3, Real Madrid 2, Mallorca 2, Arsenal 1, Getafe 1, Real Betis 1, Sevilla 1, Real Zaragoza 1.
World Cup 2006: Italy
Players from nine clubs, all Serie A based.
Juventus 5, AC Milan 5, Palermo 4, Roma 3, Lazio 2, Inter MIlan 1, Fiorentina 1, Livorno 1, Udinese 1.
Euro 2004: Greece
Players from 11 clubs in six leagues.
Panathinaikos 6, AEK Athens 5, Olympiacos 4, Fiorentina 1, Inter Milan 1, Roma 1, Bolton 1, Leicester 1, Werder Bremen 1, Benfica 1, Atletico Madrid 1.
World Cup 2002: Brazil
Players from 18 clubs in five leagues.
Corinthians 3, Sao Paulo 3, Gremio 2, Flamengo 1, Cruzeiro 1, Palmeiras 1, Atletico Paranaense 1, Atletico Mineiro 1, Lyon 1, PSG 1, Bayer Leverkusen 1, Inter Milan 1, AC Milan 1, Parma 1, Roma 1, Barcelona 1, Real Betis 1, Real Madrid 1.
Euro 2000: France
Players from 14 clubs in five leagues.
Bordeaux 4, Arsenal 3, Chelsea 3, Real Madrid 2, Inter Milan 1, Parma, 1, Juventus 1, Roma 1, Bayern Munich 1, Kaiserlautern 1, PSG 1, Monaco 1, Marseille 1, Man Utd 1.
Sometimes it’s okay to go back.
Strap yourselves in. This is a biggie.
Exactly a quarter of them play for Chelsea.
It’s time to stop listening to Three Lions now.
We’d love to see this game played in real life.
They already love his “powerful right leg”.
Leighton Baines speaks to The Mind Map.
Not a good day to be an ATV Irdning fan.
Can we do it all again?
Try getting this Southgate chant out of your head.