Gareth Southgate says Ben White is behind three England rivals after he dropped the Arsenal defender from his squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers.
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England will play their first games since the Qatar World Cup later this month, travelling to Italy on March 23 and hosting Ukraine three days later.
White was included in England’s 26-man World Cup squad at the end of last year but did not feature for the Three Lions before leaving Qatar prematurely for personal reasons.
The 25-year-old has continued to impress for Arsenal since the World Cup break, helping the Gunners move five points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
White was signed as a centre-back but the emergence of Gabriel and William Saliba has seen the ex-Brighton star slot in at right-back, where England are blessed with several options.
As a result, Southgate says White is in a ‘similar’ position to Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, who also missed out due to competition from Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and the returning Reece James.
‘With Ben… it’s similar with Ben and Trent [Alexander-Arnold] really, the three boys who are in as right full-backs we’ve got them just ahead of those two,’ Southgate said.
‘We’re blessed in that position with the depth of talent. It’s the hardest position to pick, albeit it’s never straightforward criteria and it’s always shifting around a little bit on form as well.
‘But Kyle [Walker] and Tripps [Trippier] were obviously the ones who played during the World Cup, started the games during the World Cup, have been consistent, and Reece coming back is another top player.
‘We’ve love to have that depth in every position on the field.’
England enjoyed a promising run to the quarter-finals of the Qatar World Cup before being knocked out by eventual runners-up France.
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham)
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford)
There was speculation Southgate could resign following England’s elimination, with the Three Lions also falling short in the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 since the 52-year-old took over the side in 2016.
‘The doubts I had were before the World Cup really,’ Southgate said when asked about his future. ‘I never wanted to be a divisive figure in terms of me doing the job and the results.
‘We left Wembley after the Germany game and there was an uplift in mood, we’ve always known the players stand with us as a coaching group but I wanted to show as a manager you go through challenges.
‘I’m not going to duck a challenge for fear of criticism, it was just whether it would affect the team.
‘We have to start from scratch, we have some brilliant experience but we have to have the hunger to qualify. We need bodies in the door and then perform really well in two difficult qualifiers.’
More to follow…
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