16 March 2023

Gareth Southgate admits to worries over England’s shrinking talent pool

16 March 2023

Boss Gareth Southgate has painted a bleak picture about England’s talent pool.

The manager fears the numbers he will be able to pick from will continue to decline and impact his squad.

Around 32 per cent of starters in the Premier League are eligible for England and Southgate is worried about the long-term effect on the national team.

“The numbers are the numbers. They’re not going up,” he said.

“It has been around 32 per cent but that’s down from 35 per cent when I took over and 38 per cent in the years before so the graph is clear – there’s no argument about that.

“Twenty-eight per cent has happened in a couple of weekends in the last few weeks.

“It becomes more complicated (to succeed). What’s the best way to judge our players? The Champions League.

“If you look at Champions League minutes this year we are sixth on that list – we’re actually behind Brazil and Portugal.

“If breaking into the team is the foundation, the Champions League and the upper echelons of the Premier League is the finishing school. The rest of Europe get their foundation in their own domestic leagues and then the cream is sold around the big five leagues and they get the finishing school at the end.

“At the moment we are a long way behind France and Spain on those numbers and it is really interesting that Brazil, who obviously have a really powerful domestic league, now have as many players playing Champions League – or more than we have.”

Data shows figures for players eligible to play for England in the Premier League are in line with the five-year average of 32 per cent with the figure of 28 per cent only representing the lowest gameweek starters for this season.

Also, the playing time of English players at the big six clubs has been around 27 per cent for the last four seasons, 16 per cent higher than the average for the previous four seasons.

“I think it won’t hit us necessarily in the next 18 months but if there are 66 players each week it does mean that positionally you have to add in what that means as well,” added Southgate.

“I think we’ve got four left-footed left-backs in the league at the moment so we will have to start looking in the Championship or elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, Southgate has no safety concerns ahead of next week’s opening Euro 2024 qualifier with Italy in Naples.

There were clashes between Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt fans before and after their Champions League tie on Wednesday, which the hosts won 5-0 on aggregate.

“In the end, it’s for the Italian FA to decide where they play their games,” he said. “Clearly, our organisation will always try to make the travelling experience as smooth as possible for our fans and that’s important.

“From a personal perspective, to go to such a famous football city and having grown up watching Maradona win the title there and in a year where they look like they will do it again, I am looking forward to the football experience of being there. I have to focus on the bits I can control.”

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