Martin Keown expressed a cautious and implicit disappointment over Jesse Lingard’s England selection ahead of Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe.
Both players have enjoyed formidable rises to mainstay status at their current clubs, offering a transformative impact in the middle of the park.
Smith-Rowe has scored two goals and provided six assists in 21 first-team appearances for the Gunners this season and has swiftly cemented himself as an important part of Arteta’s plans.
Conversely, Lingard’s recall – his first call-up since 2019 – is an endearing reward for a playmaker enjoying a purple patch (or perhaps better-described as a claret patch) of his own.
The on-loan West Ham man has four goals and two assists in six appearances – and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
But in Keown’s view, Lingard is not convincing enough for the pundit:
‘The England squad was named today and Lingard has made it in,’ Keown told BT Sport [via the Metro].
‘He has done exceptionally well as well, but I think Smith Rowe is unlucky not to be in there.
‘Lingard has only played 6 games since his loan, all good games but the impression and influence he has had on this Arsenal team, Smith Rowe and Saka, is absolutely outstanding.
‘I see him as unfortunate to not make the full squad.’
There is a strong case for the inclusion of both talents, given their renaissance in form with their employers.
But form is not the only factor that comes into Gareth Southgate’s thinking. Given Lingard’s experience and familiarity with the squad, it may be that those factors give Lingard the edge over his junior competitor.