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.
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.
But in Keown’s view, Lingard is not convincing enough for the pundit:
‘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.