When the England senior squad was announced for the upcoming matches later this month, most Everton supporters immediately scanned the sheet to see if Ross Barkley’s amazing form had earned him a recall to the Three Lions.
Toffees fans were elated to see that their homegrown star HAD been called up for the World Cup Qualifier home against Lithuania and the friendly at Germany.
Barkley was not alone, however, in being called in from international purgatory. Along with Barkley, there were two other players whose inclusion was a bit out of left field.
Here it is – the #ThreeLions squad for this month's games against and ! pic.twitter.com/CpSFOmRwyQ— England (@England) March 16, 2017
Jermaine Defoe was finally rewarded for his stellar half decade with a recall into the side. While certainly benefiting from Harry Kane’s absence, the call up was well-deserved for the 34 year old who has simply never stopped scoring (except his stint in MLS).
That brings me to the other suprise inclusion on the roster:
West Brom’s Jake Livermore.
Yes, THAT West Brom, and THAT Livermore.
While he is certainly a solid player, my thoughts immediately went to our own Tom Davies and his EXCLUSION from the Senior squad and inclusion with the Under-19’s instead.
Setting aside the VERY flaky argument of competitiveness of matches (the U19’s have qualifiers for the upcoming European Championships), I find myself at a loss as to why Southgate would choose the Tigers midfielder over the Toffees wonderkid.
So I looked into it....and I am COMPLETELY validated in my thinking.
Let’s start by letting the England manager explain why he decided to include Livermore in the Three Lions side.
"It's a great reward for him – he's battled back from some personal difficulties. I'm sure he'll be delighted." https://t.co/3dAeKRw1eF— England (@England) March 16, 2017
Ok, sounds like a logical argument.
Missing Jordan Henderson and Danny Drinkwater, Southgate saw a lack of defensive central midfield options and decided Jake Livermore was the next best option.
I would counter, however, that Davies offers a much better skill set to fill in for the two missing players he brought up.
Well first, Henderson and Drinkwater aren’t your classic holding midfielders. If he really wanted a #6, he would have called up Michael Carrick.
Henderson and Drinkwater, I would argue, are more of shuttling #8’s.
I know Henderson tends to sit deepest for Liverpool, but in their pressing game they can’t afford to have a player who just sits and balances the game. He doesn’t just sit and break up counters, Henderson consistently contributes to the attack!
As for Drinkwater, who in the world would have called him a defensive central midfielder when he was paired with N’Golo Kante?
Even after Kante moved on to Chelsea, Ranieri didn’t just hand the keys to Drinkwater and told him to sit deep. Instead, they went out and signed up Wilfred Ndidi.
So... getting back to Livermore and Davies, let’s see how they match up defensively:
Playing in a “deeper” position, Livermore has a slight edge in tackles, interceptions, and clearances. Remembering who he plays for though, and considering West Brom average about 40% possession per match, it’s easy to deduce why Livermore’s numbers would be slightly higher.
Finally, while I don’t put much stock into it, it should be noted that whoscored.com gives Davies a higher defensive rating based on ALL available metrics.
As I mentioned before though, while Southgate SAID he is looking for a defensive central midfielder, he is really looking for an all-around player, and once you consider passing and attacking skills Davies really pulls ahead.
Davies has the uncanny ability to create chances and more importantly SPACE for his teammates.
Leading Livermore in Assists, Key Passes, and Dribbles, Davies influence moving forward is unquestionable.
The other stat that sticks out to me is the number of fouls drawn.
The ability to draw in defenders to create space by pressing into dangerous areas is easily measured by the Ketwig Kaiser’s fouls drawn, not to mention the ability of Davies to kill off a game by drawing free kicks and slowing the pace of play.
With players like Dele Ali and Ross Barkley finding the space vacated by defenders forced to commit to (and often foul) Davies, the Three Lions would finally have the central piercing runs Three Lions fans had hoped Jack Wilshire would provide.
Davies would be exactly the midfielder to replace the injured Drinkwater and Henderson, giving balance and toughness to the center of the park.
Instead, Southgate has decided that including a 27-year old relegation battler with middling attacking skills rather than a well-rounded 19-year old who can change the game in an instant is what is best for the team.
Sorry Gareth, you’re wrong. And we found that out last Saturday when Everton thumped WBA 3-0 easily.