Southgate explains absence of Arsenal star who was ‘very close’

Gareth Southgate has revealed how close Arsenal attacking midfielder Emile Smith Rowe was to a maiden England call-up.

Southgate named a 23-man squad for the upcoming international break, in which England face Andorra and Hungary in World Cup qualifiers.

Phil Foden has returned to the team after recovering from an injury, while Ollie Watkins and Fikayo Tomori were also among those given the nod.

Some felt Emile Smith Rowe might have been in contention for selection after impressing for Arsenal, which Southgate confirmed.

“He is a player we like a lot and was very close to making this squad,” the England manager explained.

“At this moment in time I don’t want to bring in any more younger players out of the Under-21s. They have got to earn that right over a longer period.

“I thought his performance against Tottenham was very good, we know how he finished last season as well. I can only say he is a player we really like and he was close.”

Speaking in general about a squad that was largely made up of players who helped England reach the Euro 2020 final, Southgate added: “There should be some consistency, which doesn’t mean we’re closed to players in good form – that’s why Fikayo and Aaron Ramsdale are in.

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“But this core group – there are eight or nine in particular that got us to the European Championship and World Cup semi-finals and other players have to earn the right to push them out.”

The inclusion of Ramsdale ahead of squad regular Nick Pope is, according to Southgate, testament to the former’s adjustment to life at Arsenal.

“Aaron was with us all summer and we had the opportunity to work with him for a long time and get to understand his strengths,” said Southgate.

“Nick is still I think coming back from injury a little bit, but I think Aaron is just in a better vein of form at the moment.

“From Aaron’s perspective, the move to a bigger club with higher expectations and a style of play where he is asked to build with his feet from the back, he’s coping really well.

“I think that’s an important factor for us when looking at the biggest matches, having a goalkeeper who has really adapted well to a move and is full of confidence.”

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