Former England right-back Glen Johnson has questioned Gareth Southgate by staying loyal to the likes of Harry Maguire with the World Cup just around the corner.
The Manchester United captain, who has been under scrutiny for the past 18 months, does not play regularly for his club as new manager Erik ten Tag prefers the center-back duo of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.
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Maguire’s clubmate Luke Shaw is also on the England squad despite making only two Premier League appearances, one of which saw him swept away at half time with the team 4-0 against Brentford.
Southgate also called up Kalvin Phillips, who had only managed 14 minutes of football since moving to Manchester City in the summer, before retiring with a recurrence of a shoulder injury.
Johnson said that while loyalty goes a long way, picking those who don’t play regularly can have significant disadvantages in soccer tournaments.
“Obviously I agree with some fairness, but to go with that you have to figure out who is fit, who is fit, who is playing week after week and then put the whole equation together,” he told the agency. PA press at an LFC Foundation-SC Johnson Goals for Change partnership event at Anfield.
“I don’t think you can choose a player solely on loyalty. The physical form of the match is huge, certainly in these tournaments because you don’t have time to warm up.
“You have to leave right away and you can’t do it if you’re not in shape and if you don’t play for your club every week.
“Training nowadays doesn’t keep you at that level because you’re just preparing for matches, so I think the players who are playing should be the priority.”
England’s last two tournaments have seen them reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and the final of Euro 2020.
Johnson – who recently jumped in defense of Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold – believes they will have a good chance again if Southgate can play a more adventurous game.
“Some of the players aren’t at their peak at the moment, but it doesn’t matter now, you’d much rather have them peak in four or five weeks, but I think there are some question marks,” he added.
“But going forward I can’t think of a team that has the offensive players we have, so as long as we use it rather than trying to be a little defensive, you might as well live and die by the sword and play with what you have.
“We probably have eight attacking players that you could argue that they should start.”