Leeds United star's figures stand out as Gareth Southgate seeks England 'replacement' for Euros
CRAZY as it may sound, England are suddenly ‘short’ of a right back.
England, this is, who had four of them in their 26-man squad for this summer’s Euros.
But Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury means four has become three and boss Gareth Southgate is set to name a replacement in time for the Euros.
Had he been on the standby list, an outstanding performer from Leeds United’s Premier League season would have been the obvious alternative if Southgate wanted to take his right backs tally back up top four.
After all, when it comes to right backs, and even players across the whole defence, few players can boast the same statistics of Luke Ayling from the 2020-21 Premier League campaign.
Nobody, in fact, can boast the same number of tackles.
The 29-year-old finished top in that department as his tally of 108 made him the division’s top tackler and only two players had more touches of the ball across in Liverpool duo Andrew Robertson and Alexander-Arnold.
Playing as both a right back and a centre back, Ayling boasts impressive stats from his first season in the Premier League as only five players offered more blocks in Aston Villa duo Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings plus Burnley’s Ben Mee and James Tarkowski and also Everton’s Ben Godfrey.
Furthermore, only six players made more passes. Ironically, Ayling made exactly the same number of passes as one of the men that kept him out of the England squad in Alexander Arnold with both making 2,381 across the season.
Only Manchester City duo Rodri and Ruben Dias, Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojberg, Liverpool’s Robertson, Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse offered more.
What else do you want from a right back? Ah yes, getting forward, but Ayling did that too and only ten players in the whole division played more football given that Ayling played every single minute of every single league game aside from the final 20 minutes of November’s goalless draw at home to Arsenal.
As a package, Ayling boasted impressive credentials, so much so that the Whites defender was touted in some quarters as a possibility for Southgate’s Euros squad, despite having no experience of international football.
Yet experienced international right backs are not something that Southgate is short of, so much so that there were suggestions, albeit false suggestions, that even Liverpool star Alexander-Arnold would miss out.
Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier and Chelsea’s Reece James were the other leading options and all three can play in other positions.
In the end, Southgate decided to name the lot of them when cutting his initial 33-man long list down to a final 26 for the Euros.
But that 26-man squad has now become 25 after Alexander-Arnold suffered a thigh injury in Wednesday’s friendly against Austria and Southgate will name a replacement following tomorrow’s final warm up game against Romania.
Under normal circumstances, Ayling would surely come into the reckoning as an obvious alternative and though the fact that Southgate initially named four right backs means he still has plenty with three.
The England boss has also said that his standby list consists of those players who failed to make the cut when the squad of 33 was reduced to 26. With Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood injured, it essentially means that Southgate has six options to choose from and one of them, Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale, is a goalkeeper.
That leaves two forward options in Manchester United’s former West Ham loanee Jesse Lingard plus Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and one midfielder in Southampton’s James-Ward Prowse.
And then there are two more defenders, one of whom is Ayling’s former team mate in Brighton’s ex-Whites loanee Ben White. Everton’s Ben Godfrey is the other and Southgate now needs to decide which of the sextet replaces Alexander-Arnold.
Ward-Prowse might be the shout given the concerns about Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s fitness as a midfield option.
Even after Alexander Arnold’s injury, Southgate probably still has enough right backs. Shame, as he has a very good one indeed from Leeds currently away on his holidays.
Maybe next time - And same with some of his Whites team mates. The second highest scoring Englishman in the division, anyone?
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Thank you Laura Collins