As the nation breathes a sigh of relief over the return of the Premier League this weekend following ten days of international football, Gareth Southgate will begin to experience the headache that has troubled every England manager since the turn of the century.
The Premier League may quite rightly sell itself as the most exciting and unpredictable league in the world, but for Southgate, it is football’s version of ever decreasing circles.
As the 46-year-old interim manager explained followed Tuesday’s 0-0 draw against Slovenia in Ljubljana, the pool of players available to England has now diminished at such an alarming rate that the squad he named for the recent World Cup qualifiers is pretty much it – there is no crop of alternative talent waiting to harvested.
“I’m not sure how many players out there who are playing in the league,” Southgate said. “Whoever picks the squad – everybody would pick something slightly different – I bet 19 or 20 names would be the same, maybe more.
“So I think we’ve got to have some reality on that.”
That reality is nothing new. The English talent available to the England manager is decreasing year-on-year in the Premier League.
But while the quantity is reducing, so too is the quality and that is the major concern for Southgate and those within St George’s Park charged with making England competitive once again.
In Spain, Italy, France and Germany, an all-star team built from the domestic leagues would still be heavily dominated by home-grown players.
But how many Englishmen would find their way into a Premier League XI?
Joe Hart’s loan move from Manchester City to Torino rules the England number one out of the running in the battle for the goalkeeper jersey in the Premier League XI, but it is difficult to state a case for his understudies Fraser Forster and Tom Heaton.
Too many top-class ‘keepers are ahead of Forster and Heaton by virtue of their involvement in the Champions League and Europa League, with Hugo Lloris and David de Gea the two ‘keepers displaying the most consistent form, for Tottenham and Manchester United respectively, over recent months.
Both Lloris and De Gea have become regulars at international level, with Lloris captaining France during Euro 2016, and De Gea dislodging World Cup winner Iker Casillas from the Spain team.
But on the basis of his contribution to Tottenham qualifying for the Champions League last season, and his leadership qualities, Lloris would edge out De Gea for the Premier League goalkeeper spot.
The days of the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Sol Campbell and Jamie Carragher dominating at centre-half in the Premier League are long gone, with no obvious successors either for full-backs of the quality of Gary Neville and Ashley Cole.
At right-back, Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is emerging as the most consistent in the league in his position, with few obvious rivals to the Spaniard.
Left-back is a difficult position to fill, with no obviously outstanding candidate currently playing in the Premier League.
Liverpool have been forced to deploy James Milner at left-back this season due to concerns over the ability of Alberto Moreno, while Daley Blind has filled the role at Manchester United with Luke Shaw yet to fully return to fitness following a year-long broken leg lay-off.
Gael Clichy has issues defensively at Manchester City, as does Leicester’s Christian Fuchs, so an Englishman may just win the race for the number three shirt, with selection boiling down to Shaw or Danny Rose.
Rose, fit and in-form, with a good Euro 2016 behind him, gets the nod at left-back.
At the heart of defence, it is difficult to look beyond Tottenham’s hugely impressive pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, with Leicester’s Wes Morgan and Robert Huth struggling to reproduce the form they displayed last season.
But as strong and commanding as Vertonghen and Alderweireld have become, the development of John Stones at Manchester City makes it impossible to overlook the England defender.
So Stones would join Rose in the back-four, alongside Alderweireld.
SELECTION: Bellerin, Stones, Alderweireld, Rose.
Midfield has become a key area of weakness for England – a reality confirmed by the use of Wayne Rooney in that position since the beginning of Euro 2016.
There is no Steven Gerrard or David Beckham, Frank Lampard or Paul Scholes, available to anchor the midfield, with time now passing the likes of Michael Carrick, Gareth Barry and James Milner by.
Jack Wilshere, when fit, would challenge for a position in a Premier League XI, while Eric Dier has the potential to do the same.
But such is the quality of foreign midfielders in the Premier League, it is impossible to state the case for the likes of Jordan Henderson, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana.
Six months ago, N’Golo Kante would walk into a Premier League XI, but the Chelsea player has to reproduce his Leicester form at Stamford Bridge.
Similarly, Paul Pogba has the talent to be the centre-point of this team, but he is also struggling for form at Manchester United following his £89m world record move from Juventus.
For the engine room of this team, with four midfielders, you cannot look too far beyond Manchester City.
Fernandinho has been outstanding – with the exception of a difficult afternoon at Tottenham – in defensive midfield, while Kevin De Bruyne had shown signs of becoming a new Gerrard before being injured earlier this month.
David Silva is the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League, so the Spaniard would claim the number ten role.
With De Bruyne playing on the left, that just leaves the right-hand side of midfield and few have been as consistent as Christian Eriksen at Tottenham, although Raheem Sterling could oust the Dane if he proves that his impressive start to the season can be sustained throughout the campaign.
SELECTION: Eriksen, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva.
There is an array of attacking talent in the Premier League, but most of it is foreign.
A fit and firing Harry Kane would claim one of the two positions, but the Tottenham and England forward has had an injury-interrupted start to this campaign.
Daniel Sturridge also possesses the talent, but the Liverpool forward simply lacks the consistency of Sergio Aguero, the presence of Diego Costa, or the durability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be selected.
Marcus Rashford? The 18-year-old Manchester United forward is knocking on the door, but until he can lay claim to a regular starting spot under Jose Mourinho, cannot be picked ahead of the likes of Aguero, Costa and Romelu Lukaku.
Aguero would be one of the first names on the team-sheet, so he plays, but his partner is a tricky one.
Kane and Rashford would contenders if playing, but with Costa regaining his top form this season, Englishmen would be shut out – for now.
SELECTION: Aguero, Costa.
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