England manager Gareth Southgate has attempted to explain why he has omitted Theo Walcott from his Three Lions squad for the forthcoming games against Germany and Lithuania.
The Arsenal man has scored 17 goals this season but has been left out despite the Three Lions being short of options up front after injuries to Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge.
Southgate has instead handed a shock recall for 34-year-old Sunderland man Jermain Defoe with Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy the other strikers in the 26-man squad.
One Gunner who has been included is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Southgate admitted he expected Walcott to be disappointed at not being selected.
“Theo has a really valid claim for being included,” he said via The Guardian. “I didn’t see him featuring in the games this week and so in terms of having him in the longer squad I needed to look at one or two other players that I don’t know too much about.
“That’s a really tough call on him and one I don’t expect him to be chuffed to bits about.”
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Southgate also admitted that he had been tempted to recall Danny Welbeck after his return to action following a long-term knee injury but feels he needs more games under his belt before he returns to England duty.
“Andy [Carroll]I don’t think has played enough,” he added. “ It’s a bit like Danny Welbeck – Danny is a player I really like but at the moment he’s a little bit short of match minutes.”
Walcott’s omission is a surprise particularly given his form this season and the lack of goalscoring options available to Southgate currently.
England squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Torino), Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Defenders Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Michael Keane (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Michail Antonio (West Ham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Jake Livermore (West Brom), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Man City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton).
Strikers: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).