By Ryan Day
England set out to secure qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Friday evening as they host Albania at Wembley and Gareth Southgate’s side could be rejuvenated by the inclusion of Arsenal attacking midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe.
The youngster burst onto the scene last season during Arsenal’s stuttering season, particularly impressing in the clubs 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Boxing Day. Fast forward to this summer and after continuing to impress for the Gunners, Smith-Rowe was handed the number 10 shirt at the Emirates and has been a shining light in Mikel Arteta’s side earning him his first England senior call up for this weekend’s double header against Albania and San Marino.
The ‘Croydon De Bruyne’ as he is affectionately nicknamed wasn’t in Southgate’s original plans, however the withdrawal of James Ward-Prowse and the delayed arrival of Mason Mount meant the youngster got his call up. The 21-year-old links up with an England side that appear to be stuttering over the line for qualification after drawing two of their previous three games in which allowing Poland the opportunity to close the gap to three points with two games remaining.
Whilst England should all but secure their passage tonight with a win over Albania, there are calls for Southgate to include Smith-Rowe after receiving criticism against Hungary last month for fielding his whole attacking armour and essentially losing the balance of the squad.
Southgate is likely to resist the chance to do that again which could open the door for Smith-Rowe to burst into the squad and ignite England’s stuttering campaign and book theirs and potentially his own space at next year’s Qatar World Cup.
Would you start Emile Smith-Rowe against Albania?