No Kieran Trippier 26 days after he captained England is a real show of national strength

In what should have been the season where his England career really took off, the muddled thinking at Manchester United has instead cost Jadon Sancho his place in the squad. The fall from grace of Kieran Trippier is starker still, but in a perverse way, his is to be celebrated.

That is nothing against Trippier, an unassuming player Gareth Southgate has always known he can rely on.

Twenty-six days ago, the Atletico Madrid full-back was captaining his country for the second time. On Wednesday night he played Champions League football at Anfield. The following afternoon he was left out of the England squad.

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You can pretty much guarantee it is not because Southgate has taken against him. Instead it is a sign of the pool of talent he has to call upon, never better demonstrated than by the performance of Trippier's opposite number on Wednesday.

DROPPED: Full-back Kieran Trippier has been left out of England's squad for the games against Albania and San Marino

Trent Alexander-Arnold missed England's last batch of World Cup qualifiers through injury but since football returned from the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown there has been a sense that Southgate's soft spot for Trippier was mirrored by his lukewarm attitude towards the Liverpudlian. on Wednesday, though, Alexander-Arnold made a case that could not be ignored, a brilliant assist and a goal against one of the best defensive teams in Europe underlining how good his form is at the moment.

Not that goals should be the primary currency for a full-back, but Reece James has scored three in as many matches as a Chelsea wing-back, and is also on top of his game. Matches against Albania and San Marino this month really should be far more about attacking than defending for England, and James - another who was injured last month - got the nod too, along with Sheffield-born Kyle Walker.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Valentino Livramento, Max Aarons, Japhet Tanganga and the fit-again Tariq Lamptey are all potentially international-class right-backs, unfortunate to be English. Leeds United's Luke Ayling and Leicester City's James Justin could be considered in the same class when fit, although the former's 30 years might count against him even if the weight of talent he is competing with was not there.

Right-back is the most extreme but not the only position where there is a surfeit of talent.

"We've got so much competition for places and we had quite a few players missing last time, which means you bring others in, so you've got more decisions to make," reflected manager Southgate.

Former Hull City loanee Fikayo Tomori's half-hour run-out in Albania was not enough to keep his place in the squad and York-born Ben Godfrey continues to be overlooked. The Yorkshire central defensive pair of Harry Maguire and John Stones are back playing club football again, even if Manchester United's captain looks like a man rushed back from injury too quickly.

Arsenal's Emile Smith-Rowe, who spent the first half of 2020 on loan at Huddersfield Town, continues to make a strong case for inclusion but with players like Phil Foden and Jack Grealish for competition, it will have to be stronger too. His club goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale, has emerged as a genuine contender for the No 1 spot since leaving Sheffield United in the summer.

Midfielder Conor Gallagher, who preferred a move to Crystal Palace over Leeds in the summer, is another youngster unfortunate to be overlooked.

"It's not a bad thing that we're starting to get a very strong under-21 team because you want that depth," said Southgate, acknowledging Smith-Rowe and Gallagher's contribution to that.

Whilst all this battling for selection is going on, some could be forgiven for being a bit frustrated they are not getting the chance to show what they can do.

The injuries which have stopped Leeds's Patrick Bamford and Sheffield-born Dominic Calvert-Lewin competing with Tammy Abraham are just part of the game, but Sancho's situation must be infuriating.

A fringe player at the last European Championship, he joined Manchester United for £73m to kick on. The Red Devils needed a right-winger, and Sancho was the man.

Then came Cristiano Ronaldo. Giddy with the thought of signing an all-time great player, jealous at the idea he might end up with their city rivals, the Portuguese was brought back to Old Trafford. In-form centre-forward Mason Greenwood - overlooked once more even with Jude Bellingham back from his "rest" - was shunted to the right wing, and since the mauling at the hands of Liverpool, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has ditched the position altogether, in favour of wing-backs.

Sancho has made just three Premier League starts this season.

So whilst Marcus Rashford has come straight back into the squad, Sancho and Jesse Lingard will be watching on television, barring any late injury-enforced rethinks.

Competition to wear the Three Lions has arguably never been fiercer. It is harsh for some of those on the sidelines, but something the rest of us can celebrate.

SQUAD: Johnstone, Pickford, Ramsdale; Alexander-Arnold, Chilwell, Coady, James, Maguire, Mings, Shaw, Stones, Walker; Bellingham, J Henderson, Mount, Phillips (Leeds United), Rice, Ward-Prowse; Abraham, Foden, Grealish, Kane, Rashford, Saka, Sterling.