Picture this; a 45-time England capped centre back who’s a mainstay in a Champions League side.
If such a man existed, surely he strolls into Gareth Southgate’s England team?
Well, he does exist, but unfortunately, he does not feature in this summer’s Nations League squad.
Of course, the man in question is Eric Dier (Transfermarkt), with Spurs fans left scratching our heads as to why yet again, he has missed out on a now overdue return to the national team.
Southgate’s England squad for next month’s Nation’s League games contain six and a half centre backs (Sky Sports); Conor Coady, Marc Guehi, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, and Ben White, as well as Kyle Walker, who by trade is a right-back, but has featured centrally for England in the past.
Of these seven, only Manchester City duo Stones and Walker stand out against Dier for two reasons; they are the only other members of a top-four side, and they are the only two with more England caps (11v11).
Whilst I’m not suggesting that being part of a top-four side or being capped previously should guarantee a call-up, as it certainly shouldn’t, it must count for something.
At this point, Dier must be questioning what more he can do to impress Southgate, or if he’s on an unofficial blacklist for England duty.
Looking at the six out-and-out centre backs, Stones, Tomori, and White are respectable choices, having all enjoyed fine seasons in their own right. A case can even be made for Maguire, as despite being poor at club level, he seems to transform into a competent defender when representing his country.
However, Coady and Guehi are different stories, with Dier outshining both his counterparts last season.
With Tottenham, a now Champions League side, Dier has been ever-present under both Nuno Espirito Santos and Antonio Conte, appearing 35 times this season in the league alone and recording over 3’000 minutes.
While he does have his shortcomings with odd lapses of judgement, his impact on the side cannot be understated. The Englishman started in all 16 of Tottenham’s league clean sheets, whilst in the three games he was absent, Spurs conceded a minimum of two goals on each occasion.
Direct comparison between Dier, Coady and Guehi also leaves no question of who the superior defender is, as he betters the two in aerial duals won and clearances made per 90, whilst putting up almost identical tackles, interceptions, and blocks as his fellow countrymen (FB Ref).
On the ball, Dier also comes out on top, playing more passes at a completion rate of 88.5%, whilst being more adept at moving the ball himself, completing 3.14 progressive carries. He also plays just 0.04 fewer progressive passes than Guehi, and a massive 1.55 more than Coady.
The numbers don’t lie; of these three, Dier reigns supreme.
If Southgate does view Guehi as the future of England, then his inclusion can be justified, as at just 21, experiencing an international tournament will be crucial to his development.
However, with Dier and Coady ageing at 28 and 29 respectively, surely the better defender should be chosen, which as we’ve established, is Dier.
At 28, Dier is certainly not over the hill, and in truth would be considered in his prime by most. Having made his national debut back in 2015, his 45 England caps provide him with substantial international experience, although hasn’t appeared for the Three Lions since 2020.
Looking at England, they certainly aren’t blessed with a wide berth of undroppable centre back talent, and considering both Southgate and Conte utilise three-back formations, Dier would again seem an obvious inclusion owed to his familiarity with the system.
Furthermore, in what is now a relatively young England squad, if even just around the camp, the presence of some older, more experienced players would be beneficial.
Whilst blooding the next crop of youngers is important, primarily in White, Tomori and Guehi, it must be remembered that there is a trophy at stake, and a very real chance for England to deliver silverware for the first time since 1966.
For Spurs fans, unfortunately, even after the tremendous season enjoyed by Dier, his omission from the national team came as no real surprise, as he has been overlooked time and again.
Southgate appears to have his favourites, and clearly, the Spurs man isn’t one of them, however deserving of a place he may be for this winter’s tournament.
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