With an international break now upon us, Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka is being forced to settle for a place in England’s U21 set-up; a blow which has put DR Congo on red alert.
After representing the African nation at youth level previously, the full-back has exploded onto the big stage with Crystal Palace, making his Premier League debut little over a year ago and refusing to look back. His performances have led to rave reviews across the country and with stats marking him out as the outstanding tackler across Europe’s top five divisions, it was a real shock to see Gareth Southgate fail to bring him in to the England senior set-up ahead of this round of fixtures.
The official reasoning for the decision referenced the continuity Wan-Bissaka will get with the U21 side but in reality, it looks as though Gareth’s loyalty to both Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier following World Cup 2018 is the real season for the youngster’s exclusion from the senior side. With Trent Alexander-Arnold now a nailed on member of the group thanks to his ability to cross a ball and the club who pay his wages, Southgate was clearly not comfortable with the idea of calling up four right-backs or dropping one of the aforementioned pair to accommodate Aaron.
Whilst I’m sure he will get his chance in the not too distant future, it’s not hard to begin drawing parallels with Wilfried Zaha, who experienced the same sort of baffling treatment when Roy Hodgson was the man in charge of selection the Three Lions’ squad. It looks unlikely that Aaron will follow Zaha’s path in choosing DR Congo over England but if he continues to be ignored by the coaching staff, he may be left with no option.
Were he and Alexander-Arnold to be playing for each other’s clubs, I dare say that Southgate’s decision would have been different. Is that fair? Of course not but it’s the way football has always worked. It’s just a shame that Southgate, as an ex-Palace player himself, isn’t able to look beyond the club’s stature to identify a truly incredible talent in the shape of Wan-Bissaka.