Former Aston Villa and Sunderland striker Darren Bent has questioned Gareth Southgate’s decision to start Michael Keane alongside Harry Maguire for England, as the Everton defender was lucky to be picked over the alternatives to hand.
Keane started England’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Bulgaria on Saturday, as the Three Lions romped to a comfortable 4-0 win to retain their unbeaten record at the top of Group A, in what was the 26-year-old’s eighth-cap on the senior international stage (TransferMarkt).
Southgate had looked elsewhere for his central defensive options earlier in the year when England reached the UEFA Nations League Finals, with former Everton man John Stones selected alongside Maguire against the Netherlands and Liverpool’s Joe Gomez was favoured against Switzerland.
Bent particularly feels Gomez should have been named in the eleven who faced Bulgaria at the weekend, despite the 22-year-old not starting a Premier League game under Jurgen Klopp since the opening day rout of Norwich City.
“Yeah, there’s a few [that could have been selected over Keane],” Bent told Football Insider when asked if the £30million man (BBC) had been lucky to be named alongside Maguire. “Obviously he got the nod, him and Maguire. You’ve got John Stones, Tyrone Mings was on the bench, [and James] Tarkowski wasn’t in the squad.
“At the moment England seem to be really strong in certain areas. There’s another one I forgot about, Gomez at Liverpool, who should be starting. I think he’s their best defender [as he is] strong [and] powerful.
“The likes of Conor Coady [and] Ben Mee – they must be thinking they’re never going to get the opportunity because Coady has impressed for a while now for Wolves and still hasn’t got the chance.”
While Bent has suggested Keane was lucky to have been selected by Southgate, the Everton defender’s place was justified by his start to the Premier League season under Marco Silva at Goodison Park.
The 26-year-old has won each of his attempted tackles so far this league season, and has recorded six interceptions, 23 clearances, five blocks and 23 successful aerial duels, according to data collected by WhoScored.
Tarkowski may have averaged more tackles attempted (3.5) and completed (3.0) for Burnley from the opening four games, but the Clarets have also allowed the opposition to fashion almost twice as many shots on goal (14.5 per game) as Everton have (7.3, the second-fewest in the Premier League to Manchester City).
Everton fans, how impressed have you been with Keane’s start to the season? Let us know in the comments below…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more Everton notifications!