'Some players do not deserve to be there': England manager Gareth Southgate admits selection issues

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England manager Gareth Southgate has admitted a number of the players called up to the Three Lions squad simply "do not deserve to be there".

On Thursday (28 September), Southgate named his squad for the two remaining World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania, which take place on 5 October and 8 October respectively. The 26-man group includes Jesse Lingard, who is yet to start a Premier League game for Manchester United this season, and Fabian Delph, who has played just 20 minutes in Manchester City's first six league games of the campaign.

The latter, admittedly, started in City's 2-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday (26 September).

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Southgate, however, hinted his decisions had been forced upon him by an unusually high number of injuries.

"It's frustrating because the biggest story here is we've got about 12 players missing with injury," he explained.

"It's incredible. If you were to say, 'Am I entirely happy with the squad I've named?' then no, because we've got too many good players missing with injury."

"The consequence of that is you could well argue there are one or two in the squad who haven't necessarily warranted it on their performances. I want competition for places and this time maybe we've not be able to achieve that because of the number of injuries."

There are doubts over the fitness of Manchester United defender Phil Jones and Everton centre-back Michael Keane, while Ross Barkley, Jamie Vardy, Adam Lallana, Danny Rose, Danny Welbeck, Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Heaton, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Drinkwater are all unavailable.

England will qualify for next summer's World Cup in Russia if they win the first of their two remaining games and, despite the injury problems, Southgate insisted competition for places was a positive factor.

"There's a good challenge for those in next week because if they want to stay in the level has to be in," he said.

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"There's been a couple of easy decisions because I haven't had to make phone calls this week [telling players they are not in the squad]. They are always difficult but I'd rather be making them."

"The reality is what I don't want players to be comfortable. I think the danger when you don't have competition for places is twofold. What's the level needed at our club to get in the squad? And is everyone fulfilling that at the moment? Well I'm not so sure they are."

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