James Maddison was the star of the show, scoring two goals and scoring another goal when Leicester defeated Nottingham Forest 4-0 at King Power Stadium. The performance helped ground his side and put his World Cup chances back on top of the agenda.
Maddison has now scored nine goals in his last 11 Premier League appearances and says he is in the best shape of his career. His manager Brendan Rodgers is backing his withdrawal as he tries to add to the lone England cap he won in 2019.
Leicester’s poor form might have masked the fact that Maddison is now doing well. This result – on Monday night football – puts its obvious quality back in focus. But, after being overlooked for so long by Gareth Southgate, is there time for him to make the World Cup squad?
Rodgers revealed in his post-match press conference that Southgate never asked about Maddison, but he was clear about the quality of the playmaker when he spoke to Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and David Jones after the game.
“It’s a really tough job being a manager and you know what it’s like to have Gary there with the quality that’s available,” said Rodgers.
“It’s such a shame I think for the country and for the boy himself. You can see his talent and his level of performance over the last 18 months is obvious. I think it’s only Harry Kane who has been involved in more goals under England players .
“To not even be in the squad, and I think I have a player, even if he doesn’t intend to start, but a player of that quality… and not only that, in international football it’s the personality to get the ball and be creative to change the game.
“James is all that. He is an absolutely brilliant player and I really hope that in the coming months he can continue the form that he has shown for the last 18 months and somehow get into the team because if your creativity , personality, he has improved the defensive side of his game, he can play in a number of positions and for me he is an absolutely outstanding player.
“He’s up there, and I like Phil Foden, Mason Mount, those guys who play there. Jack Grealish is different because he’s more of the side. But Madders can play in some positions up to a high level. He let that see you tonight.”
Maddison: ‘I would have an impact’
Maddison himself discussed his prospects for England on Monday night footballacknowledges the contrast between the team’s form this season and his own.
He said: “It was a bit of an odd position, to be honest, because we’ve been at the bottom of the league and the results haven’t gone our way, but I’ve had almost as much confidence as I’ve ever had in my career . .
“I can’t remember playing better than I have in the past 12 months and feeling better than I have.”
So he’s definitely annoyed that he’s been banned from the England squad?
“It’s hard to answer because you want to say the right thing and not the wrong thing, but that’s an ambition of mine, a goal of mine. I’m a football man, I watch international football and a chance at that level is something I look forward to.” desire and which I know I would have an impact on and which I hope will come my way one day.”
One explanation for his continued omission from the squad is that there is no natural position for him in the Southgate structure. Maddison floats between the lines at his best, either as a number 10 or from the flanks, but does that role exist with England?
“I’m not naive, I know there are top players in those forward areas, but I have a confidence and a confidence that I can be in that category,” said Maddison.
“About the role and position, [I could play] one of those forward areas. You see Phil (Foden) and Jack (Grealish) who can play in those central areas, play a little wider.
“It’s hard to comment because I played on the right today but England play a little different with the back three. I haven’t been in the set-up for a few years so I should listen to the coaches but it’s hard to talk about because it’s not the position I’m in right now.
“I will keep working hard, I have to have the mentality to force my way in because those players at the big clubs are there right now and they are top players, but I think there could be room for me. So I will continue to work hard tonight and produce such performances and see where it takes me.”
Neville’s Verdict: Why Shouldn’t He Be There?
“Everyone at the moment wants England to be more progressive and score more goals and have more attacking players in the team. This is the man who is absolutely ruining it right now in terms of his commitment to the goal.
“England usually needs players who can perform from set pieces and scores from them. Gareth Southgate has been big on that for the past four or five years, but there are a few players in his position.
“The likes of Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden playing in those kinds of areas. But if you look at his numbers, why wouldn’t he be in a 26-man squad? I know it’s not a particularly comfortable question to ask.” ask if he would be a good traveler but that has been suggested I don’t know where it comes from There’s nothing in it on my part I’ve seen nothing but a good personality, a good character.
“It’s always willing to come out and answer questions. What’s the reason why he wouldn’t be in it? I don’t think it’s a case of him filling in for Bukayo Saka or Jadon Sancho, because for me it’s broad players.” I’d put him in the same category of where Mount is.
“A manager goes to the World Cup with the 3-4-3 system he thinks he’s going to play, but he has to remember that at some point he might have to go to a 4-3-3.
“He must think maybe the system needs to change to a 5-3-2 or whatever. There must be a plan B for England. Gareth will have that, and if you need a goal from a knockout game or you have a solid piece or that bit of quality, you want one like him on the couch that can change the game.
“There are only a few who can, but he is in the best form. Gareth has chosen players in form before and I don’t know of any English manager who has chosen more players regardless of their club and he always has players on form chosen.”
“I know people will be shouting at the TV about Harry Maguire at this point, but the fact is Harry Maguire has played well for England and we don’t have many centre-backs. It’s as simple as that. We have quite a few players in this position , but James Maddison is in great shape and we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.”