Jadon Sancho has been dropped for England’s decisive World Cup qualifiers as Marcus Rashford and Trent Alexander-Arnold returned to the squad on Thursday.
Gareth Southgate’s side host Albania on November 12 and travel to San Marino three days later as they look to guarantee their place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Manchester United forward Sancho will be absent from those games after paying the price for his poor form since moving to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund in the close-season.
Sancho endured social media abuse after missing a penalty during England’s Euro 2020 final shoot-out defeat against Italy in July.
Rarely used at United, Sancho has lost his England place to club team-mate Rashford, who is available to Southgate for the first time since the Euro final after shoulder surgery.
Rashford returned for United in October and has already scored three goals in five appearances.
Sancho’s fellow United forward Jesse Lingard was also dropped by Southgate.
“Jadon and Jesse are not playing a lot of football compared to other in their positions,” Southgate told reporters.
“People say I’m inconsistent but I’m not sure I am. Jesse has had 10 to 15 minutes. I don’t know what his form or fitness is to assess him.
“Both those players understand that when I spoke to them. They are players who have done well for us and I’m sure they’ll be back with us.
“They just aren’t playing a lot of football compared to the other players in their positions.
“If you’re playing regularly for your club you’ve got a much better chance of us accessing your level compared to the rest of the group.”
On United striker Mason Greenwood’s latest absence after he opted out of the previous qualifiers, Southgate added: “Mason and his family felt they needed time. We met with him this month and totally understand where he is.
“He’s at a massive football club with massive expectation. He recognises that is part of making it at international football. We want to get it right with young players.”
Liverpool right-back Alexander-Arnold, Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham and Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips were brought back into Southgate’s squad.
United centre-back Harry Maguire and Chelsea right-back Reece James also returned from injury, with Kieran Trippier, Fikayo Tomori and Ollie Watkins dropping out.
“Reece and Trent are at a really good level. Kieran is a player we have a lot of respect for and I’m sure he will be back with us in the future,” Southgate said.
There was no place for Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe despite his fine form this season.
Conor Gallagher, on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, was another promising youngster who missed out after a strong start to the campaign.
“Emile and Conor Gallagher are playing well but we’ve got depth. We fast-track players quickly and a lot of them are in this squad now,” Southgate said.
“They are on a good path but we think it is a little bit early.”
Group I leaders England are three points clear of second-placed Poland and will be sure of qualifying if they take four points from their final two matches.
Asked about potentially extending his England contract beyond the World Cup, Southgate said: “The only thing I will share is we have to nail our qualification before we sit down and have those conversations in real depth.”
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kyle Walker
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse
Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling