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Gareth Southgate: Aggressive Luke Shaw and flexible Mason Mount are real assets for England

Luke Shaw is in the England squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers having not played for his country since September 2018; Mason Mount’s ability to play in a number of positions also excites Gareth Southgate; England play Albania on Sunday

Pete Hall

Gareth Southgate believes “aggressive” Luke Shaw and the versatility of Mason Mount can be real assets for England ahead of their World Cup Qualifier with Albania.

Shaw has not played for England since picking up a nasty-looking head injury against Spain in a Nations League match in September 2018, but his form for Manchester United this season has earned him a recall.

Southgate, speaking ahead of England’s World Cup Qualifier in Albania on Sunday, highlighted Shaw’s ability in attack and defence as the reasons behind his resurgence.

“He’s been very good,” Southgate said. “Luke played in the first Under-21 game I took charge of. There’s never been any doubt in our mind about Luke’s quality.”

“He has obviously suffered from injuries and had to withdraw from a few squads but it has been great to see him playing on the front foot as a full-back with his defending and he’s been really ambitious with his attacking. He looks like he’s in good condition to drive forward, he’s got excellent quality with the ball and it’s a good moment for him.

“He’s aggressive against his wingers, he’s difficult to play against one-v-one, he’s getting better with his cover defending for his centre-backs. He’s got to find the level he’s shown at his club and play his game.”

Liverpool captain Henderson could be a doubt for this summer’s European Championship due to a groin injury, meaning Mason Mount and Declan Rice could therefore form England’s engine room in Sunday’s second World Cup Qualifier.

Chelsea playmaker Mount and West Ham midfielder Rice are close friends from when they were young.

“They did very well in the game we played against Iceland,” Southgate added. “Obviously that deeper position, Mason doesn’t play for his club but I think it’s possible for him. He’s a very intelligent player, he can play four, eight or 10. I think he would be able to adjust as required.

“There’s no doubt the balance of those two is good. But equally James Ward-Prowse was good (against San Marino) the other day and Kalvin Phillips is in excellent form as well.

“It’s an area on the pitch where we are starting to get some options. It’s been great to have Jude (Bellingham) with us as well. Like almost every position on the pitch we have a lot of competition for places.”

England will be without Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford due to a foot injury. Southgate is however pleased with the attacking options at his disposal.

“We’ve only really had Marcus for a game and a half this season, so it’s an opportunity for others,” he added. “We’ve seen Jesse Lingard come back in. We’re a little short of options to refresh the team but the attacking players are very exciting. They are in form and I’m looking forward to seeing them play again.”

Defender Harry Maguire believes England are a better team now than when they reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018.

“I think over the three years we’ve developed, we’ve worked more tactically, the experience of the big tournament, the highs and the lows,” he said. “We’ve got to take that experience into the coming tournaments. I’m sure that will help us. Of course as a player and as a team three years is a long time to develop and we have developed in a positive way.”

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