Curtis Jones deserves an England chance

This October, 16 Liverpool first-team players have jetted off for international duty across the globe.

Of the ten senior players left behind to train at Kirkby for the next ten days, there are obvious reasons why most have not been called up for their national teams.

Cody Gakpo, Stefan Bajcetic, Thiago, Caoimhin Kelleher and Conor Bradley are all injured. Joel Matip has retired from Cameroon duty. It would take a hell of an injury crisis for Adrian to get a first Spain cap at the age of 36. Ryan Gravenberch has pissed off the Dutch FA.

That leaves Joe Gomez and Curtis Jones, whose cases are more curious.

Gomez, who has 11 senior Three Lions caps, last made an outing for England back in 2020 and has yet to make a tournament squad under Gareth Southgate.

The 26-year-old, who is now Liverpool's longest-serving first-team player, made his international debut way back in 2017 – famously shackling Neymar in a 0-0 friendly draw against Brazil. However, since then, he has seen his chances at international level limited, partly by injury and partly by the England manager's preference for other options alongside his old favourites.

For the upcoming fixtures against Australia and Italy, Southgate has selected a quartet of Marc Guehi, Lewis Dunk, Fikayo Tomori and one-time Liverpool target Levi Colwill, in addition to regulars John Stones and Harry Maguire.

Few of those options have stood out particularly at international level as of yet, and it seems there are still centre-back spots to be won in the manager's Euro 2024 plans.

READ MORE: How to watch Liverpool's stars on international duty this October

If Gomez can stay fit and continue his good early-season Liverpool form, he will become harder for Southgate to ignore. But, for whatever, it does seem like his chance to impress enough to become an England regular might have come and gone.

The same cannot be said about Jones.

The 22-year-old Liverpool academy graduate has never received an England senior call-up but has been a regular at youth level from Under-16s up, impressing especially with the Under-21s – Southgate's old side.

Under Lee Carsley, Jones shone at the 2023 Under-21 European Championships, which England won for the first time since 1984.

Liverpool's number 17 was named Man of the Match for his display in the final against Spain and even scored the tournament-winning goal – albeit in highly fortuitous circumstances.

He is a player the England senior coaching staff should be looking at.

He remains a divisive figure among some at club level, but reality is that Jones seems to have gone to another level in recent months.

After an injury blighted 2021/22 campaign, the midfielder bounced back and the back end of last season to become a regular starter in Jurgen Klopp's tweaked system that saw the Reds push on for Europa League qualification after a dismal winter period.

He has kept Klopp's trust in 2023/24, seemingly becoming the preferred starter on the left-side of the midfield three, as well as being used at right back against Leicester in the Carabao Cup and as a holding midfielder in pre-season.

READ MORE: If you don't like Curtis Jones, you probably don't understand what he's doing

Jones isn't flashy – he has no goal involvements from seven appearances in 2023/24 – and, of course, he was shown that red card against Tottenham for his foul on Yves Bissouma.

But his role at Liverpool shouldn't be defined by those statistics. As Anfield Watch's Sam McGuire writes, Jones like Gini Wijnaldum at Liverpool before him is better described as a 'facilitator'.

"Jones, like Wijnaldum was, is a facilitator. He’s the counterweight in the team. A key cog in the midfield machine.

"He’s often accused of holding onto the ball for too long but what if that is by design?

"Liverpool need a solid base in midfield if Trent Alexander-Arnold is looking to make something happen whenever he’s in possession. He needs the ball in good areas and Jones plays his part in ensuring the ball sticks in these zones.

"He’s regularly positing a pass success rate of over 90% ... Jones does the dirty work too and against West Ham he won the second-highest number of tackles (4) with only Alvarez (5) able to beat his tally.

"The 22-year-old just makes it easier for others and you need players like that in your team to be successful. You need it for balance."

Curtis Jones, ProShots

This England team doesn't need more creative midfielders. Southgate has an abundance of those in Jude Bellingham, James Maddison, Phil Foden, Ebere Eze – even Alexander-Arnold if that's what Southgate wants him to be for the Three Lions. What it lacks is facilitators, who are versatile, disciplined and capable enough to play in a double pivot or midfield three while helping the attackers to flourish.

Jordan Henderson, who famously left Liverpool for Al-Ettifaq this summer, will turn 34 during the first week of Euro 2024 and is not a player who can provide that balance at an elite level for England anymore.

The former Reds skipper is still the vice-captain for the Three Lions and is in the latest squad to face Australia and Italy this week, but really Southgate should be making current selections with an eye on next summer and beyond.

Another Three Lions midfield regular, Kalvin Phillips, has played just 70 minutes of Premier League football this season.

From Alexander-Arnold to Gomez, there have been a few Liverpool players who have not managed to fully establish themselves for England in recent years, for whatever reason.

Unlike in other areas, England have precious few developing options in central midfield. They can hardly afford to let Jones become overlooked.

Share This Article