Finally, a breather. A few days after starting Harry Kane in England’s 2-1 loss to Spain in the Nations League, Gareth Southgate has announced that he will rest the Tottenham Hotspur striker in today’s friendly match against Switzerland at Wembley Stadium.
Citing concern over burnout after a long Premier League season and a World Cup in Russia this past summer, Southgate said he’s not immune to the concerns from clubs about their prized assets, and said that a meaningless friendly would both give players like Kane a breather and would allow him to evaluate other players on the roster.
“We talked a bit after the World Cup about the demands of the modern player. Everybody has to play a part in that but the clubs own the players and have to do the right thing for themselves. Normally the clubs would be holding their breath and hiding behind their sofas watching our team go out, but this is one of those occasions where [me] wanting to look at our squad ties in with doing the right thing with the players for our long-term benefit. So I thought this is a good opportunity to do it.”
Look, I get it. With the Nations League now being a thing that actually has implications for Euro 2020, it made sense for Southgate to put out his best possible squad against Spain, even if it means pushing his World Cup stars a little more in the short term. But his quotes above reassure me that he’s not only thinking of the Three Lions, but is also looking to give some experience to fringe England internationals that haven’t gotten a lot of minutes.
Kane’s probably not especially thrilled with the idea, because he’s Harry Kane and loves scoring goals. That’s fine. It’s better if he sits, because he’s still lagging behind past seasons in shots per game and expected goals, and it’s concerning. And there’s always the risk that a fluke injury, even a minor one like what sent Dele Alli home after Spain, could set him back even further. There’s no reason to risk it.
The Guardian article linked above says Southgate will put out a side captained by Eric Dier (which, y’know, same issue, Gareth but okay) and that will include Danny Rose at left back. The match kicks off at 8 p.m. London time, 3 pm ET.