From Christmas onwards, a lot of the football talk in England has been about the potential omissions from Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
Maguire, Lascelles, Mawson, or Tarkowski? Livermore, Wilshere, or Shelvey? Carroll or Welbeck? How about that kid at Bayer Leverkusen that everybody on Twitter watches every week?
Now, with ten days to go until blast-off in Moscow, the world champions have reminded everybody else just how futile their task in Russia could be by leaving out Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.
Dropping Sane shows the difference
This isn’t a case of an injury-prone former future of English football not making the cut or big Andy missing out despite his unquestioned ability to ‘offer something different’.
Joachim Low has decided he can do without the services of one of the most devastating players in the 2017/18 Premier League season.
Looking at the squad, it does appear to be a harsh decision: Julians Brandt and Draxler are fine players, but neither came close to matching Sane’s 14 goals and 19 assists this season, let alone his 100 points in the Premier League.
However, the news will likely be a boost to the mood of Borussia Dortmund talisman Marco Reus, who will almost certainly start at left-wing as a result.
Reus made his first international appearance in two years on Saturday evening, joining Manuel Neuer on the goalkeeper’s own return from injury.
The presence of Reus and Neuer will be a welcome boost to a squad shorn of several members of the 2014 World Cup-winning squad, such as Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Youth, experience, hunger
Sane’s dropping means that Die Mannschaft will be without one of the surest signs of the new Germany, one of the brightest lights of the new generation.
Bernd Leno, Jonathan Tah, and Nils Petersen have also been cut from the provisional squad, but Low has his sights set on a second consecutive title with a well-balanced and menacing-looking squad.
Alongside the experience of Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng, there is Bayern Munich’s superb young centre-half, Niklas Sule.
Alongside messrs. Khedira and Kroos, there is the Bayern-bound midfielder Leon Goretzka, tipped for some time as a mainstay of the German midfield but still only 23.
And muscling his way ahead of Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez is the Red Bull-fuelled whippet Timo Werner in attack: the 22-year-old looking to emulate Müller by announcing himself to the planet with a World Cup Golden Boot.
With Neuer in the squad and fully expected to start, no doubt he will remind us all why he was considered the best in the world prior to his season-shattering foot fracture.
Will Manchester City profit?
In the long run, Manchester City may benefit from Low’s decision.
Sane will be angry and likely confused, but it’s hard to imagine the Premier League’s right-backs will like him when he’s angry. Especially when he’s had the summer off to recuperate.
Pep Guardiola will harness his frustration as one of his key weapons in his fight to retain the Premier League title next season.
If Germany do falter in their own two-in-a-row quest, they may look back on this decision with some regret.
But it won’t have been made without reason: woe betide any team who feels they are coming up against a weaker German side. These days, such a thing doesn’t really exist.
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