World Cup 2022: no, James Maddison shouldn’t be in England’s squad for Qatar - as ridiculous as that sounds

The Leicester City star has inspired his fair share of debate in recent weeks

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When it comes to the latest furore surrounding James Madison, why is there even a debate? Beauty and wonder are there to be celebrated, not to be hidden away and clutched at like the dusty pearls of a bitter widower countess.

In years to come would we rather gaze back in fondness on the pinpricks we suffered weaving majestic tapestries of ebullience, or mourn in stultified conservatism for the vivacity from which we cowered?

I say, let Lizzo play his 200-year-old crystal flute, let its music spring forth from the bowels of the Library of Congress to drown out the groaning of a thousand stiff-collared trolls, and let her twerk until she can twerk no longer!

As for the other James Maddison, in a moment of “Can-I-just-shock-you?” Partridgeism, no, I don’t think he should go to the World Cup.

“You lanky hypocrite”, I hear you cry, “All for joyful expression in the form of funk and soul infused pop flautists, but not when it’s a well-coiffed playmaker from the West Midlands frolicking through a purple patch the likes of which he has never seen before?”.

And to you, I say: “Yeah, that’s about the long and the short of it. Fight me.”

Before we go any further, I should clarify, I rate Maddison highly. Very highly, in fact. By and large, Leicester City have been godawful this season.

Usually foxes on a run as dire as theirs are being harangued and harrassed by some Regency-cosplaying, bugle-toting, quadruple-barrelled sadist or other. And yet, throughout it all, Maddison has been a piercingly bright anomaly.

Already, he has five goals and two assists in just seven Premier League matches, and only three players have registered more key passes per 90 minutes since the top flight resumed in August. The issue, then, is not individualistic, but rather systemic.

England under Gareth Southgate generally play with three central defenders at the cost of an extra presence in midfield. Given the quality, or lack thereof, that the Three Lions possess at the back, it has become increasingly apparent that this is something of a tactical necessity.

Consequently, Maddison is essentially vying for one of two spaces in the starting XI. Southgate’s proclivity for restraint means that at least one, and perhaps both, of those roles will be occupied by defensively-inclined players - Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips being the most obvious and likely candidates.

Even if the manager does opt to loosen another button on his waistcoat and start with one box-to-box midfielder (hold me while I swoon from the giddiness), Jude Bellingham is probably that man.

In short, there is no overt opening for Maddison in Southgate’s preferred tactical approach, and England don’t have a whole lot of room for variation because of their aforementioned defensive frailties. That leaves us with two options; either Maddison changes for England, or England change for Maddison.

In the first instance, some would argue that the Leicester talisman could play out on the left - after all, he’s done it before. To that end, there’s no doubting that he could. But if there is one position that the Three Lions are abnormally well-stocked in, it’s on the flanks.

Whether it be Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jarrod Bowen, Jack Grealish, or even (whisper it) Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, Southgate has a veritable deluge of impactful, technically-sound specialist wingers to choose from.

To address the second point, whether through choice or stubborn adherence to his principles, Southgate is not going to change his formation to accomodate a player who has, up to this point, won a solitary senior international cap - especially when his side’s next outing will be their World Cup curtain-raiser against Iran.

Think of the national team like a club side; players should be recruited because they fit a system, not simply because they are the shiniest new play thing within reach at any given time.

Of course, Maddison could still crowbar his way into Southgate’s plans. I almost hope he does. I hope his form is so monstrously superb that there are marches outside FA headquarters until the manager is forced to pick him through a rabid manifestation of the pure, unshakeable will of the people.

I hope he goes to the World Cup, starts every game and scores a hat-trick in the final. I hope he proves me so sorely wrong that I have to pen a grovelling apology with a debilitatingly vicious hangover the morning after - truly, I do.

But as things stand, no, I do not think that James Maddison should go to the World Cup, in the same way that had his presidential namesake owned a harpsichord, a theramin, or any other instrument that Lizzo isn’t classically trained in, I’d probably recommend that she left the noodling to somebody else.

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