England will begin their Euro 2020 campaign at Wembley on 14th June against Croatia. Between now and then Gareth Southgate needs to decide who will be wearing the Three Lions this summer, here we look at who that might be.
Despite concerns over his club form, there’s little doubt Jordan Pickford will remain England number one this summer, a position he’s held since the spring of 2018. Behind Pickford, Nick Pope underlined his status as number two by starting England’s last game away to Kosovo. Dean Henderson looks set to be rewarded for a fine season at Sheffield United with a first cap this spring and with Tom Heaton injured has a clear run at the third goalkeeping place in the squad. If another finger should snap Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale will step in.
England have an embarrassment of riches at right back with Trent Alexander-Arnold set to take the number two jersey, with the Liverpool man regarded by many as the best right-back in Europe. Kieran Trippier‘s form has enormously improved since moving to Atletico Madrid, under the guidance of Diego Simeone. Trippier is currently recovering from groin surgery, meaning the March internationals offer a chance for Aaron Wan-Bissaka to win his first cap, however the young Manchester United defender is likely to be a standby option this summer. It’s now clear Southgate has moved on from Kyle Walker with Schalke loanee Jonjoe Kenny and Chelsea’s Reece James on the radar but unlikely to feature until next season.
This has been clear cut since the autumn of 2018. Ben Chilwell has enjoyed an excellent season at Leicester and is well established as first choice. Danny Rose remains an experienced back up option and his move to Newcastle should provide him with the first team football he needs to cement his place in the squad. Further down the list, it’s too soon for Brandon Williams or Ryan Sessegnon, Luke Shaw remains too injury prone to provide reliable cover and Ashley Young hasn’t featured since the World Cup.
This looked England’s most pressing problem back in the autumn, but the situation has improved with the return to form and fitness of Joe Gomez. Since England switched to a 4-3-3 formation Gomez and Harry Maguire have looked the most assured pairing and there seems little doubt Southgate will reunite them in March. The back up options remain a concern, Michael Keane was awful through qualifying and looks set to miss out. John Stones has endured tough season with Manchester City but his experience and ball playing skills should secure him one of the reserve roles.
The fourth slot is wide open with Tyrone Mings and Fikayo Tomori falling out of form and favour at club level. Chris Smalling hasn’t featured since 2017 but is enjoying a career renaissance at AS Roma. James Tarkowski has been on the fringes of the squad for two years along with Lewis Dunk, but the wildcard option could be Everton’s Mason Holgate. The 23-year-old has benefited from the steady guidance of Carlo Ancelotti and could be in line for a first cap this month.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is the only midfielder certain of his place this summer after an outstanding domestic season. Harry Winks should make the squad, given his excellent record with England, Winks provides a deep plying option that keeps the midfield ticking along with England looking slicker whenever he plays.
That leaves at least one more place for a defensive midfielder with Declan Rice the man in possession. However Rice is enduring a bumpy start to his England career and remains unconvincing, meanwhile Fabian Delph has struggled to stay fit.
James Ward-Prowse remains on the fringes but has shown versatility this season that could suit Southgate. Other options include Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips who’s enjoyed a stellar season but has only played at Championship level. Another option could be Southagte’s old favourite Nathaniel Chalobah who has managed to put a career threatening knee injury behind him and has played a more regular game since the arrival at Watford of Nigel Pearson.
England will also look for a goal threat from midfield with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back from the injury that ruled him out of the World Cup. Oxlade-Chamberlain provides options across midfield and on the forward flank of the 4-3-3 system and seems a likely pick. Dele Alli played the deeper midfield role at the World Cup but hasn’t featured this season. Alli has struggled for consistency although his form has improved under Jose Mourinho, but at present looks set to miss out.
This remains the most open contest for places in the squad, with Southgate requiring a minimum of two players who can fill the number ten role ahead of the likely Henderson/ Winks axis. Ross Barkley was excellent in Euro qualifying scoring 4 goals and providing a thrust from midfield. However Barkley has endured a torrid season at Chelsea with his awful performance against Bayern Munich a throwback to his struggles against Holland in the Nations League semi-final.
Chelsea’s Mason Mount won his first caps this season but his form has tailed off since the autumn. James Maddison is enjoying a fine season and provides the type of playmaking ability England lacked at the World Cup, but to date has only one cap. Jack Grealish has enjoyed a fine season after retuning to the Premier League with Aston Villa and Southgate hinted in November a first call up wasn’t far away. Grealish remains uncapped but offers the kind of x factor from the bench that could prove vital in a tight game. On form this has to be Grealish and Maddison, but can Southgate risk taking two players with just one cap between them, knowing that one of them has to start? Southgate could take Maddison with Barkley or Alli and then add Grealish as a wildcard pick if he has his other bases covered.
England’s attack is one of the strongest in Europe, but injuries have slowed the juggernaut. Raheem Sterling is a certain starter and a vital player although his form has tailed off a fraction in recent weeks. Marcus Rashford seemed a certainty for the other wide role flanking Harry Kane, but his participation remains in doubt following a stress fracture in his back. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer offered a worrying update on the forward saying he was ‘touch and go’ to play again this season.
Jadon Sancho is a certainty and will start if Rashford is short on fitness or ruled out entirely. The Borussia Dortmund winger leads the Bundesliga assists chart and has an astonishing 31 goals or assists in all competition this season. Southgate needs another option at least on standby with doubts over Rashford, with Callum Hudson-Odoi the obvious pick. However the Chelsea youngster isn’t in the best of form opening the door to several young uncapped players. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka has enjoyed a breakout season whilst Burnley’s Dwight McNeil and Leicester’s Harvey Barnes are also enjoying strong Premier League campaigns.
The nation rejoiced when Jose Mourinho revealed Harry Kane‘s recover from hamstring surgery is ahead of schedule and he could play the last 5 Premier League games of the season. With England’s warm up games to be added to Kane’s recovery timetable it seems the England captain will be ready for the summer.
England need a second choice number nine and it doesn’t look like being Callum Wilson who’s struggled for goals this season. Tammy Abraham has hit 13 Premier League goals this season and got his first for England earlier this season, however he is struggling for fitness at present. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is another player to improve since the arrival at Everton of Ancelotti. The Under 20 World Cup hero has 12 Premier League goals this season and is the man in form, a first senior cap seems a certainty this month.
Danny Ings is enjoying the most prolific season of his Premier League career having revived his career at Southampton. Ings won his solitary England cap back in 2015 before his career was interrupted by a serious cruciate ligament injury, the question with Ings remains can he translate domestic form onto the international stage? Then there’s Jamie Vardy. The Premier League’s top scorer retired from England duty after the World Cup, but left the door open for a return by saying he’d come back if England really needed him. If Kane is fully fit, it’s unlikely Southgate would bring Vardy back simply to sit on the bench, what Southgate has to say on the subject this month will be interesting to hear.
Wild Card Pick
If England have cover through the squad they could gamble with their last pick. It worked for Glenn Hoddle with Michael Owen in 1998 and Bobby Robson with David Platt back at Italia ’90. More recent wildcards have included Joe Cole (2002), Theo Walcott (2006), Oxlade-Chamberlain (2012), Sterling (2014), Rashford (2016) and Alexander-Arnold (2018), the success rate has proved variable. Grealish looks the likely pick here with Saka also making a late bid. Others contenders include Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood who could play across the front three, whilst Eddie Nketiah would provide a sharp goal poacher from the bench. And there’s Phil Foden, the Manchester City starlet has enormous potential but remains a fringe player for his club. It seems Foden will have to wait for David Silva to leave City this summer with a first cap to follow.
Things should become clearer after England’s games against Italy and Denmark, but for now Southgate has plenty to ponder ahead of the summer.
Predicted 23 man squad:
Goalkeepers: Pickford, Pope, Henderson
Defenders: Alexander-Arnold, Trippier, Chilwell, Rose, Gomez, Maguire, Stones, Holgate
Midfielders: Henderson, Winks, Rice, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Maddison, Grealish,
Forwards: Kane, Rashford, Sterling, Sancho, Calvert-Lewin, Greenwood
Stand By List: Ramsdale, Tarkowski, Wan-Bissaka, Ward-Prowse, Mount, Saka, Abraham