The 2020 European Championships being postponed by a year might be a blessing in disguise for some players who weren’t ready for a squad place last summer. In England’s case, their squad options for the Euros look much more diverse now than they were 12 months ago, especially in some positions.
In March’s squad announcements for upcoming friendly matches, Gareth Southgate raised a few eyebrows by dropping Trent Alexander-Arnold. For many, the world’s most valuable right-back.
Clearly nobody’s place is safe and for Trent, his is one of 3 key positions where Southgate has some difficult decisions to make.
Right-backEmbed from Getty Images
Contenders: Kyle Walker (Man City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kieran Trippier (Atlético Madrid), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man Utd), Reece James (Chelsea).
England’s options at right-back have never been so plentiful, and picking 2 in the squad might be difficult. While many thought Alexander-Arnold was nailed-on to own the position for years to come, Southgate for some reason doesn’t rate him as highly.
In fact, his go-to stalwarts are probably Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier. The pair featured heavily during the 2018 World Cup run and Southgate trusts them. And Reece James has come through the youth levels, which we know Southgate loves.
In fact, Trent’s dip in form probably made his squad selection much easier this time around. Southgate prefers a traditional right-back, and Alexander-Arnold doesn’t seem to fit that mould. As for Wan-Bissaka – he’s an excellent tackler who would be a real asset in a tournament. But his chances seem very remote.
Centre-backEmbed from Getty Images
Contenders: Harry Maguire (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Conor Coady (Wolves), Michael Keane (Everton), Eric Dier (Spurs), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Lewis Dunk (Brighton).
With Harry Maguire and John Stones now comfortably Southgate’s preferred pairing at the back, the question is which 2 will deputise for them? He also needs versatility for potentially playing 3 at the back too.
In recent squads Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady have proved themselves useful, the latter even bagging a goal. But Southgate is keen on Michael Keane (sorry, couldn’t resist). The Everton man is more of a traditional centre-back, and that suits his preferred team balance.
Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori has impressed on loan at AC Milan but is probably one for the future. There’s a solid chance that Southgate will take Eric Dier for his versatility, but potentially as a midfielder first and a back-up centre-back second.
Attacking midfieldEmbed from Getty Images
Contenders: Phil Foden (Man City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), James Maddison (Leicester), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Jesse Lingard (West Ham), Ross Barkley (Aston Villa).
A lot depends on whether or not Southgate plays 2 holding midfielders, but England are blessed with attacking midfield talent. It’d be a shame for anyone to miss out in the name of being conservative.
Man City star Phil Foden has emerged as Pep Guardiola’s key player in the final third. If he didn’t make the squad it would be truly baffling. But then the same could be said of most other contenders for this position – all solid for their clubs this season.
Mason Mount is a Southgate favourite going back to the U21s, and has been in fine form under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea. Jack Grealish was fantastic against Belgium in the most recent internationals and is in the form of his life. However, he might be preferred as a left attacker rather than centrally.
Jesse Lingard’s renaissance on loan at West Ham surely puts him right back into contention too. He has thrived in front of Declan Rice in a free role for the in-form Hammers this season.
It seems crazy considering his form for Leicester, but it looks likely that James Maddison won’t make the cut.
England have been touted as favourites for the tournament, so the pressure is on Southgate to deliver. But with the talent at his disposal, his job to choose the right squad blend will make all the difference to their chances.