With less than 100 days until the delayed EURO 2020 gets underway across Europe, Gareth Southgate will have some difficult decisions to make in his 23-man squad for the tournament.
The competition, scheduled to take place for a month between 11th June and 11th March this year, was delayed due to the pandemic. But as UEFA remains adamant that the tournament will go ahead, it is worth looking at who should be selected for the tournament.
If I were sitting in Gareth Southgate’s trademark waistcoat, my 23-man squad for the tournament would be:
Goalkeepers: Nick Pope (Burnley), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Jordan Pickford (Everton).
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Conor Coady (Wolves), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Kalvin Phillips (Leeds), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Declan Rice (West Ham United), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (West Ham United).
Strikers: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton).
The goalkeeper position for England has never really felt like the strong point – there is not someone who stands out as an out-and-out number one. Jordan Pickford was heroic during the 2018 World Cup – everyone knew his name – but his performances, especially in the last year or so, have shown his weaknesses and whether he can be trusted outright to be the first choice is yet to be seen. Nick Pope has probably been the better of the two this season between the sticks for Burnley, but with his tests only having come up against relatively weak teams – Costa Rica, San Marino, Albania and Kosovo have not really tested his strengths. Alex McCarthy would be a good third choice over Sam Johnstone – or indeed any other England ‘keeper – but even he hasn’t managed a fantastic season (Saints fans can testify for that), and whether he could hold his own up against Europe’s finest is unlikely at best. What England need is a big name goalkeeper to really pull ahead of the rest, but at the moment it feels like picking the best of a bang average bunch.
The big miss here is Harry Maguire, I would imagine. Maguire, for me, is too much of a liability to bring to the tournament, and has made too many mistakes at the top level to be seen to seriously be a contender for the first choice on that teamsheet. The lack of international experience of some of the centre-backs I have chosen – namely Fikayo Tomori, whose incredible season at AC Milan should not go unnoticed – is perhaps the only concern. The full back positions for me really speak for themselves – Alexander-Arnold is, regardless of having a relatively poor season for Liverpool – one of the best full-backs in the country and he should be on the team sheet if we are facing a team against whom we can be attacking. If we need to play slightly more defensive, then Kyle Walker goes in for me – Pep Guardiola has made him a fantastic choice in this position. Kieran Trippier misses out for me; he lacks the ability and versatility of the other two right-backs. Chilwell and Shaw are the easy options at left back, with Shaw pipping the Chelsea full-back to the first choice having had an exceptional season.
For what we lack in defensive or goalkeeping stars, we really make up for in a saturated midfield of English stars. I would like to see us go more attacking in the tournament, but I would bring a range of players who can play on the wings, in the number 10 role, and as central and holding midfielders. Jordan Henderson misses out as I can’t imagine he would have the fitness to play in an international tournament having spent most of the season out. Declan Rice is a strong choice for holding midfielder, whilst Kalvin Phillips and James Ward-Prowse have really made their name in the Premier League this season, particularly with the latter being confident with set-pieces. I’ve dropped Jude Bellingham because I feel the talent in this position means we do not need to rely on a 17-year-old, regardless of how talented he is. Jesse Lingard looks like a new man under David Moyes, so he goes into the side. The harsh one here is Phil Foden – I think he is capable but it is hard to drop Mount from the number 10 role, and I think Sancho or Sterling could do a job equally as well.
3 men can fit into the forward positions – I imagine we will only ever play one up front, so a bit like the goalkeeper positions, we only need three. Again, with promising English talent in that number 9 position, it is very difficult to make the choice on the top three. Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have done a brilliant job for Spurs and Everton respectively, so it is the third position which is the difficult one to feel. Danny Ings being injury prone makes him more of a doubt for me, and Marcus Rashford has had a good season as well as being versatile (can play on the wings or as a striker). Ollie Watkins misses out having not had as much experience as Rashford, nor as much success as DCL or Kane.
England’s EUROs tournament kicks off on Saturday 13th June at Wembley Stadium, when they play Croatia.