Southgate’s had a vital and interesting trim!
Gareth Southgate has trimmed his squad down for this summer’s European Championships, from a provisional 33 to a solid 26, and reaction from all corners has flown across social media platforms. Thus, I decided to put pen to paper to dissect the choices that the experienced head coach has chosen for an entertaining month and a half. Is it coming home? It might, I can’t promise anything but it might.
The provisional squad was selected on 25th May, a few weeks before the competition was set to start, and there were a few players who made me scratch my head. The majority of doubts have been taken out but who were they?
There were four shot-stoppers named in late May that were ready to represent their nation, I was quite shocked to see that Burnley’s Nick Pope wasn’t in line but I was quite glad that he had picked up a minor injury instead of being infuriatingly dropped. The 29-year-old has been solid across the course of this campaign, being rewarded by being named the starting keeper for the past few international games. However, he recently went under the knife to solve a knee issue in what was a successful procedure. However, considering his age and the managerial rumours circulating at Turf Moor amongst the emergence of Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale then I hope the door for further three lions caps hasn’t been shut. It’d be a shame for England and the man itself if it was.
The three goalies going to the Euros? Dean Henderson, Jordan Pickford, Sam Johnstone. Honestly, there are no problems with this for me. Johnstone has been class this campaign and deserves his call up entirely. However, my starting number one would be the Toffees’ Pickford who will provide some great strengths in his distribution, experience and leadership.
Twelve defenders were selected in the huge squad pool of inevitably Euros competing men, emphasising the quality and abilities of the players that we have in that position. Right back is an amazingly blessed area currently but that will do Aaron Wan Bissaka no favours at all, neither the promising Tariq Lamptey. However, all of the other choices were spot on for me. They were: John Stones, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Tyrone Mings, Reece James, Conor Coady, Ben Chilwell, Ben Godfrey, Kieran Trippier and Ben White. Personally, I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen and heard of Godfrey this season thus I thought he deserved to be included in the final 26. Brighton’s Ben White, Wolves’ Conor Coady and Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings were all questionable in my viewpoint. However, Southgate would eventually choose Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings as Ben Godfrey and Ben White were dropped. I thought it was a slight insult from the boss to state that Godfrey knew he was only joining up the camp for a bit of ‘vital’ experience as he embarks on a promising future when he has been quality of late. I was happy, though, to see that four right backs had been chosen .. all players of great technical ability, mental strength and winning ability/experience. This season Kyle Walker has won the Premier League and the Carabao Cup, Reece James has played a pivotal role in a Champions League winning side following a great loan spell at Wigan Athletic, Kieran Trippier has been immense in an Atletico Madrid La Liga winning team and it wasn’t too long ago that Alexander-Arnold was champion of the world!
The defence that I’d choose to start against Croatia on 13th June? Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw. You don’t need much convincing of the quality that these four players possess and it’s important that there is a prevalent chemistry on the big stage. This relationship has been built by playing for Manchester clubs, Walker and Stones of City and Maguire and Shaw for United respectively. Shaw has been immense this season, one of United’s shining stars through a relatively poor but improving campaign.
Midfield is a place arguably short of number but high in quality and class, as there are numerous players capable of causing any level of opposition issues. James Ward-Prose and Jesse Lingard were the midfielders unable to make the final 26, as the pair saw creative talents such as Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and 17-year-old Jude Bellingham go instead of them. It’ll be interesting to see whether Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson can be fit in time for the competition. However, I agree with his inclusion even if that is for his winning experience and leadership around the camp. Bellingham looks like a really interesting prospect, it will be interesting to see how far the Borussia Dortmund man can go in his career which has only just started as the Bundesliga has been blessed by his name. However, Lingard with his recent form at West Ham United may feel slightly bereft with his exclusion and who could blame him for feeling that way?
The midfield operators who were named in the final squad: Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips.
The midfield that I’d choose to start against Croatia on 13th June? Mason Mount, Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson/Jude Bellingham .. the perfect mix of strength and flair. I’d start Henderson if he’s available but if he isn’t then I’d have no complaints with seeing Bellingham.
I believe that Southgate’s strongest area is the forward line that he’s been able to select as there hasn’t been too many injury concerns at the top end of the pitch. We, as a nation, are also blessed in having the Premier League’s best striker in Spurs’ Harry Kane who was awarded with the golden boot and the top assister’s award after an immense campaign. Unfortunately, Manchester United youngster Mason Greenwood had to pull out of this summer’s games as he needs to focus on underlying injury issues and Ollie Watkins, although he featured against Austria, wasn’t selected in the final 26. There is also an amazing volume of emerging talent at the top end of the pitch as Champions League runner up Phil Foden has been one of the League’s key men this season and it’ll be interesting to see how the future of Bukayo Saka progresses.
The men up front who will be going to the Euros: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The forward line that I’d select? Phil Foden, Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho. Pace and a wonderful firing ability on either side of a man like Kane, arguably the best front line going to the Euros this summer. I’ll be very excited to see them if they play together.
The reaction to the 26 man squad has been relatively mixed. I have seen YouTubers such as Mark Goldbridge saying that Southgate has bottled it due to the volume of defensive minded players selected and his worries for how he may want to line up and set his teams out. However, I have also seen others agreeing with me when I say that there are only two players that I’d consider replacing. Ben Godfrey and Jesse Lingard get in over Tyrone Mings and Raheem Sterling, for me. However, would they be starters or would they just be sitting on the sidelines waiting for their opportunity? I believe that they’d be doing the latter thus it’s not too much of an issue. I don’t really understand how some have a problem with the amount of right backs selected, you could argue that there are too much but they are all stars capable of playing in a range of positions in the aim of meeting a certain ambition and game plan thus I’m relatively pleased to see their names going to the summer’s halted European Championships.
My starting eleven would be: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspurs) and Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund).
For me, the above eleven would be successful as there is a great level of experience and freshness. There are many with a great taste of trophy wins and there are players emerging who are ready to show the world what they are capable of. I also think that the players have good chemistry with each other, you think of the defensive line’s Manchester link ups. I think we as Englishmen look at other countries like France and Portugal and are taken aback by their standards but it’s safe to look at the quality we possess and be proud of. I mean, what a front free Foden Kane and Sancho is!
The international warm ups get underway this week as England are set to face Austria and Romania at Middlesborough’s Riverside Stadium. Those two encounters are the build up to the big kick off against Croatia at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 13th June at 2pm, further group games will follow as Southgate’s men come up against Scotland and the Czech Republic. Will there be any further games? There just may be …
How did England fare in their first Euros warm up?
On Wednesday night, at Middlesborough’s Riverside Stadium, Austria came up against England and there were few shining lights for the three lions. Personally, I thought Jordan Pickford’s distribution and Harry Kane’s overall work in defence and attack was phenomenal and it was great to see Arsenal’s exciting youngster in Bukayo Saka get on the scoresheet. The defence seemed relatively shaky as the visitors were able to get a few ‘pop’ shots off and I’m really not too sure what Tyrone Mings was thinking when he barged into a forward inside the box. Also, there may be a slight issue with full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold who has worked hard to get back in the team as he seemed to severely injure himself whilst kicking the ball upfield. Thus, we could see a late inclusion into the final squad .. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Ben White or Jesse Lingard come in.