Gareth Southgate’s England side would have been among the favourites to be featured in the The Euro 2020 final that was set to take place at Wembley this Sunday.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has put the tournament on the back burner, and it will now be played in 2021.
This may well suit England, as they have numerous up-and-coming stars who will benefit from the extra year of experience.
With this in mind, we will try to predict what Southgate’s Euro 2021 squad might look like.
It is a near-impossible job, as one only needs to look at the 2018 World Cup squad and how so few of those players are still regulars in the team.
There will most likely be dramatic improvements with some players and dramatic declines among others.
Here, we take a look at who will make the squad, and also the potential starting XI in England’s opening game.
At the moment, Jordan Pickford is in possession of England’s no.1 shirt.
However, form indicates that this may not be the case for much longer.
While Pickford has made multiple high-profile mistakes for Everton in the last two years, Nick Pope and Dean Henderson are evolving into two of the league’s finest keepers.
Henderson may well take the now error-prone David de Gea’s spot at Manchester United, while Pope will not be moving on from Burnley. This gives the on-loan Sheffield United shot-stopper the edge.
If Henderson can play regularly and remain consistent at one of the world’s biggest clubs, he will surely become Southgate’s go-to man between the sticks.
Also in the squad: Nick Pope, Jordan Pickford
This one is one of the easiest decisions that Southgate will have to make.
Unless the manager decides to move him into midfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold will be the starting right-back for England next summer and, most likely, for the next number of years.
The Scouser is a Premier League and Champions League winner. He is also one of the best creators on planet football, from fullback.
All this, yet he will only be 22 by the time the tournament kicks off.
Also in the squad: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
One of the best 1v1 defenders on earth, Wan-Bissaka will surely overlap Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier to take his place in the squad next summer.
Tariq Lamptey, Max Aarons and, in particular, Reece James are unfortunate to be competing against so many good English right-backs active at this moment in time.
There is a very strong chance that Joe Gomez will be one of the first names on the teamsheet by this time next year.
The 23-year-old is quietly becoming one of the best centre-backs in the world.
When fit, he is first-choice to partner Virgil van Dijk in the Liverpool backline, and he has played a key role in the Reds’ title win this season.
If he can stay injury-free, he will be a guaranteed starter for years to come.
Also in the squad: Ben White
The Brighton man is currently on-loan at Leeds in the Championship and he has been the division’s best defender this season, at only 22-years-old.
Expect him to take the Premier League by storm next season, wherever he ends up.
As of right now, Harry Maguire England’s the first-choice centre-back.
It should remain this way until at least next summer unless the Man United man has a massive drop off.
Despite coming in for criticism, perhaps fairly, in recent times, Maguire is still playing at a very high level.
He will be important with both defending and attacking set-pieces, neither of which are strengths of Gomez’s.
Also in the squad: Declan Rice
Rice may be playing as a centre-back at Chelsea next year if The Athletic are to be believed.
He can cover both centre-back and holding midfield in the squad, which makes him a valuable asset to have.
This decision is helped by the fact that there are no other standout options in the position at the moment, although this could change in the next few months.
Left-back could be seen as something of a problem position since Ashley Cole’s prime, with Danny Rose holding the no.3 shirt for the most part.
Rose is a great player when fit, but these occasions have been all too rare in recent times.
Luckily for the Three Lions, Ben Chilwell has emerged as one of the finest in the Premier League in his position in the last two years.
His performances have declined to an extent since football’s return to action, but we expect him to pick up his form again next season and make the spot his own.
Also in the squad: Bukayo Saka
Arsenal’s Saka has emerged as one of the Premier League’s finest talents this season.
While is a more natural left-winger, Saka has played the majority of his minutes at left-back this season due to Kieran Tierney’s injury woes.
Like Rice, Saka can cover two positions so there is no need to waste a squad place on a second specialist left-back.
Predicting the goalkeeper and back four is a relatively simple task compared to predicting the rest of the squad.
Southgate will probably play a 4-3-3, with a holding no.6 and two box-to-box no.8’s.
Jordan Henderson will almost certainly be in the starting line-up in one of these two positions.
Against smaller teams, Henderson could play the 6 with two more attack-minded 8’s, similar to what Pep Guardiola did with Fernandinho, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
However, against better sides, England would be better off playing Henderson as a box-to-box player with Rice as the holding-midfielder. This would give the back four much more protection.
The PFA Player of the Year candidate is England’s best 6 and also their best 8. He gives his manager numerous options to be tactically flexible.
Also in the squad: Kalvin Phillips
While Rice can cover this spot too, Southgate may need to bring on more than one combative midfielder in certain games in order to see out a win.
Phillips is the best holding midfielder in the second tier, and like White, he should make the step-up next season without issue.
He does a lot more defensively than Harry Winks, so should see off the competition of the Spurs man.
One reason that England can afford to play Henderson in the 6 is because of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s improvement in the defensive aspect of his game.
While the Three Lions have a plethora of options at number 10, Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of their better out-and-out number 8’s.
While he will get forward more than Henderson, he will have to get back more than the next starter in this XI.
He receives regular game time for the Premier League champions, so will certainly be a worthy inclusion in this team.
Also in the squad: Phil Foden
Things will surely go one of two ways for Phil Foden next season.
1 – he will explode to life at Man City, filling David Silva’s shoes and becoming first choice in midfield, along with Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri.
2 – he will continue as he is going, being a bit part-player, dividing his time between the centre of the park and the wing.
We simply haven’t seen enough of him to determine whether or not he will do enough defensively to cement his place in Pep Guardiola’s (or in this case, Gareth Southgate’s) midfield three.
Having that said, he will surely still make the squad due to his obvious talent and the fact that he plays regularly for one of the world’s best teams.
Again, this is a tricky spot to determine.
Southgate favourites Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley are all probably best considered as number 10’s, yet all have played at Chelsea this season as number 8’s.
Jack Grealish is also at his best in the central free-role and he has played as a left-winger more often than not this season so may not be suited to a deeper role.
Then there is Dele Alli, who has all but fallen off a cliff in the last few years. Unless he can recapture his best form, he has no chance of making the squad.
Despite all the competition, James Maddison stands out.
He has adapted his game ever so slightly, playing deeper than he did for Norwich.
If he continues to work hard, he will be well capable of playing as an 8 without leaving the defence too open.
Also in the squad: Jack Grealish
Despite what some may believe, Jadon Sancho simply has to start for England.
He is not just one of the best young players in the world, but one of the best players in the world full stop.
In the league and Champions League, Sancho has scored 20 goals and assisted 18 more.
That is fantastic as it is but when you take into account that he only turned 20 in March, it is simply astonishing.
It’s not just a flash in the pan either, as he provided similar output last season.
He will most likely be at the centre of Europe’s biggest transfer saga this summer, but will probably improve again next season, no matter where he ends up.
He will potentially be England’s undisputed best player next year.
Also in the squad: Mason Greenwood
If Greenwood continues the form that he has shown since football’s return to action, he will probably be a starter in this side.
He can cover here and the centre-forward position next summer, despite his young age.
Here is where things get controversial.
England fans and pundits may be afraid to admit it, but Harry Kane has declined majorly in the last two years.
Injuries have taken their toll, and Kane is no longer in England’s top three forwards.
In fact, based on this season alone, he is barely even in their top ten.
Yes, he may stay injury-free and score 20+ goals next year. If he does then fair enough, he will lead the line at Euro 2021.
But if he continues under Jose Mourinho’s current tactics, is this likely? The answer is no, plain and simple.
Raheem Sterling has had a slight drop off himself this season but has still outperformed Kane.
He is also much more likely to recover his best form in time for Euro 2021.
Sterling is known as a winger but would be more than capable of playing up front.
He could interchange with the wide-men, while Kane would be in reserve for when he’s needed.
Also in the squad: Harry Kane
The final starter is Marcus Rashford.
After trying to make a centre-forward out of him since his debut, Manchester United have realized that he is at his best coming in from the left.
He has had his best season in a United shirt and will look to build on this next season.
While form will play a big part in Gareth Southgate’s thinking, the odds are that Marcus Rashford will be in as good form as any of his England teammates come next June.
Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Dele Alli, Curtis Jones, Harvey Barnes, Dwight McNeil, Ademola Lookman, Marcus Edwards, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Danny Ings, Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin
We have left the left-wing deputy position blank for now.
Saka, Grealish, Foden, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sterling could all play there, so perhaps England would be better off picking another player in a different position in the squad.
Maybe Southgate will want another specialist centre-back or left-back, so Fikayo Tomori or Luke Shaw could find themselves included.
Perhaps England will side for another attacking midfielder, so form will decide which one Southgate chooses.
The same could be said for a striker – two of Abraham, Ings and Calvert-Lewin probably would have made the squad had it been played this summer, but Mason Greenwood’s versatility makes him a better bet than three players who can really only play as a central striker.
There are of course a few players that could explode to life next season. The chances are that someone will come from nowhere to become a player impossible to leave out.
The likes of Curtis Jones, Ademola Lookman (if he does not switch his allegiance to Nigeria) and Marcus Edwards could all have big seasons ahead of them.
It’s anyone’s guess who that will be, so we will leave it up to the reader.
Who do you think will be the 23rd man in Gareth Southgate’s England Euro 2021 squad?