The international break is finally over, and now the England squad is starting to look clearer.
Given results in the Nations League, it’s difficult to be too optimistic about England’s chances. However, there are still top-level players in the England squad who can make an impact at the Championships. So, who’s “on the plane”?
England’s last genuinely world-class goalkeeper was the magnificent pony-tail sporting David Seaman. Today, the options are somewhat less dramatic. Jordan Pickford has been the holder of the England number one jersey since 2018, but his recent form has been erratic.
Nick Pope appears to have cemented himself in the role of second choice at England, but should arguably be starting. A very different keeper to Pickford, the big Burnley keeper has conducted himself well when called upon for his country. He’s also been a more reliable shot-stopper than Pickford so far this season. The Burnley man has both a higher save percentage (65-62%) and a far better expected goals conceded record than Pickford (-0.5 to -3.8).
And finally, the third goalkeeping spot looks to be between Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale and Manchester United’s Dean Henderson. Henderson has been playing in recent times but is on the bench for most of the Red Devil’s most important matches.
On the plane: Pope (Starting), Pickford (Bench), Henderson(Bench)
Again, an area where England were once blessed with world class talent is somewhat lacking now. Except of course for at right back, where the options are ridiculous. Trent Alexander-Arnold is an easy pick when fit he has the best passing range in the national team. He’s also a prolific assist provider with 25 in the last two Premier League seasons.
Kyle Walker too, should be on the plane, with his versatility, experience and pace vital in England’s 3-4-3. Naturally a right back, it’s more likely he’ll be lining up on the right side of England’s three man defence. And finally Kieran Trippier, a favourite of Southgate would be more than capable of filling in for Alexander-Arnold, so he should be on the plane.
As we move towards the centre of defence, the options start to dry up. With Joe Gomez looking unlikely to return till late in the season from a patellar injury, it’s unlikely he’ll make it. Harry Maguire will be on the plane, despite a tough few moths. His ability to play the ball out from the back has proved useful and in a back three, his lack of pace is less important.
Conor Coady is another who will be in contention. The Wolves captain has proved his ability in a back three and his vocal style will be exactly what an occasionally ruderless England defence will need. Meanwhile, a favourite of Gareth Southgate’s, Eric Dier will surely be on the plane. Despite not being every football fan’s cup of tea, his experience and versatility will mean he’s a welcome addition to the squad.
On the left side of the back three, Tyrone Mings looks to have cemented his place. Starring as part of Aston Villa’s great start to the Premier League season, his athleticism will be vital to covering the space left by England’s left wing-back. Further forward, Ben Chilwell and Bukayo Saka will surely be the two left wing-backs. Previously, Ben Chilwell would’ve been a sure-fire starter, but Saka’s form for England has been exceptional. His pace and link up with Jack Grealish proving an excellent outlet for the three lions.
On the plane. Alexander-Arnold (Starting) Kieran Trippier (Bench) Kyle Walker (Starting), Conor Coady (Bench), Harry Maguire (Starting), Tyrone Mings (Starting), Eric Dier (Bench) Ben Chilwell (Bench), Bukayo Saka (Starting)
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson looks to be the only sure-fire pick in the starting lineup. A European and Premier League champion, his experience, tenacity and criminally underrated passing ability will be vital. Next to him, Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice look to be the other two looking at a defensive midfield role. Phillips is talented, and an excellent passer of the ball, but Rice’s top-level experience might see him pip the Yorkshireman.
Further forward, it’s hard to see Mason Mount not getting on the plane. A versatile and highly underrated player, he’ll be used both in the midfield two and possibly in the front three. Another central midfielder rated by Southgate is Harry Winks. More of a controlling player, he will likely be used as a substitute, when England need to slow the tempo of a match.
in attacking midfield, England are, for once, spoiled for choice. Phil Foden’s display against Iceland will surely put him in the picture. Possessed with a wonderful touch as well as a creative passing range to match the very best, his imagination and creativity will be vital for the three lions.
There are other attack-minded midfielders who could make the squad of course. James Maddison, James Ward-Prowse and Ross Barkley can all feel aggrieved to miss out. However, due to Southgate’s fondness of the 3-4-3, none of these men truly fit into this system, so will in all probability be left at home.
On the plane: Jordan Henderson (Starting) Declan Rice (Bench) Mason Mount (Starting), Harry Winks (Bench) Phil Foden (Starting)
It’s in attacking positions that Gareth Southgate has his biggest array of high quality options. The captain, Harry Kane is a sure-fire pick. A bona fide world class player, he will be arguably the most important component to any England triumph.
Alongside him will be Raheem Sterling. The 25-year-old missed the most recent internationals through injury, with his scoring touch and pace sorely missed. The third attacking spot is more complicated. Jadon Sancho would normally be the incumbent, but he appears to have fallen out of favour. Starting neither of the most recent Nations League games, he is still one of the best attackers in the squad, but may have to be content with a spot on the bench.
Another contender is, of course, Jack Grealish. The Aston Villa man has been in sublime form and was by far England’s standout player of the international break. His dribbling opening up opportunities from both set plays and open play, his maverick, mercurial style of play is what this team has badly missed.
Outside of them, Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have started the season in inspired form. Ings would work well as a lone striker in Southgate’s 3-4-3. His pace and tenacity in pressing would help win the ball high up the pitch and stretch defences. Then of course, there’s his fabulous finishing technique.
Calvert-Lewin on the other hand is more of a traditional target man. Competent with his feet, he’s much more of a threat in the air. Learning under Everton legend Duncan Ferguson, he has emerged as one of the very best in the Premier League.
On the plane: Harry Kane (Starting) Raheem Sterling (Starting) Jack Grealish (Starting) Marcus Rashford (Bench) Jadon Sancho (Bench) Danny Ings (Bench)