The Euros have been moved back a year to 2021 – even though the competition will still be called Euro 2020 – which is potentially good news for the England national team, as an injury-ravaged squad threatened to derail any chance the team had of winning the competition.
The likes of Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford were ruled out for extended periods and would have been doubts to make the tournament, had it still been taking place this summer.
Now, with the competition postponed for a year, England’s star players have a good chance of being available for selection while other English talent has an extra season to stake their claims for the squad.
So, how could the team shape up for next summer’s competition?
With Pickford not exactly pulling up trees at Everton – although he has always delivered in an England shirt – this position is definitely one that is up for grabs.
The likes of Dean Henderson, Nick Pope and Tom Heaton will be hoping that they can challenge Pickford for the number one shirt, with the former potentially showing the best form of the lot this season.
One thing in question will be where he plays his football next season. With his loan stint at Sheffield United over, after the conclusion of the 2019/20 season, it remains to be seen what Henderson’s decision will be.
If he decides to stay at Manchester United then that will mean fighting it out with David De Gea for the only starting spot, which is always going to be difficult.
Whilst Henderson has been incredible for Sheffield United for the past couple of seasons, it’s hard to imagine that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would drop the world-class Spaniard, despite the mistakes that have started to creep into his game.
If we take someone like Axel Tuanzebe as a relevant comparison – good, young talent, who has previously impressed on loan and who has been tipped for big things – then it might not be good news for Henderson.
Tuanzebe has found his first-team chances limited this season, through injury and Solskjaer’s other defensive preferences, and Henderson could find himself experiencing the same fortunes.
If that happens, and Henderson finds himself as a number two behind De Gea, then it seems highly unlikely that Southgate would choose the young goalkeeper ahead of Pickford.
Although the likes of Trippier and Kyle Walker have played well for England and are still top quality right-backs, Alexander-Arnold is surely nailed on to start the first game of the Euros in 2021.
It is also highly likely that the £80 million central defender, Harry Maguire, will start and be an ever-present in Southgate’s side. However, assuming that Southgate plays the 4-3-3 formation that he has been using regularly since the World Cup in 2018, the other two defensive positions are definitely up for grabs.
Recently, the likes of Tyrone Mings, Michael Keane and John Stones have all occupied the positions next to Maguire. Having Mings there has made sense, from the point of view of him being left-footed and therefore providing natural balance.
However, for large parts of this season, his form has come under question, as part of an Aston Villa currently sitting in 19th place with the worst defensive record in the league. Keane and Stones have also never really looked solid alongside Maguire and Southgate will surely be looking at other options.
One such option is Joe Gomez. The young Liverpool center-back has looked increasingly assured this season, alongside the supreme Virgil Van Dijk, in a Liverpool team that is way out in front at the top of the table.
He will be looking to make sure that he cements his place in the England side, in the run-up to Euro 2020 (in 2021), with another good, injury-free season. The likes of Connor Coady, Jack O’Connell and Fikayo Tomori will also be looking to challenge for the spot alongside Maguire.
At left-back, Ben Chilwell will be hoping that he has done enough to convince Southgate that he should be starting at the Euros. However, he is by no means a nailed down starter and players like Danny Rose and Luke Shaw will be hoping that a good season could see one of them push to the front of the queue.
A left-field choice would be Brandon Williams. The young, right-footed full-back may not be an obvious choice and Southgate may not want to select him as it could make his defence unbalanced; however, he has impressed at left-back for Man Utd and another good season next year will make it hard to ignore him.
If we assume that Southgate is going to play a three-man midfield, then there are likely to be two places up for grabs. If he is fit, then Jordan Henderson surely starts. He has been brilliant for Liverpool this season and it is no coincidence that when he was injured and unable to play, the team went through their worst run of the campaign.
Several players have played in midfield for England since the World Cup in 2018. The likes of Declan Rice, Harry Winks, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Eric Dier and recently Mason Mount have all occupied the central midfield positions.
However, there are limitations to many of them. Many think that playing Declan Rice or Eric Dier alongside Jordan Henderson is too defensive. Whilst Harry Winks is clearly a good player, many England fans have questioned what he offers and whether he is true international quality.
And whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ability is unquestionable, he isn’t a nailed on regular for Liverpool and his consistency can certainly be questioned. The only one from the list who has somewhat impressed has been Mason Mount and he will be hoping that he has done enough to stake his claim for a starting spot.
Two players most England fans have been clamouring for are James Maddison and Jack Grealish. Both players have been in imperious form this season, with 13 goals and 9 assists between them in the Premier League.
Whilst they are both likely to be in the squad, assuming that their form stays strong in the new season, the question remains as to whether both can be accommodated in the starting line-up.
Another player who will be hoping he can convince Southgate that he belongs in the squad will be Ruben Loftus-Cheek. If he can stay injury-free for a whole campaign and consistently play regular football, then he definitely has a chance of making it.
This is probably the one position where the choices are almost set in stone. If they are all fit going into next summer, it’s hard to see past Harry Kane starting up front, with two out of Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford alongside him. So the only question that remains is who will be Harry Kane’s back-up?
The likely candidate is Tammy Abraham. The young Chelsea forward really impressed on loan at Aston Villa last season and has taken that form through into this season, scoring 13 Premier League goals, so far.
However, Abraham will be pushed hard by Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Ings has been in impressive form for a poor Southampton side this season, scoring 15 league goals. And then we have Calvert-Lewin who, since Ancelotti took charge of Everton, has been a revelation.
He has scored 8 league goals in Ancelotti’s 11 games in charge (13 in total this season) and has been brimming with confidence. If all three strikers can maintain their form next season, then Southgate will have a very difficult choice to make.
I think Pickford will start in goal, although this depends on what happens to Henderson next season. If he gets regular football, then my opinion potentially changes. If he stays at Man Utd, though, I don’t see this happening. Plus, under Ancelotti, I see Pickford having a good season and showing his true ability next year.
In defence, I expect Gomez will continue to impress and therefore will partner Maguire in the centre of defence. I also believe that Chilwell will start at left-back. Whilst I like Chilwell and think that he is a decent player, he is fortunate there isn’t an outstanding, up and coming young left-back, ready to step in.
Although the midfield three is quite attack-minded, I believe that Henderson could provide a good anchor allowing the attacking talents of Grealish and Maddison to flourish.
Both of these players are well-equipped to play in a deeper role, particularly Maddison, so I think that this midfield three could be a viable option. If Loftus-Cheek can have a good, consistent season though, I would be tempted to put him in for either Maddison or Grealish.
Then, in attack, I think that Rashford just pips Sterling. The former has been in better form this season and is arguably more direct than Sterling, providing a greater threat to opposition defenders and making for a very potent front line.
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