Sancho leads Southgate’s young pride of Lions

Profiling the clutch of emerging talent that can become England stalwarts
James Piercy  |  11th October 2018

Outside of the obvious joy and euphoria of reaching a World Cup semi-final for the first time in 28 years – a completely unacceptable period for a leading football nation – the effect Gareth Southgate’s England had on the country was far-reaching.

Mirroring the attitude and likeability of the manager, a connection was re-established between fans and players that had been lost amid Premier League millions and the feeling those superstars lionised at club level didn’t really care as much for international football.

The Three Lions are beloved again in the national football consciousness but their run in Russia also created a sense of hope because the players Southgate used were largely at the start of their international careers – they had the youngest squad at the World Cup – but also because it arrived in the wake of success for the U17 and U20 sides.

England have the foundations of a squad yet to hit their ceiling plus a raft of young talent coming through and our friends at Football Whispers take a look at the starlets set to become part of Southgate’s set-up long term.

Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

In a way Sancho had already showed his promise at Dortmund before even kicking a ball. The winger had a contract on the table at Manchester City but wanted to make the move to the Bundesliga knowing his chances of first-term football would improve immeasurably.

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The “bravery” of that decision, as Southgate described it, has manifested itself on the field where he’s played with no fear. Although still in the ‘super sub’ mould under Lucien Favre, he has a remarkable one goal and seven assists in nine appearances – one every 46 minutes – and the most in Europe’s top five leagues.

A technically-gifted, unique talent with plenty of pace and a clear desire for self-improvement, the sky is the limit for the 18-year-old who is pushing to make his international debut against Croatia or Spain.

James Maddison (Leicester)

Maddison’s talent emerged at Norwich in the Championship last season and while a move to the Premier League was inevitable, he’s still exceeded expectations in 2018/19 where he’s been one of the best creative midfielders in the English top-flight.

Maddison wears the No.10 at Leicester and has driven the Foxes forward with three goals and two assists in eight appearances, while showcasing his outstanding set-piece ability.

There is a long way to go but he is a leading candidate to solve Southgate’s lack of creativity in midfield.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Now a regular for Liverpool, 12 months ago Alexander-Arnold was largely League Cup fodder whose best route to the top probably looked a loan move away from Anfield. But he seized his opportunity under Jurgen Klopp as one of the most effective attacking right-backs in the Premier League last season.

That earned a place in Southgate’s World Cup squad and although he was deputy to Kieran Trippier, in the long-term the position is surely his. Exceptionally quick and with an outstanding crossing ability, if he can match those attributes with a sound defensive game, he’ll become a very special full-back.

Mason Mount (Derby, on loan from Chelsea)

Frank Lampard has taken him under his wing at Derby where the 18-year-old could enjoy the same kind of breakout season in the Championship as Maddison did. He’s been a pet project of Chelsea since they first signed him as a six-year-old but, as has been the case for so long, chances at Stamford Bridge are thin on the ground.

A rangy midfielder with a natural glide in the way he carries the ball, Mount ranks second in the Championship this season for open play chances created (19) and third for goalscoring attempts (38), having hit the target three times.

Ben Chilwell (Leicester)

The Foxes are stacked with bright, young English talent as along with Maddison there is also winger Demarai Gray and midfielder Harvey Barnes, but left-back Chillwell is the most established of the quartet having made his debut two years ago.

The 21-year-old is now a fixture under Claude Puel, approaching 50 Premier League appearances he has added consistency and greater assurance in defence to his obvious qualities going forward as he is very much a modern day full-back.

Harry Winks (Tottenham)

Just as the midfielder was making an impression for Tottenham, holding his own against Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in a Champions League tie, an ankle injury robbed him of the 2018/19 season and he only returned to full-fitness in August.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has compared him, somewhat unfairly, to Andres Iniesta but was using it more as an example in terms of the way Winks takes care of the ball.

England doesn’t tend to produce many ball-playing midfielders who believe in the value of possessions and can dictate tempo from deep. Winks is a unique prospect for his club and country.

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Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford)

England’s most-capped Under-21 player of all time has been in the international system since he was 13 but was a victim of the lack of a pathway between Chelsea’s all-conquering academy and the first-team.

A series of loan moves have provided experience and his switch to Watford last year has theoretically put him position to earn more playing time. A tall, rangy and energetic defensive midfielder who can also play as a centre-back.

Joe Gomez (Liverpool)

For all Liverpool’s smart summer transfer business there was a feeling Jurgen Klopp should have also invested in another centre-back. Gomez appears the reason why he didn’t. The 21-year-old has been masterful alongside Virgil van Dijk this season taking everyone outside Anfield by surprise with his maturity and defensive acumen.

He has all the physical attributes needed to be a top-class centre-back – pace, strength, athleticism – but is also technically excellent and developing a fine football brain and reader of situations, despite so little top-level experience.

* Odds subject to change

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