Gareth Southgate has finalised his final 26-man squad for Euro 2020, and few would deny that it’s a genuinely exciting time for England, with some wonderfully talented players making the cut.
Not only is it a strong final squad, but we can’t remember the last time an England manager had so many options to choose from. There are some brilliant players, who’ve enjoyed exceptional seasons, that can feel unlucky to have missed out – so we made an entire XI to demonstrate that strength in depth (in most, if not all, areas).
We’ve gone a bit Garth Crooks with this one to shift one or two players slightly out of their favoured positions, into a 4-3-3 formation.
GK: Aaron Ramsdale
Nick Pope would be a shoo-in here were he fit and available, but if that was the case you’d imagine he’d have been in the squad and pushing Jordan Pickford for the No.1 shirt.
Ramsdale isn’t exactly the best keeper in the world, and there were few complaints when he was one of the unlucky seven whittled out of the final 26.
He didn’t cover himself in glory in the season just gone, suffering a second successive relegation, but to be fair to him he wasn’t well-protected at Sheffield United; only Sam Johnstone, who got in ahead, made more saves in Europe’s top five leagues in 2020-21.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
It’s a testament to England’s Great Crop Of Right-Backs™ that Wan-Bissaka didn’t really enter the debate at a time when Southgate decided to choose four.
But then he’s competing with a Champions League winner, a La Liga champion, and a 22-year-old that’s already played a starring role in winning the Premier League and Champions League.
There would be few concerns were Wan-Bissaka the best England had, and he’s perhaps the standout defensively – you could easily imagine him excelling on the right of a back three. Rotten luck for the Manchester United man.
CB: Ezri Konsa
There’s a strong argument that Konsa, not Tyrone Mings, was Aston Villa’s standout centre-half in a season in which they kept 15 clean sheets – only Chelsea and Manchester City registered more in the Premier League.
The 23-year-old has previously represented England at Under-21 level, and will surely be part of the conversation if he maintains the same standards next term.
CB: Fikayo Tomori
Tomori was outstanding under Frank Lampard at Derby County during the 2018-19 season, and like Mason Mount and Reece James – who are in the squad – continued to impress on his return to his parent club alongside the coach, earning a solitary senior England cap against Kosovo in October 2019.
After falling out of favour following the arrival of Thiago Silva last summer, Tomori moved to AC Milan on loan in January with a permanent move reportedly set to follow this summer.
Having seen the Blues subsequently turn a corner under Thomas Tuchel and enjoy European glory, there’s a chance he’ll look back with envy, but shining at the San Siro isn’t a bad alternative. They love him in Milan.
LB: Ryan Bertrand
Gone are the days of England’s “perennial left-sided problem” with Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell a fine couple of options at Gareth Southgate’s disposal, but the manager isn’t blessed with as many options as he has on the opposite flank.
Ever since he made a name for himself in Chelsea’s XI for the 2012 Champions League final, Bertrand has forged a reputation as a perfectly reliable left-back, with 19 caps for England between 2012 and 2017. Set to leave Southampton this summer after over 200 appearances, he’ll have no shortage of Premier League suitors.
DM: James Ward-Prowse
The Southampton man was something of a surprise omission from the final squad, and with injury concerns over Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips, there’s an argument that Southgate’s midfield looks a little light.
But the England boss has an opportunity to bring some balance back, with the announcement of a replacement for Alexander-Arnold said to be imminent. Ward-Prowse would be the obvious candidate, and may get there yet.
We’re contractually obliged to use the term “set-piece specialist” here – and really, is there anyone you’d rather have stood over a free-kick 25 yards out in a tense, cagey quarter-final?
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 16, 2021
CM: James Maddison
You can understand Southgate’s thinking – there’s a lot of competition, and Maddison wasn’t in his best form at the end of the 2020-21 campaign, flitting in and out of Brendan Rodgers’ favoured XI at Leicester, with just two goals and no assists in his last 15 appearances.
But it’s undeniable he’s a special, game-changing player on his day. Just 24 and with plenty of time ahead, don’t rule out the prospect of Maddison lighting up future tournaments.
CM: Jesse Lingard
If you’re taking form into consideration, it’s hard to look past Lingard, who registered nine goals and four assists for West Ham since joining on loan at the end of January. He’s also got proven tournament experience, having starred in England’s run to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup.
In spite of being cut from the tournament squad, Lingard admirably gave it his all with a lively performance in the pre-Euros friendly against Austria. You can imagine he’s nervously waiting for the call – surely one of the leading candidates to fill Alexander-Arnold’s boots.
RW: Jack Harrison
Into his third year on loan from Manchester City at Leeds United, the winger is finally set to seal the move on a permanent basis this summer, and you can see why they’re keen.
Like several others in Marcelo Bielsa’s side, Harrison took to Premier League football like a duck to water. He registered eight goals and eight assists for Leeds as they finished 9th – no English midfielder had more direct goal contributions in the Premier League.
ST: Patrick Bamford
Bamford seemed to awkwardly avoid Mick McCarthy’s calls for the Republic of Ireland, but he’s been far more enthusiastic when it comes to England, having repeatedly stated his desire to play for the Three Lions.
Harry Kane is the only Englishman to have scored more than the Leeds striker last term, and with his supreme fitness and willingness to chase and press as Bielsa demands, there’s a case to be made he’s the best like-for-like back-up No.9.
Only two of his 17 Premier League goals were from the penalty spot, while he also notched seven assists. He couldn’t have reasonably been asked to do much more.
Bamford gets his first Premier League hat-trick ⚽⚽⚽
What a great team goal from Leeds though 🤤pic.twitter.com/lTNY8KjHpQ
— Goal (@goal) October 27, 2020
LW: Ollie Watkins
Watkins has been banging in the goals since he moved to centre-forward, scoring 26 goals for Brentford in 2019-20 and 16 in his debut season with Aston Villa, but he cut his cloth as more of a wide man.
Southgate was evidently impressed, calling him up ahead of Bamford in the last international break in March, and naming him in the provisional 33-man squad. The England manager was keen to lean on his versatility in the last friendly against Austria, bringing him on in a wider supporting role for fellow substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin.