Five of the attacking players listed below could start for England at Euro 2020. Max. They’re not all competing for the same positions of course, but manager Gareth Southgate needs to find a way to balance his wealth of options.
After the latest international break, which revealed Southgate clearly wrestling with how to achieve that balance, here’s how the players in question stack up right now. In reverse order:
11. Danny Ings – The Southampton striker missed these three internationals through injury, and he might feel that his chances of making the cut for England’s Euros squad are slipping away.
10. Mason Greenwood – After the Iceland hotel mini-scandal, Greenwood was left out in the cold and since then a raft of reports questioning his attitude (specifically his punctuality) appeared in the national press. The young Man Utd forward is an immensely gifted finisher, clearly, but his stock has fallen for club and country.
9. Tammy Abraham – He’s playing very well up front for Chelsea, and Southgate seems to rate him too. Like all on this list, he has a big talent – but he needs to score more goals.
8. Dominic Calvert-Lewin – Began the league season like a runaway train, but has slowed a little in recent weeks. The Everton striker’s significant aerial threat could be the one factor that gives him a selection edge over Abraham, although the Chelsea man is a better all-round footballer.
7. Marcus Rashford – There’s no way Sir Marcus won’t be going to the Euros, but his absence in this break only served to highlight how many other options England has. I doubt he’ll start in the first group game, but he’s a hell of an option from the bench.
6. Jadon Sancho – After a few unconvincing games for England, the Dortmund star is beginning to look more comfortable at international level. He’ll definitely go to the Euros but, like Rashford, he may have to settle for being a sub as the tournament kicks off.
5. Raheem Sterling – Didn’t feature during this break and as a result other players – Sancho to name one – have closed the gap to him. He is in the prime of his career, however, and he is still more than likely to start for England next year.
4. Phil Foden – Tainted by the aforementioned Iceland hotel affair, but unlike Greenwood he is now back in the fold. He played so beautifully against Iceland last night that jaws dropped. Be in no doubt, Foden is the most naturally gifted player on this list, with the potential to become truly world-class. Look at his sublime touch and speed of thought here:
— Harrison Clark (@HarrisonRClark) November 18, 2020
3. Mason Mount – There are definitely more talented players on this list, but Mount continues to prove the sceptics wrong. And unlike many Englishmen before him, he doesn’t shrink on the international stage – he manages to recreate his club form, and then some. It’s no secret that Southgate is a massive fan of Mount’s work rate, humility and all-round excellence, and I could see him starting for England in their opener.
2. Jack Grealish – I was wrong about Grealish. I thought he was a decent mid-table playmaker, but it turns out he is much, much better than that. It’s rare to see an England player crave the ball as he does. Whilst it would be wrong to build a team around Grealish – as it is wrong for any international side to do so – he has been so vital for England in recent games. Even Southgate said he’s “100%” moved up the pecking order. Still, it’s clear that England should find a way to play without him. As good as he is, he’s not indispensable. Not yet.
1. Harry Kane – Talking about building teams around a single player, Kane is still England’s alpha forward. But he is not the intimidating leader of England sides past – I’m thinking of players like Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Tony Adams, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney etc. Kane is a different main man, more approachable and selfless, although his burning desire to score goals every time he plays is evident. He remains the first name on Southgate’s team sheet, and rightly so. Just let’s not have him on corner duty ever again, thanks.
Which of these eleven players do I think will start in England’s first group game? Kane, Sterling, Mount and Sancho would be my long-range forecast. Just those four. With Rashford, Foden and Grealish as a potent triple-threat from off the bench.