Football Features

Trent joins the army of right-backs – Winners and losers of England’s Euro 2020 squad

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:05, 1 June 2021

England’s squad for Euro 2020 has now been announced!

From 33, we’ve come down to the final 26-man squad trying to win England’s first major trophy since 1966 in the multi-nation Euro 2020. The squad has, predictably, generated quite a bit of controversy. There are names missing that one would not expect to be missing, and then there are a couple of surprise inclusions too.

Who were the winners and losers of the squad announcement? We’ve had a look and come up with a list!

Winner: Trent Alexander-Arnold

After all the “will he, won’t he?”, Trent Alexander-Arnold has made the final cut. Now we just have to see how much the Liverpool youngster figures in Southgate’s plans. After all, he has been lumped with the No.22 shirt, leaving us with no idea how far up or down the pecking order he is.

If we’re going off metrics alone, it should be a no-brainer. Alexander-Arnold was the top performer in the Premier League for Jurgen Klopp across the board for things like chances created (77), crosses attempted (297) and interceptions (49). Using the old eye test, Trent is a supremely gifted footballer with underrated defensive skills, often sweeping up behind the Liverpool backline and keeping pace with the Premier League’s quickest wingers.

With doubts around his inclusion behind him, it’s now up to Alexander-Arnold to prove his starting worth to Southgate.

Loser: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

England are blessed with an incredible crop of right-backs right now. There’s Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. There’s also Tariq Lamptey, James Justin and more. Lou Bega could record a song listing all their names there’s that many.

However, while all the major names are in the England squad, Wan-Bissaka isn’t. This is despite being arguably the best 1-v-1 defender in the world, an incredible athlete with almost superhuman defensive skill when it comes to recovering the ball. He ended this season with 88 tackles (second among Premier League full-backs) and 62 interceptions (first).

Wan-Bissaka is a phenomenal defender able to lock down any opponent and to not make the squad is a huge snub for a player who could have been the difference between Kylian Mbappé crucifying the Three Lions and England going all the way at Euro 2020. Ah well.

Winner: Manchester United

Despite Wan-Bissaka’s omission, Manchester United’s transfer policy of signing and promoting young, English talent has borne fruit in this squad where the Red Devils have more players than any other club. After years of barely featuring in England teams, United are very well represented.

Dean Henderson will compete to start in goal, Harry Maguire is obviously the lynchpin of the defence while Luke Shaw is nailed-on to start at left-back. Then, of course, we have Marcus Rashford, who should start up-front. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be torn between wanting his players to succeed vs. wanting them to get plenty of rest in the summer. Even Mason Greenwood stood a good chance of making the tournament until injury curtailed his hopes.

Loser: Fikayo Tomori

Gareth Southgate has called up Kieran Trippier, so we know that he at least watches La Liga. So one would have reasonably assumed he watches Serie A too, and if he did he would have seen Fikayo Tomori dominate since joining AC Milan on loan.

However, one can only surmise, as a result of Tomori’s exclusion from this squad, that Southgate does not watch Serie A because anyone who does watch Italian football and didn’t pick Tomori to go to Euro 2020 would be intensely foolish, and Southgate is not intensely foolish. Tomori should have gone, especially with the concerns over Harry Maguire’s fitness.

Winner: The kids

Prior to taking the senior job, Southgate worked extensively in the England youth set-up, so it’s no surprise to see a few tyros in his squad. The likes of Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho were ultimately predictable and hugely deserved call-ups.

But what is nice to see is some of England’s other emerging talents get the nod. Jude Bellingham enjoyed a stellar first campaign with Borussia Dortmund following his move from Birmingham City, starting 27 games across Bundesliga and Champions League play, notching two goals and four assists along the way.

And after doubts around his inclusion, Bukayo Saka has also found his way into Southgate’s plans after being one of the few bright sparks in a dismal season for Arsenal. Saka’s ability to play at left-back and through the middle, as well as his preferred role on the wings, surely played in his favour.

The future is bright!

Loser: Bamford & Ings

While Greenwood has been great of late, some players have been performing all season only to still get snubbed. Patrick Bamford scored an incredible 17 goals this season for Leeds, adding seven assists for a direct goal involvement of 24. Harry Kane was the only Englishman with more, yet Bamford is nowhere to be seen.

Similarly, Danny Ings and his 12 goals for Southampton hasn’t been called up despite his lethal instincts, pace and movement making him a unique threat at the top of the pitch and someone who could be really useful off the bench. But nope; snubbed. They didn’t even make the provisional squad and neither was called up to replace Greenwood when he dropped out due to injury.

Winner: Conor Coady

Wolves have been poor this season. They finished 13th and conceded 52 goals, which is the 12th-best record in the Premier League. Admittedly their main problem was the injury to Raul Jimenez blunting their attack, but Conor Coady was no longer a colossus and that made a difference.

Sure, Coady was ever-present yet again (well, almost; he missed a 1-1 draw with Southampton due to quarantine protocols) and that level of physical reliability is impressive, but that just means Coady was there for all of Wolves’ defensive chicanery.

The 4-0 losses to West Ham and Burnley stick out as particular embarrassments, and Coady’s inability to play in a back four remains an issue; yet he is still in the squad despite Ben White and Ben Godfrey (both better-performing defenders) being cut.

Loser: Southgate’s “favourites”

Gareth Southgate was always said to have his favourite players. Lads that he’d pick regardless of form because he liked them or rated them. Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Jesse Lingard, Michael Keane and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all benefited from this favouritism in the past, yet none of them have made the squad for Euro 2020.

These are all correct decisions, mind you. Only Lingard has really played well enough to be included in the squad and given the wealth of attacking talent Southgate has taken, you can see why he’s been left out despite making the provisional squad.

While his squad selection hasn’t exactly been earth-shakingly brave, one has to commend Southgate for moving beyond his comfort zone and dropping his favourites (well, most of them). Let’s hope he’s as brave in the tournament itself!

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