England confidently secured qualification for Euro 2020 on Thursday night with a comprehensive 7-0 thumping of Montenegro in their 1000th international game. This means that, despite the defeat in Prague, Gareth Southgate’s team will go into the tournament having dominated their group for the umpteenth time.
No one has forgotten England’s last foray onto the international stage: a memorable World Cup campaign in Russia which ended in a totally unexpected fourth-place finish means that hopes are high for the Three Lions when they embark on another journey to potential triumph.
In 2018, England had a clear philosophy: three centre-backs, advanced wing-backs and Kane and Sterling bouncing off each other in front of a creative yet industrious midfield. The same team started all of England’s meaningful fixtures in the tournament. A lot has changed since then.
The formation has been ditched and all of a sudden there is a remarkable level of competition for places. With barely anybody guaranteed a starting place next summer, we take a look at five potential line-ups for England at Euro 2020.
The side that played at Wembley last night was very close to England’s strongest.
There are a few players who should certainly be in this team: Pickford has been one of England’s most reliable goalkeepers of this century since his introduction into the team; the full-backs are two of the best in the league (if not Europe) at the moment and the front three are up there with the very best on the international stage.
We’ve opted for Maguire and Stones at centre-back. Both are first choice for two of the best teams in England at the moment and were exceptional in Russia on England’s way to the semi-finals. They are both excellent ball-players and seem to be Southgate’s first choice when the whole squad is fit. However, Stones has been known to be injury-prone in the past, something which Joe Gomez, Fikayo Tomori and Tyrone Mings will be keenly looking out for. Should Gomez rediscover his form of early 2018/19, don’t be surprised to see him take one of their spots.
James Maddison created 8 chances against Crystal Palace, the most by a player in a Premier League away game so far this season.
Only Kevin De Bruyne (9 vs. Spurs) has created more home or away. 📮 pic.twitter.com/fuFlokSHiS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 3, 2019
The midfield is a tough one. We’ve gone for balance: Henderson is a Champions League winner and potential Premier League winner who, again, was excellent in Russia and just seems to be getting better and better. Oxlade-Chamberlain is the perfect box-to-box option and will surely start if he’s given enough game-time at Liverpool this season whilst James Maddison is easily England’s most creative midfielder.
Realistically, any one of Rice, Winks, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek or Mount could see themselves in that midfield come next June, but we see this XI is England’s strongest at the moment.
Despite another impressive qualifying campaign, there are still major question marks about England’s ability to keep clean sheets, with the general view being that better teams will quite easily be able to outscore us, no matter how potent our attack is. Thus, Southgate needs a plan.
We’ve gone for Wan-Bissaka at right-back: now, Alexander-Arnold is an absolute sensation going forward and is surely going to be first-choice going into Euro 2020. However, his defensive ability leaves a lot to be desired and, without Virgil Van Dijk being there to help him, there is a fear that there is a crop of attackers who can expose him down the right. Wan-Bissaka’s defensive numbers are nothing short of phenomenal and he offers a far more solid option on the right side of the defence.
129 – Aaron Wan-Bissaka made more tackles than any other defender in Europe's top five leagues last season (129). Devilish. pic.twitter.com/uStzQ5Y0od
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 26, 2019
Replacing Stones with Gomez comes with a near-identical explanation, whilst a midfield pivot of Rice and Winks should help England secure the midfield against stronger teams (although don’t be surprised to see Alexander Arnold in midfield – more on that later…). We’ve given Mount the nod in the number 10 role in this particular XI, whilst the wide players and centre-forward keep their place.
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We’re yet to see Southgate revert to the ‘Russia 2018’ during this qualifying campaign, but could he pull it out again at a major tournament?
Joe Gomez seems a readymade replacement for Kyle Walker, who appears to have fallen out of favour with the England boss. Alexander-Arnold offers everything that Trippier did/does and more, whilst Chilwell is a far more natural fit at left wing-back than Ashley Young.
Any one of Winks, Henderson and Rice could play in the middle but we’ve gone for Winks, who offers the most balanced option of the three. By playing this formation, two players who would have otherwise been competing for one spot in Maddison and Mount can both play on the same side.
Raheem Sterling has scored more goals than any Premier League player across all competitions in 2019/20 (14) and has been directly involved in more #EURO2020 qualifying goals (13) than any other England player.
A big call. https://t.co/lIjrLLovqg
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 11, 2019
Despite failing to score in Russia, Sterling’s influence cannot be underestimated. England were 10 times better when Sterling was on the pitch at the last World Cup – this combined with the fact the versatile forward’s stock has absolutely flown up over the past two years means that partnership could be simply unstoppable next summer.
The only reason we would see this team is if things go very well or poorly next summer.
Designed to give the best players a rest ahead of the knockout stages or to give some inexperienced players a crack at the elite level, England’s second-string side is full of players who will hope to be pushing the big boys for a place in Southgate’s preferred team.
Fikayo Tomori and Tyrone Mings are both enjoying outstanding seasons and, on form, arguably deserve to be first choice as things stand. However, Stones’ and Maguire’s longevity at the top perhaps give them the edge.
Declan Rice has been in and out of the side over the past year but West Ham’s poor start to the season has seen the midfielder slide down the pecking order. The fact that he is England’s only out and out defensive midfielder, however, may see him ease his way into the strongest side.
On their day, Dele Alli and Ross Barkley are more than good enough to play in the latter stages of the biggest tournaments but recent form and injury means we have them below the youthful options of Maddison and Mount.
Marcus Rashford is a victim of England’s outstanding attacking depth whilst Callum Hudson-Odoi is simply in the process of being blooded before he makes his name for the Three Lions. Tammy Abraham’s rise over the past year means he is now undisputed back up to Kane.
This. Is. Interesting.
Many have proposed that Alexander-Arnold could easily slot into England’s midfield, so that’s exactly what we’ve done here. Think the role that Henderson plays for Liverpool: on the right-hand side of the three, offering support to the right-back whilst drifting wide and whipping crosses into the box. On paper, he would be perfect in that role. Many have asked who should start: TAA or AWB? Our answer: play both.
On the other side, we’ve opted for someone who has perhaps become a forgotten man. At the back-end of the 2018/19 season, Ruben Loftus-Cheek seemingly had the world at his feet. He was tearing it up for Chelsea and was playing himself into an integral part of the England set-up before an ankle injury in a friendly just before the Europa League final (whose idea was that?) meant that he hasn’t featured for club or country since May.
Arguably the best ball carrier in the country at the moment, RLC is more or less the definition of a powerhouse. Offering something completely different yet equally as effective as TAA, this midfield could be frightening should it fall into place.