When there is an international tournament coming up at the end of a season, all eyes turn to who could sneak their way into a squad that is usually mostly picking itself already.
Fitness permitting, it’s normal that you could name 15-16 of the players that will be on the plane to Euro 2020 without hesitating. The manager’s previous squad selections and lineups will give a big idea as to who is in his plans and who isn’t, and then there are usually a few spots up for grabs for the best performers of that year.
One of those positions up for grabs this summer will be one of the striker spots. Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are almost guaranteed to be on the plane following their good form this season, while Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho will take up the wide positions.
While the third striker role has often been taken by Tammy Abraham and Danny Ings more recently, Aston Villa’s excellent form this season should see Ollie Watkins move into the conversation too.
Watkins scored his 10th goal of the season in Wednesday night’s fixture against Burnley, as Villa lost 3-2 at Turf Moor despite Watkins opening the scoring.
It was another strong performance from the 25-year-old, who signed for a club record £33m from Brentford in the summer.
His pace, energy, hunger and quality have shone through and been a big reason why Villa have been so improved from last season.
Even when he went through a barren run of form, he didn’t score for nine games, he has performed admirably in every fixture. During that spell his movement and threat in behind created chances for others more than it did himself, but he never stopped doing it.
He’s delivered when it matters too, scoring goals against Liverpool, Arsenal and Southampton. Villa are a much better team with him in it and England could also get a lot out of him.
With Kane, they have a complete striker. He can do the fox-in-the-box stuff but can also drop deep and create as we’ve seen for Tottenham this season. Calvert-Lewin can do the poacher job in the box or act as a target man with his size and physique plus his aerial ability. Ings is quite similar to Kane, although at a much lower level, while Abraham is similar to Calvert-Lewin.
Watkins has the ability to do the poacher job but could also be a great outlet against teams who play a higher line, with his pace allowing him to run the channels and run in behind more effectively than the others.
His skillset has seen him slot into the Premier League seamlessly and his relationship with teammate Jack Grealish could also play into his favour, with the Villa skipper forcing his way into Southgate’s plans this season with his level of performance.
With no international football until March, the next six weeks are key for Watkins to perform to be in with a shout. But he is certainly one for us, and Southgate, to keep an eye on.