England are back in World Cup qualifying action against Albania on Friday night at Wembley, where a win will confirm their place in Qatar next year.
Gareth Southgate’s side currently sit top of their group with two games remaining, three points ahead of Poland and five ahead of Albania.
Only group winners are guaranteed a place in Qatar 2022, while runners-up will have to go through a play-off to make it. It makes bouncing back from last month’s draw with Hungary all the more important. But who should start the game? This is our England lineup.
GK: Jordan Pickford
England’s number one has been under pressure recently because of the form of Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal, but he’s been performing worse than this and kept his place so I’d expect him to get the nod once again.
RB: Reece James
No Chelsea player has been involved in more goals directly than James this season and he has proven his worth in both directions with some excellent defensive displays too. He has stiff competition with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker, but his performances deserve a start.
CB: John Stones
Stones has been a mainstay for Southgate whenever fit and despite having some fitness issues this season again, when he has played he’s been excellent. He’s claimed his City starting place back too, so should continue for England.
CB: Harry Maguire
Maguire arguably shouldn’t even be in the squad this time around if we’re going based on form, but the fact he is means he’ll start. His competition for places is Tyrone Mings who recently lost his place at Villa and Conor Coady who has never really impressed, so it’s a no-brainer really.
LB: Ben Chilwell
Chilwell lost his place as England’s first-choice left-back last year after Luke Shaw’s resurgence, but this season they’ve reverted to type and Chilwell has been flying. He’s been great going forward and defensively solid, so he deserves the starting spot.
DM: Declan Rice
England’s most in-form central midfielder this season, Rice has become indispensable to West Ham and the national team. His ability to win the ball back is unmatched in the squad, he has become a leader and is constantly improving on the ball so he should start here.
CM: Phil Foden
Southgate has previously featured Foden out wide mostly, but this special footballer should be playing centrally. A magician on the ball with great ball manipulation, a killer pass and an eye for goal, get him in the heart of the game to effect games and watch him shine.
CM: Jude Bellingham
Another superstar youngster, Bellingham has firmly established himself as one of the best young midfielders in the game. A regular starter with Dortmund, Bellingham’s skillset is so diverse that he can play any midfield role with ease and would offer the perfect balance alongside Rice and Foden.
RW: Raheem Sterling
Sterling’s season hasn’t gone to plan after Euro 2020, but his spot with England is pretty much guaranteed. He ended a goal drought for City recently and as a key part of Southgate’s England team, he will start on the right wing.
ST: Harry Kane
Another Harry who can count himself lucky that the England squad isn’t simply decided based on form, because if it was the captain would certainly not be involved. But since he is, and he’s the skipper and his record for England is so good, he’ll start and probably score to help them qualify.
LW: Jack Grealish
Grealish’s move to man City has certainly helped establish him as an England regular, but Marcus Rashford’s injury issues have helped him become a starter too. Rashford has withdrawn from the squad, leaving Grealish as the best and most senior option to play from the left so that’s what he’ll do.
When a top English team is linked with a defensive midfielder, Declan Rice is the first name on almost all of their wishlists currently.
The West Ham vice-captain has been linked with a move to Chelsea, Manchester United and most recently Man City after a string of impressive performances last season and now this for the Hammers and England.
He shone once again for David Moyes’ side in their 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday at Goodison Park and the praise has been non-stop ever since.
Rice has been playing in a more box-to-box role this season with West Ham, given license to push forward and attack more than previously.
The reason he was linked to the top clubs in the league was his ability to win the ball back, while his positioning and aggression was also attractive to sides who tend to retain large amount of possession.
But during the current campaign he has shown a new side to his game. The drives forward with the ball show he is capable of being a threat in the other direction, while his passing has improved too.
In possession he is still not of the required level to be an £80m+ player in my opinion, but there are signs of someone working hard to improve their game and get there.
Rice would undoubtedly be a fine addition in the defensive midfield role for any of the previously mentioned sides. He is a great ball winner, he is a great leader and he is a top professional.
The new all-action side to his game is certainly a positive and his athleticism is highly impressive. He has shone on the biggest stages, arguably being England’s best player before his substitution against Italy in the Euro 2020 final, and has been a stand-out performer for West Ham on a highly consistent basis.
Now he must maintain this new level in his new role in order to continue improving and ensure that when he does eventually move for a fee in that world-class category, that he is deserving and that the performances at least warrant it.
Rice is only 22-years-old and when he talks about the game he seems a keen learner and someone who wants to always improve.
He looks to be the perfect choice for the midfield position, but the price is something that has fans and clubs wondering and doubting. He needs to leave them in no doubt that he is the man this season.
It feels like every summer for the last five summers Manchester United have needed the same positions filled during a transfer window.
A right winger, a striker, a centre-back, a defensive midfielder and full-backs. All of which have been signed in recent years, but none of the quality necessary to make it not a glaring issue within the squad.
But this summer seems a little bit different for the most part when it comes to the transfers the squad are reportedly seeking.
A deal for Jadon Sancho is closer than ever before with the Red Devils having made two bids for the England international so far and the only thing stopping it being accepted is the structure of the payments.
Then there is the news that Raphael Varane really wants to leave Real Madrid this summer and that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are at the front of the queue to make a deal happen.
That’s two top level players that would not only improve the squad this summer but they would also instantly improve the starting lineup too, which can only help to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool for next season.
Further to those two United have also been linked with Declan Rice for the defensive midfield position, Kieran Trippier for the right-back role and Edinson Cavani has re-signed for another year as the striker option.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the personnel of the other two incoming transfer targets initially, it’s a positive sign that the club are looking to address problem areas of the squad in one window.
Solskjaer has shown that he has progressed the team to a certain level without getting first-choice targets for much of his tenure, but to kick on to the next level he needs that added quality to lean on when it gets tough.
For the defensive midfield role, United need someone with quality defensive attributes but who can also play football. Just being good defensively isn’t enough for the top clubs and Rice’s attributes on the ball won’t help United when coming up against a low block, which is something they already struggle with.
A defensive midfielder with quality on the ball like Yves Bissouma or Douglas Luiz would cost a fraction of the price and be better suited to what a top midfield really needs.
At right-back Trippier is the right profile of player needed, just the wrong individual. The England and Atletico Madrid defender is a good attacking outlet as well as decent defender, but he is the wrong side of 30 and will take a fair chunk out of the budget for the summer.
United currently have Diogo Dalot and Ethan Laird as young, attacking full-backs that could compete with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in that position but instead Solskjaer wants to sign one as a short-term option.
If signing one is the thing that needs to be done because Solskjaer doesn’t rate Dalot and Laird is moving out on loan for the season, then it should be someone younger that is a target. Tariq Lamptey would be a terrific option, while I’m sure some scouting departments could look at the likes of Germany Under-21 right-back Ridle Baku and see a talented option there.
They’d likely cost less than the reported £35million that Atletico want for Trippier but even if they didn’t, the fee would be far more justified as a long-term investment to compete with Wan-Bissaka on going forward rather than someone coming in for a final big pay day.
Whether we agree with the personnel though, it shows that Solskjaer sees what the fans see and that improvements are needed in specific areas. The fact the business seems to be a priority to get done early is a positive.
The summer transfer window is on the right track for Manchester United, for the most part anyway.
England face a crunch Euro 2020 final group game against Czech Republic tonight, and only a win will see them qualify as group winners.
A win over Croatia was followed up with a draw against Scotland, meaning that they have four points from two games just like the Czech’s. But with the visitors on Tuesday night having a better goal difference following their 2-0 win over the Scots, a draw would see them win the group ahead of England.
Gareth Southgate will be without Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell for the game after they were forced to self-isolate following close contact with Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for COVID-19 after the England-Scotland game on Friday night.
So who should start the game that England must win to get their tournament really kick-started? This would be my team:
Jordan Pickford (GK)
England’s best available goalkeeper so he should start. Yet to really be tested during the tournament but has kept two clean sheets and his passing and claiming of crosses has been good, so no need to change anything there.
Kyle Walker (RB)
Walker was hot and cold against Croatia but without him against Scotland, England looked stale. His pace is a powerful tool in both directions while his ability on the ball is more than adequate to help build from the back, he’s England best option in the position and should start.
John Stones (CB)
The Manchester City centre-back came closest to breaking the deadlock against Scotland when he headed against the post. That aerial ability has been on show throughout the tournament but also his one-on-one defensive qualities and passing have continued to shine through and he should keep his place.
Harry Maguire (CB)
Manchester United’s captain has yet to kick a ball at this tournament so far and England haven’t conceded a goal yet, but he should come into the side for this one. Defensively he is excellent aerially and as a leader, while also being far better on the ball than Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady. Must start.
Luke Shaw (LB)
Shaw was called into the side for the Scotland game but struggled to make an impact as he wasn’t really allowed to push on too much. That must change in this game if England are to have success and he is the best attacking left-back in the squad. With Chilwell out due to COVID protocols, he must start.
Declan Rice (CM)
Rice is a solid defensive outlet when it comes his midfield role but progressing the ball against a low block defence is not his strongest attribute. With that said, England can’t afford to lose the game and he is comfortably the best defensive midfielder in the squad. He should be in there for added protection but his role should be simple – win the ball back and give it to the more talented players.
Jude Bellingham (CM)
The last thing England need to do in this game is play with two holding midfielders, so it’s the perfect chance for young Bellingham to make his mark on the tournament. More than comfortable in every role as a central midfielder, the 18-year-old would offer terrific balance and some added attacking quality in the final third where needed.
Jadon Sancho (RW)
He’s yet to get his boots dirty in this tournament but Sancho is more than deserving of some action in this tournament now. England have really struggled creatively so far and only Harry Kane had more goal involvements during the last campaign. Sancho has pace, skill, great combination play with passing and has a killer pass and eye for goal so would be the perfect man to bring in to a struggling side.
Jack Grealish (CAM)
It was a surprise that he didn’t start against Croatia and during the 27 minutes he got against Scotland he wasn’t able to do much, but Grealish deserves the nod here. He has the flair and playing style perfectly suited to international football and has shown time and again in an England shirt that he can perform. With Mount unavailable, he’s the obvious choice to step in to the number ten position.
Marcus Rashford (LW)
Raheem Sterling remains the only man to score for England so far in this tournament but his performances have been far from excellent. Marcus Rashford was second in the entire England squad for goal contributions last season (tied with Sancho) and has come on in both games but struggled to get into them. A start here would give him that chance, with his eye for goal and direct style precisely what England have been lacking.
Harry Kane (ST)
As if it was ever in doubt, Southgate has already confirmed that his captain and star striker will start this game. The Tottenham man is yet to even have a shot on target in the tournament but he’s always been a man for the big occasion and there is no bigger stage than now, so expect him to finally make his arrival with a goal in this one.
England look to secure qualification into the round of 16 at the first attempt at Euro 2020 with a win over Scotland in match day 2.
Raheem Sterling’s goal in the second half gave the Three Lions a well deserved 1-0 win over Croatia in their opening game, in a performance that did the country proud.
Manager Gareth Southgate will now need to make some tough decisions in the team against Scotland, with England expected to control possession more and their home nation rivals likely to line up in a very defensive manner.
Does Southgate stick to a winning formula or make some changes to keep everyone in the 26-man squad on their toes and in rhythm? This is the England team that should start against Scotland for us.
Jordan Pickford (GK)
The Everton stopper’s number one shirt was in doubt before the original tournament in 2020 but he kept his shirt for the opener when Nick Pope went down injured and was ruled out of the tournament before the squad was picked.
His position is even further cemented now with Dean Henderson’s withdrawal from the squad, so he is now comfortably the best keeper available and should start.
Kyle Walker (RB)
Walker had a good performance against Croatia in the opening game and with Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson being deployed in a wing-back role, Walker’s pace and strength will be needed to ensure he doesn’t get a free ride out wide all night.
He’s good in possession against low block sides too, with his experience playing for Manchester City and as the best full-back in the squad he deserves to start again.
John Stones (CB)
He was the best fit centre-back England had in the first game and he turned in a performance to back it up too. Great ability on the ball, fantastic aerially in both boxes and a very good one-on-one defender, barring the odd brain fart he gets he’s got the tools to be one of the best England have.
His ability on the ball will see him be key to England building up play from the back and he’ll be a threat at set-pieces too, so he starts again.
Harry Maguire (CB)
He’s missed around a month of action with an ankle ligament injury, but after training for the last week since the Croatia game Maguire is available to play and therefore should start.
Southgate says he will play a part but is unsure of if he’ll start yet, but he’d be better off starting when the intensity is higher to really see if he is fit enough to play. Mings was excellent against Croatia in the opening game so England can trust that they have a solid deputy if needed but it’s the perfect game to give Maguire a start in.
Luke Shaw (LB)
Kieran Trippier got the shock nod at left-back in the opening game, but against a side likely to play a low block stretching the pitch will be key.
That means a natural left footer should play at left-back and Shaw was the best left-back in the country last season and therefore deserves his shot at starting in a major tournament. His partnership at club level with Maguire will be helpful too but his pace and passing going forward will help England unlock the Scottish defence.
Declan Rice (CM)
Gary Neville described Rice as one of the two undroppable players in the England team along with Harry Kane and while I don’t necessarily agree, he is hard to replace.
Quite comfortably the best defensive midfielder England have, Rice’s positioning and tackling go hand-in-hand with his reading of the game and make him a key part of the jigsaw of a Southgate team. He’ll need to be better on the ball in a game like this, with more progressive passes and bravery, but his reliability defensively adds some protection to an otherwise attacking team.
Jude Bellingham (CM)
This will seem harsh to many because of just how good Kalvin Phillips was against Croatia, but this is the type of game where I want someone in a deeper midfield role with more of a natural attacking burst.
Bellingham has the ability to help out defensively where needed but also has a killer pass on him, ability to drive past players and can score goals too. Getting players into a rhythm in case they’re called upon is key for a tournament and Bellingham is good enough to get a start and make a difference.
Raheem Sterling (RW)
Most people didn’t have Sterling starting the opener, but he turned in a great performance where he was the most dangerous attacker and got the only goal of the game.
The confidence he’ll take from that game will be big for the rest of the tournament and he should be allowed to ride that momentum into this game too. Pace, direct running, a great dribbler and excellent movement from out-to-in make him the perfect outlet for England against the Scotland back five and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him score once again.
Mason Mount (CAM)
Ideally I probably wouldn’t play Mount in this game and certainly not in this position, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s going to start so I’ve included him.
He’s a top player, with an excellent touch and lots of intelligence around the way he moves around the pitch with and without the ball but against Croatia he looked quite flat after a bright start. In a game like this he will need to be at his brilliant best (which is more likely than not to be fair) and his combination play with the front three around him will be key to opening Scotland up.
Jack Grealish (LW)
There was general shock around the exclusion of Grealish from the starting team against Croatia after his performances in the warm-up games, but I expect him to come back into the side here.
Phil Foden got the nod in that game but aside from hitting the post early on he was quite ineffective in the opening game. Grealish’s direct running and ability to slow a game down then flick a switch to up the tempo is exactly what England need in a game such like this, where Scotland will set up deep and look to frustrate them.
Harry Kane (ST)
He starts when he’s fit and available and rightly so. England’s best striker in a long time but also arguably one of the best in the world, he has every type of finish in his arsenal and is also one of the best creators in the squad so you’d be silly to have a team without him in the starting lineup.
It’s finally here, England’s opening game of Euro 2020 takes place in a little over 48 hours.
After the 2018 World Cup run that saw Gareth Southgate’s side make it all the way to the semi-finals, there is revenge on the mind as they take on Croatia once again at Wembley on Sunday in the opening game of Group D.
With Harry Maguire ruled out through injury, the manager has a decision to make based on fitness and system of who will start the important fixture with a good start paramount to any success they chase.
With that said, lets take a look at the starting lineup that should be fielded by Southgate and England against Croatia.
Jordan Pickford (GK)
The goalkeeper position seemed to really be up for grabs at the start of the season, with Pickford’s place in jeopardy because of bad form.
But Nick Pope’s injury ruled him out of the tournament and with Dean Henderson not nailing down a number one spot with Manchester United and Sam Johnstone getting relegated, Southgate will keep the faith with the Everton stopper.
Kyle Walker (RCB)
No Maguire means England are likely to revert to their three/five at the back system that got them so far in Russia.
That means a return to centre-back for Manchester City’s first-choice right-back, who provided great cover and ability on the ball from the right side of the three during that tournament. While his pace would be missed out wide, England full-back options are so strong that the decision won’t be nearly as thought about as it was back then.
John Stones (LCB)
The Man City man enjoyed the best season of his career this past year, proving essential to the winning mahcine in central defence.
While he’s far more comfortable on the right hand side, he’s good in one-on-one duels and is good with the ball with both feet. He’s a far better defender and footballer than Tyrone Mings so despite the Villa man being a left-footer, Stones gets the nod on this side for me.
Conor Coady (CB)
The central position would have been Maguire’s almost certainly, but without him it should go to the Wolves captain.
I personally didn’t have Coady in my squad because I think there are better English defenders than him available, but his experience playing in the centre of a back-three for Wolves could be essential here. He’s comfortable on the ball playing out from the back, but also happy to throw his body on the line and is a natural leader. He gets the nod for me.
Reece James (RWB)
Fresh off winning the UEFA Champions League in this position, James has to get the nod here.
A supreme athlete, James is strong as a bull and quick enough to completely nullify Raheem Sterling during the final last month. He’s great defensively when in one-on-one situations and is good in the air, plus his composure on the ball has seen him play in central midfield in the past.
He has a great delivery too which will only help Harry Kane in attack, so it’s position to lose.
Declan Rice (CM)
A stellar campaign for West Ham United saw Rice just miss out on Champions League football with his club, but he has earned plenty of praise from the big boys in the country.
A solid defensive midfielder, Rice is great defensively. He reads the game very well, intercepts attacks and is a great tackler while also being able to carry the ball forward in a counter attack if necessary. With that said, his passing through the lines is a bit iffy and he’ll need someone more attack minded next to him but he deserves his starting spot.
Mason Mount (CM)
Chelsea’s player of the year and the man who provided the match-winning assist in the Champions League final, Mount has earned his place in the England side this summer.
High energy, a great presser, comfortable on the ball in tight spaces and creative Mount is a perfect partner in central midfield alongside his childhood best friend Rice. While not a natural central midfielder in a two he has all the attributes to play the role and adds a bit more of an attacking intent to the lineup in a defensive formation.
Luke Shaw (LWB)
England’s best left-back this season by a distance, Shaw has fought his way back in from the wilderness to be his nation’s first-choice. Despite Ben Chilwell’s performances helping Chelsea’s European successes, Shaw should start.
He was brilliant from about November onwards and had a career-best season in terms of goals and assists, registering more assists than any other defender in the Premier League in 2021. He has great pace, power, is a solid passer of the ball and is high on confidence and would be my pick to start.
Jack Grealish (CAM)
The man of the year, the people’s champion. Jack Grealish HAS to start for England this summer.
He had a true breakout season in the Premier League with Aston Villa this year and was in the conversation for player of the year before a shin injury saw him miss 12 games of the season at a crucial period.
Since returning from injury though he has shone in both warm-up games for England with his ball carrying ability, his passing and his creativity and it would be a crime if he wasn’t rewarded with a starting place for the tournament opener.
Marcus Rashford (CAM)
Maybe a controversial pick, but Rashford has to start for me. 22 goals and 15 assists for Manchester United this season is a remarkable output for a 23-year-old attacker and he has proven he really is one of the best attackers in the league.
With the formation selected, England will have plenty of width from their wing-backs and with Grealish dropping deep to collect the ball and create, Rashford’s pace and directness will be key for England to create any openings.
He’s a good finisher and his one-on-one abilities against defenders will have Croatia worried, so he should get the nod as one of the two behind Harry Kane.
Harry Kane (ST)
The captain and the best player the country has, if one position in the team is a lock it’s Kane’s.
The Spurs man is coming off the best season of his career domestically with his club, where he won the golden boot and the playmaker award for most goals and assists in the Premier League. He has a propensity to drop deep which would allow him to create and link with other attacking players but also create space for Rashford to run in behind too. He starts so long as he’s even half fit.
Today is the day that Gareth Southgate makes half the nation absolutely ecstatic and the other half furious as he names his England squad for this summer’s European Championships.
UEFA agreed to allow an extra three places in the squad for managers to add following a full campaign of a hectic schedule owing to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months or so.
That should make it a little bit easier to select a squad but there will still be some big names who miss out. While Southgate will name a provisional squad today, I wanted to see just how difficult it is to do and how different people will react, so this is my 26-man England squad for Euro 2020.
Jordan Pickford: The Everton stopper’s place as number one for the national team had come under doubt this season but Southgate has stuck by him for the most part and he will 100% be in the squad.
Dean Henderson: He’s always had great ability and has come through the youth ranks with England. Now as Manchester United’s number one, he has earned his place in the senior England team too.
Sam Johnstone: The third spot was sure to be Nick Pope’s, but the Burnley keeper needs knee surgery and is almost certain to be ruled out of the tournament. That means West Brom keeper Johnstone will get the chance to be part of the squad as the third choice.
Kyle Walker: Quite comfortably the best performing English right-back this season, Walker won the Premier League and is in the Champions League with Manchester City and deserves his spot. He also offers some flexibility if needed, having played as a centre-back at the 2018 World Cup too.
Reece James: A young right-back, James’ season started impeccably and while he didn’t keep that level throughout the season he wasn’t bad. Good going forward and excellent in a one-on-one situation with a great delivery, he deserves a chance.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: The fact his spot in the squad is so in question is bonkers to me. He had a really tough first half of the season and was rightly left out of the last England squad, but since then he has been back to his brilliant best. He’s improved defensively and has an X-factor when going forward that should make him a shoe-in.
Ben Chilwell: Southgate’s first choice left-back for the most part has had a good debut campaign with Chelsea this season and could top it off by winning the Champions League. He’s decent at both ends of the pitch and this is one of the positions where the choices are pretty clear.
Luke Shaw: Quite comfortably the best left-back in the country this season, Shaw has seen an incredible resurgence in his career this season. He’s been fantastic going forward, with a career high of assists this season but also solid defensively and can even fill in as a third centre-back in a back three too so he’s in.
Harry Maguire: England’s best centre-back and a leader at the back, he’s had a very good season for Manchester United. Aerially he is dominant and while he has got a lack of pace, he knows how to play without it for the most part and shines for Southgate so will start so long as he recovers from his ankle injury.
John Stones:Another player who has seen a huge resurgence in their career this season, Man City have a lot to thank Stones for. While Ruben Dias picked up much of the plaudits (and rightly so), Stones shone next to him and his passing ability from the back should see him as a starter alongside Maguire with fitness permitting.
Ezri Konsa: While I don’t expect him to go, Konsa is more than deserving of a spot in the squad after the season he has had. Alongside Tyrone Mings, he has shown a fantastic ability in all aspects of defending as well as playing out from the back and in my eyes has outshone his centre-back partner. He has great pace to cover round and is good on the ball to build from the back too, meaning he’d fit into the squad brilliantly.
Fikayo Tomori: For sure a wildcard pick, but Tomori’s form since his January loan move to AC Milan can’t be ignored. He was brilliant in Serie A and the Europa League and caught the eye of everyone who paid any sort of attention. That means if Southgate was doing his job properly he’d have spotted him too, and he deserves an inclusion based on form and ability over Wolves captain Conor Coady.
Jordan Henderson: Arguably the biggest character in the camp, Henderson is an automatic pick if he’s fit. Great energy, leadership, solid defensively and a decent passing range too, he starts never mind gets included in the squad.
Declan Rice: Potentially the most important piece of the jigsaw in Southgate’s midfield, the West Ham man’s defensive qualities are something that only he brings to the squad. A fantastic tackler with great awareness, he will be key if England get into the latter stages to take on the better teams.
Jude Bellingham: Not many people will have had him down as getting into this squad at the start of the season, but the 17-year-old has been sensational for Borussia Dortmund and earned himself senior minutes earlier in this campaign. He has the ability to fulfil every midfield role and that fearlessness he brings to his game could be huge.
Kalvin Phillips: A fantastic ball playing defensive midfielder, Phillips has been a big part of Southgate’s plans in squads over the last year and he deserves his place in the side as the insurance policy in the centre.
Mason Mount: A real breakthrough campaign this season for Mount, who made himself indispensable for Chelsea and forced his way into the England setup too. Whether it be deeper or slightly more advanced, Mount is almost certain to start and will be included.
Bukayo Saka: The Arsenal man was one of very few bright sparks in a shocking season for the Gunners and his versatility could be absolutely vital for the squad. Able to play as a full-back, wing-back, winger or even central midfielder, he should find that gets him into the squad above anything else.
Jack Grealish: One of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season prior to his shin injury, Grealish more than deserves his place in the squad. Brilliant ball retention and manipulation, as well as a ball carrier, eye for a pass and top performances for Villa, he has to be in.
Jadon Sancho: Strangely enough there are squads that don’t have Sancho involved and that just makes zero sense to me. A dazzling winger with pace, agility, a brilliant change of direction, goals and assists, he’s performed brilliantly for Dortmund after a slow start and deserves his spot.
Raheem Sterling: After Harry Kane, Sterling is probably the first attacker on the squad list for Southgate and he’s one of them for me too. While his season for Man City was somewhat underwhelming in comparison to previous campaigns, he has goals, assists and brilliant wing play and can play on either side. His quality is high and he’s a must-pick.
Marcus Rashford: The best season of his club career was slowed somewhat by injuries towards the end, but 20+ goals and 15+ assists in all competitions make him a sure-fire pick. He has that X-factor in one on one situations, has brilliant pace and skill, can play across the entire front three and is a good impact sub if he doesn’t start too.
Harry Kane: Well, duh. England’s best player by a distance, Kane is in the squad and I reckon he’ll play every minute of the tournament too.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Since Kane will likely play in every game and play most minutes, the secondary striker role is one that likely won’t be used much. Despite that, you need someone who is a presence on the pitch if they are needed and can score a variety of different goals, so the Everton man is the best pick.
Mason Greenwood: A wildcard pick again, but it’s rare that as a manager you have so much quality to choose from and have to leave someone out. But Greenwood’s quality with both feet, whether through the middle or out wide means he absolutely has to be in. There’s nobody I’d rather a chance fell to when I needed a goal outside of Kane and that’s enough to sway me.
England made it three wins from three heading into the European Championships this summer as they top their World Cup qualifying group following a 2-1 win over Poland at Wembley.
After beating San Marino and then Albania, Gareth Southgate’s men came back to their home to take on the Robert Lewandowski-less Poles. Harry Kane’s penalty gave them the lead too, making the Spurs man the player to score the most penalties in national team history with ten so far.
Poland fought back well in the second half and applied lots of pressure, forcing an error from John Stones to equalise through Jakub Moder with a fine strike into the top corner. England struggled to really create any chances but did find a late winner, when Stones headed a corner back across goal and found Harry Maguire who emphatically volleyed the ball into the roof of the net.
The result means with just 71 days to go until the Euros kick off, England are five points clear of Poland at the top of their World Cup qualifying group for the following year.
Southgate made it clear during this international break that he knows his starting lineup for the Euro’s and although a few players were missing, the lineup seems pretty obvious now.
In goal, Jordan Pickford will be the man. The Everton stopper undoubtedly has is flaws, but he has earned the trust of the England gaffer and with Nick Pope not having much to do to be able to impress, he’ll return to understudy duties if Pickford is fit.
In defence, Harry Maguire and John Stones have cemented their places. Maguire has had his place guaranteed for a while but Stones had lost his place following some inconsistent seasons with Man City. With Joe Gomez emerging with Liverpool, he seemed most likely until his injury ruled him out of the tournament. With Tyrone Mings the next most likely to get a starting spot, Maguire and Stones’ performances will have convinced Southgate.
Full-back is probably the positions most up for grabs currently. Reece James and Kyle Walker got plenty of game time each, while Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t make the cut this time around. The way they end their individual seasons could have a big say, but as it stands I think the pace and versatility of Walker will get him the nod. On the left, Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are competing for a spot and currently I think the Chelsea man has the advantage having started two of the three games. Shaw was given a chance to impress and did, yet Chilwell still got the nod in the next game and that leads me to believe he will get the nod a the Euros too.
Midfield seems pretty set in stone at this point too. Despite an abundance of attacking talent, Southgate seems intent on lining up with two defensive minded central midfield players – even doing so against San Marino.
Jordan Henderson will almost certainly start alongside Declan Rice if he is fit, but there are doubts about whether or not he will be available. That should leave opportunities for the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and others to make an appearance but Kalvin Phillips started all three games during this break and that tells me he will be the man to get the nod once more.
Mason Mount is another who could start in central midfield but Southgate seems to prefer him in a more advanced number ten role. He has started each of the last eight international games and is regularly on the receiving end of praise from the manager, so his inclusion is near certain now.
Harry Kane is an obvious pick up front as he continues to score goals and perform well for England, while also being the man selected to wear the captain’s armband. Flanking him, Raheem Sterling is just as sure of his place.
The Man City man started on the left wing for this international break but has regularly been used on the right for the national team and is more likely to return there for the Euros. England have most of their depth in the left-wing position but the position is likely sewn up, fitness permitting.
Despite the fantastic form of Jack Grealish this season and his excellent performances for England, as well as Foden’s ability to perform in wide positions too and Jadon Sancho’s obvious quality, it’s Marcus Rashford who will get the starting berth.
His direct running, skill and goal threat are things he has over his opposition for the position but most importantly it’s the pace he possesses that sets him apart from the all. He has earned the trust of Southgate and his performances for both club and country mean it can’t be argued about too much either.
West Ham United turned in a Jekyll and Hyde performance at the London Stadium as they blew a 3-0 lead against Arsenal to take away only a point from the game.
Jesse Lingard scored a screamer early on with a half volley into the top corner, before a quickly taken free-kick allowed Jared Bowen to score just a minute later to double the lead. Michail Antonio’s header was then touched in by Thomas Soucek to give the Hammers a 3-0 lead inside half an hour, leaving Arsenal stunned.
The Gunners pulled one back before half-time as Alexandre Lacazette’s strike deflected in off Soucek, making the Czech midfielder a goalscorer for both teams in the same half. Mikel Arteta’s side came flying out in the second half and forced a second own goal, this time from Craig Dawson to make it 3-2 after a great run from Calum Chambers, before Nicolas Pepe’s cross found Lacazette to head home an equaliser late on.
It was a real performance of two halves from West Ham, who came out and dominated in the first half then seemed to go into their shells and quiver as a win got closer and Arsenal fought back.
Lingard and Antonio were willing runners throughout but their decision making in the second half suffered greatly, with both men seeming to opt for individual glory rather than keeping possession or playing their teammates in.
Declan Rice was excellent in the first half, keeping the play ticking over and putting a halt to the Arsenal attacks in the middle of the pitch but in the second half he was an almost entirely different player.
Martin Odegaard dropped a bit deeper to help the central midfielders and Rice and Soucek couldn’t cope. The Norwegian was able to completely dictate the game and it was because of him that Arsenal sustained attacks for almost the entirety of the half.
He was able to turn in the half-spaces, beat players and find passes through the lines or out to the full-back that had West Ham retreating and panicking. While he ended the game with no goals or assists, for my money he was the man of the match with an influential second half.
It was a performance that was very different from what we’ve seen from West Ham this season, in a year where they’ve been incredibly consistent in their style and performances.
They currently sit in fifth place in the table, two points behind fourth placed Chelsea after this result with nine games to play. Many have tipped them to potentially break into the Champions League places based on their performances this season, but it now seems unlikely.
This performance is the reason why many also tipped them to eventually fall away earlier than now, because the quality in the side just isn’t quite there.
Finishing among those in the race is still an achievement for Moyes’ side based on pre-season expectations, but it will be disappointing how a game in which they should have wrapped up and seen off turned into them being relatively happy to come away with a point.
The level of performance throughout the season has been great for them and players like Lingard, Antonio and Rice have rightly earned themselves plaudits – but the lack of top level quality in them and around them is showing as we enter the final stretch of the season.
For the last 18 months the biggest question coming out of east London has been when, not if, will Declan Rice be leaving the club?
Vice-captain at just 21 years old, Rice has come through the West Ham academy and been their shining light during a tough period where relegation seemed like a genuine possibility at times.
He was heavily linked with a move to Chelsea and while it didn’t materialise then, the links have persisted and there’s now talk of a potential move in January. Manchester United have also reportedly shown an interest in the past, but is Rice actually a good option for one of the top clubs in the country?
It’s an interesting question and one that we see banded about regularly about players performing to a high standard for lesser teams in the league.
We’ve seen the likes of Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Ben Chilwell, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Ngolo Kante and others make the step up and perform admirably.
We’ve also seen the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Morgan Schneiderlin make the step up and drown because of the extra quality needed at the top level. So where does Rice fit in?
Likely somewhere in the middle.
As a defensive midfielder, we’ve seen Rice is very effective for West Ham. He reads the game well, tackles well, intercepts well and is smart enough to know his strengths and play to them. He’s also pretty good in the air at 6ft tall and copes well with all the physical demands of Premier League football.
At West Ham, where they often set up to sit back and soak up pressure those attributes are perfect for him to shine and stand out since he’s their best player when it comes to those things.
But those things become a little less important at the top clubs, because they have the ball in those games. That’s when your on the ball attributes become so key, and Rice’s aren’t the greatest.
He’s a competent passer and carrier of the ball but he’s not one to excel at it. He keeps passes simple and we see in the England team that with lots of possession, Rice becomes a hinderance against a low-block defence.
Chelsea seem to have the right idea with Rice, as many reports suggest that they want to sign him and move him back into his central defender role. That would allow him to still use his strengths from midfield in terms of winning the ball back and being physical, while he can keep his passing relatively simple by just passing it on to the midfield players to let them unlock opposition defences.
If that is indeed the long-term plan for Rice, then the answer to the original question is likely to be a resounding yes – although a reported £80m fee is wild and highly inflated.
If not, then maybe teams should hold fire on making him their first-choice defensive midfielder for a little while longer. He’s still young, there’s no harm in letting him develop elsewhere and keeping an eye out.