It’s been a while since England had a bunch of successful talents in their squad that were playing abroad at the same time.
It’s possible that it’s never even been a thing in all honesty but the current squad is full of players who have made a name for themselves outside of the Premier League’s four walls.
Kieran Trippier, Fikayo Tomori, Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham are all involved in the England squad for upcoming internationals against Andorra and Hungary.
Each of the four have spent time outside of the Premier League refining their game and becoming key members of squads in Europe, although Sancho has obviously since returned to England with Manchester United this summer.
It used to be the case that players that were plying their trade abroad were overlooked, with even David Beckham struggling for selection once he left Real Madrid for the MLS and Owen Hargreaves taking far longer than it should have to get a call up when he was at Bayern Munich.
But with a plethora of young talent moving to the Bundesliga in order to secure themselves regular first-team football, manager Gareth Southgate has seemingly welcomed it with open arms.
Jude Bellingham has been a regular in the squad recently despite being only 18, because he has been a key part of Borussia Dortmund’s midfield in both the Bundesliga and Champions League.
Tomori has shone for AC Milan since joining the club on loan from Chelsea in January last year, and was unlucky not to get a call-up to the Euro 2020 squad with his form.
Trippier has almost solidified his place in the team since joining Atletico Madrid, even becoming a left-back option such is Southgate’s insistence on involving him.
Sancho is in the squad because of the talent he has shown during his time in the Bundesliga after a slow start to life in England, with the boss even admitting that he probably doesn’t deserve the call-up on current form.
Abraham initially missed out on the call, but Southgate added him in later after his excellent start to life in Rome with Jose Mourinho and AS Roma where he has scored four goals and registered two assists in nine appearances so far.
It’s a positive sign from the gaffer and from the international setup now that young players shouldn’t be afraid to go abroad and get game time. In the past they may have been forgotten or overlooked, but not anymore.
If you’re good enough and stand-out enough, you’ll get your recognition at international level.
The Blues are on the verge of signing young French centre-back Jules Kounde from Sevilla in a move worth around £60million to slot straight into their back-three, after Thomas Tuchel made him a priority signing for the summer.
But when you look at other deals that the west London side have made this summer, you start to question the fore-planning going on at Stamford Bridge when it comes to the academy once again.
Chelsea’s summer as European champions began with them losing their academy defensive crown jewel in Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan.
In January, Tomori was allowed to leave for Serie A on loan just before Frank Lampard was sacked and replaced by Tuchel. But interestingly, and weirdly, the loan deal included a very affordable clause to turn the deal permanent.
Unsurprisingly Tomori shone with Milan as they secured Champions League football for the first time since the 2013/14 season, and thus the Rossoneri decided to splash the cash and take him to Italy full-time.
Chelsea secured £25million for the 23-year-old and while fans were over the moon about the deal, the returning Marc Guehi from Swansea City on loan was seen to be an immediate replacement in the squad.
Instead, Chelsea couldn’t agree a new contract with the England youth international and Guehi was allowed to leave to sign for Premier League side Crystal Palace in a £21.5million deal. So that makes the Champions League holders two academy defenders down, hence the supposed move for Kounde.
But with a reported fee of £60m for Kounde, it begs the question about the pathway for academy players getting into the first-team once again.
One thing that Lampard did properly during his 18 months in charge at Stamford Bridge was open up a pathway for young players to believe they could make it to the first team from Cobham.
The likes of Reece James, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all became regulars in the first-team squad under Lampard, while the likes of Tariq Lamptey and Tomori made their debuts too.
But now it seems as though that gateway to men’s football is being closed off once again as Chelsea prioritise success via money than a long-term plan.
There is nothing wrong with that, there is a clear method that works as they win trophies on a regular basis using this plan. But lots of fans and young players will see the lack of a pathway and could become more detached from the club.
Kounde is a top defender and without a doubt one of the best young centre-backs in world football right now. Is he better than Guehi, Tomori and any other academy defender at the club right now? Absolutely.
But is he £65million better? Probably not. Tuchel’s back three last season was mightily impressive when he was selecting from Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger. There is no reason that they wouldn’t be as successful this season, with even more time to work on his methods and style.
He also has options of Trevor Chalobah and even Reece James for the centre-back role beyond them, so he’s not short on numbers.
Bringing in Kounde seems more like a statement signing than one they actually are in need of and makes sense. Keeping Guehi and putting more trust into that academy pathway would’ve been a big positive to everyone in the club as well as for fans that support them.
Chelsea are improving with Kounde and that is the most important thing, but don’t be surprised to see the young talent at the club grow more and more impatient as these signings become the norm once again.
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.
As Euro 2020 continues to edge ever closer, there are question marks about who will make it into Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad for the tournament.
England are currently selecting through their best pool of talent for several tournaments and that includes defensively, where for once they have an abundance of quality options to choose from.
Despite that though, Southgate seems to have prioritised character and leadership rather than actual defensive quality for two of his centre back options and that is a problem.
It seems pretty certain that alongside Harry Maguire and John Stones it will be Tyrone Mings, Conor Coady and Michael Keane as the central defensive options that Southgate will go for. Mings, Coady and Keane however seem like picks based on reputation rather than form or actual ability.
Currently the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Ezri Konsa and Ben Godfrey are absolutely shining at their respective clubs despite inconsistent form from their clubs and yet none seem to be under consideration for a role at all.
Konsa is currently the secondary centre-back behind Mings at Aston Villa, but is quite clearly outperforming him this season. Whenever you watch them play together it’s always the younger man who stands out, while Mings has been the man to make the more high profile mistakes including most recently in the defeat to Manchester United where he got far too tight to Mason Greenwood, who turned him before finishing.
Godfrey has been brilliant for Everton too, playing at full-back as well as in a back three under Carlo Ancelotti and shining in the Premier League after his move from Championship side Norwich last summer.
With great pace, great physicality and a very good eye for a pass as shown for his assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin against West Ham this past weekend, Godfrey is a guaranteed future England international. With Stones and Maguire the sure-fire starting pair, seniority as back-up options should’t be a priority.
Holgate and Konsa have been excellent and arguably outshone their club teammates and the fact they’re not even in a conversation for a spot in the now larger squad is beyond strange.
If Southgate is looking for someone similar to his current options and with leadership quality, then Coady’s involvement over Lewis Dunk is just as peculiar.
The 29-year-old Brighton skipper has been excellent this season despite his club’s struggles. Aerially he has been a powerhouse and has proven to be a threat in the opposition box too, scoring five times.
But what’s been most impressive is his ability to play out from the back under Graham Potter, as Brighton have showed a great ability and confidence to outplay teams no matter the opposition. Their league position is greatly effected by the fact their strikers have struggled to find the back of the net, because defensively they’ve not been that bad at all.
Coady’s main reason for getting into the side was his familiarity in a back three for Wolves over the years, but Dunk can provide that now and is better, so why isn’t he under consideration?
Even after those three the most shocking omission is likely to be AC Milan’s young loanee, Chelsea academy graduate Fikayo Tomori.
The 23-year-old barely featured under Frank Lampard at the start of the season, but since joining the Serie A side on loan has been one of the standout defenders in the league. Absolutely rapid, great on the ball, physically strong and with a great reading of the game, Tomori absolutely deserves to at least be in the conversation.
He’s shown leadership qualities too but is also the perfect covering defender alongside the more dominant type like a Harry Maguire. He has experience within the senior set up in both a back three and four under Southgate and his performances should see him in the squad ahead of more senior options.
Southgate’s mind seems made up, but the defensive lapses that have cost them previously are a problem. For that reason, they should be looking to use the most in-form defenders to try and eradicate them.
As Chelsea progressed into the FA Cup fourth round with a 4-0 win over Morecambe at Stamford Bridge, it was Frank Lampard’s team selection that got most of the attention.
The club’s all-time top goalscorer and manager opted for a very strong lineup against League Two opposition, with all of Kurt Zouma, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner starting for the Blues.
While the lineup obviously worked out as both Germans got a much needed goal, while Mount and Hudson-Odoi impressed with goals too, but it was the omission of Fikayo Tomori from the starting lineup that annoyed many Chelsea fans.
With Thiago Silva rested and Andreas Christensen ruled out with a knee injury, many expected the academy man to start alongside Antonio Rudiger. Instead though, Lampard decided to start Kurt Zouma and leave Tomori on the bench.
The 23-year-old came on as a substitute for the final ten minutes of the game and during the post-match press conference, Lampard confirmed that it’s possible Tomori will leave the club on loan during the January transfer window.
It seems a strange decision though. Lampard has worked with Tomori more than anyone else, managing the central defender during his year in charge of Derby too as he was the recipient of the Rams’ Player of the Year award.
He got into the first team at Chelsea last season under Lampard and did relatively well, but went through a bad spell of form and eventually lost his place. Since then though, he’s barely had a look in.
Lampard fell out with Rudiger during the summer and Tomori was a back-up centre-back option behind Thiago Silva and Zouma. But when Lampard and Rudiger kissed and made up, it was Tomori who fell to the wayside.
He was left with no time to sort a move away from the club and the ten minute cameo against Morecambe was the first time he appeared since the end of September.
Tomori has all the attributes to be an excellent defender. He’s physically a bit short maybe, but he is absolutely rapid, has a good spring to compete aerially, is good with both feet and is comfortable playing out from the back.
He is being linked with loan moves away, but that seems like a short-term solution before a permanent exit in the summer.
Should he leave, I have no doubts that he’ll make them regret their decision. A club looking to break into the top six or European places should definitely be looking to add him to their ranks.
With Silva and Zouma the first choice pairing, it’s not a shock that he isn’t starting games. They’re both better than him and should be ahead of him. But Christensen and Tomori are only better in reputation, not in performances.
Rudiger has been awful for a long period and his poor form was a big reason why Lampard moved to bring in Silva on a free transfer, while Christensen has shown that he struggles with the physicality of the Premier League over the years. Tomori deserves a chance to show why he should be relied on ahead of them.
I’m banking on Tomori to have a top level career, whether it’s at Stamford Bridge or not.
Chelsea are known for being one of the more ruthless clubs in Europe when it comes to parting ways with managers or selling players.
This summer, they have backed their man Frank Lampard with £250million worth of talent including two German internationals in Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. Both men credited the influence of their international teammate Antonio Rudiger in their decision to wear blue going forward.
But once those deals were completed, Frank Lampard has now made the decision that Rudiger is surplus to requirements at the club and he could be allowed to leave the club before Monday’s deadline. He has been left out of five consecutive match-day squads and hasn’t featured for yet in the current campaign.
Lampard seems to prefer the four options of Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, Fikayo Tomori and Andreas Christensen over the 27 year old former Roma man, but that didn’t stop him using his influence to land his targets. Many will say “that’s business”, and that’s fair, but it’s also the darker side of football.
If Antonio Rudiger, who has two years left on his contract at Stamford Bridge, had upped and decided he wanted to leave and kicked up a fuss he’d be ridiculed by media and labelled a traitor of sorts. However because it’s Chelsea who want to get rid of him, nobody bats an eyelid.
I find it interesting. When a player wants to make a move to better themselves or further their career, they’re almost always labelled with a “money-grabber” label and are told to honour their contract. Why doesn’t it work for clubs too?
They were happy to use his influence in the transfer market to bring in his two mates but now they want to cast him aside. How do you think both Werner and Havertz feel about the situation? The likelihood is they were helped to make their decision by the fact they’d have a friend there to help them settle in and play alongside. Now he’s likely to leave at the earliest opportunity.
I get that Chelsea shouldn’t keep him around if he’s not a part of their plans and he should be allowed to make the move elsewhere, but it just seems shady with the way the whole summer has gone. Many fans will ignore it and see it as just another step of backing the manager, but it’s too easily forgotten that Rudiger is a human being with a family and a life too.
Chelsea have got what they want and will likely let Rudiger leave before the window closes, but it will be on their terms to a club of their choosing. Rudiger has helped boost Chelsea’s future hugely this summer and now has zero control over his own.
As Chelsea rolled past Norwich City to maintain their place in third place at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, the game seemed to ask more questions than provide answers.
Olivier Giroud missed countless chances in the first half before he finally got on the scoresheet thirty seconds before half-time to give the Blues the lead. Despite Norwich already being relegated, that was the only real action in an incident-less clash in West London.
Frank Lampard’s side have already acknowledged their struggles in attack for next season though. They have already completed the signings of Hakim Ziyech from Ajax and Timo Werner from RB Leipzig for a combined fee of around £80million and continue to be linked strongly with Leverkusen superstar Kai Havertz.
They are desperate for more goals in their side and have addressed the issue well, with time to spare before the new season for those players to bed in and be able to hit the ground running. It’s the other end of the pitch that is desperate for adjustments though.
Despite the clean sheet against Norwich, Chelsea have conceded 49 goals in the Premier League this season. That’s the most out of any club in the top half of the table and the most they’ve conceded in a single season since 1996/97 when they conceded 54.
It’s a long way away from the days when Jose Mourinho’s Blues, including Frank Lampard in midfield, conceded just 15 goals in their 38 games. While it’s unrealistic to expect them to re-live those past glories, its certainly not wrong to expect better.
Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori have all played 15 games or more each in the league, which shows just how choppy Lampard has been with his selections. Add to that Cesar Azpilicueta playing 4 games at centre-back this season too and you have a man clearly unaware of his best defence.
With all those names and their experiences combined though, none of them stand out as top drawer defenders. None of them have any real leadership qualities to their name and none of them, in my opinion, love defending. As cliché as it is, you need to have defenders that love defending to be successful.
Virgil Van Dijk is one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the world, but there’s nothing that he enjoys more than killing the opposition attack dead in it’s tracks with an interception. Raphael Varane loves breaking the lines with his passing but the joy in his eyes is unmatched compared to when he wins a foot-race with an attacker trying to counter-attack and takes the ball from him. You have to love defending. Chelsea are severely lacking that profile in their side.
With a move for Kai Havertz reportedly set to cost upwards of the £70million mark, questions need to be asked about whether the priorities are right at Chelsea at the moment. For me, there’s nothing wrong with targeting the German if you also plan on adding to your defence. If it’s one or the other though, Lampard could be making a crucial mistake not investing in a leaky defence.
Manchester City are reportedly looking at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, who would fit in perfectly at Stamford Bridge. While they may not be able to compete for him, there are certainly other options. The likes of Milan Skriniar, Jose Gimenez and Ruben Dias are all likely to be attainable for a price of around what they’d pay for Havertz, if not less. They’d all walk into Chelsea’s line up and instantly become the lead figure in the side, while also being of the level. It’s not just enough to improve on a player you currently have who isn’t good enough, they need to be of the correct standard. Replacing Antonio Rudiger with someone better than him, but still not good enough for Champions League calibre strikers won’t help Chelsea long term and it’s something fans need to think about when they ask for players to come in.
Liverpool waited for Van Dijk because he was the man and they wouldn’t settle for less. It was an admirable stance to take and has clearly worked out well for them. Chelsea should take note of that with their defensive targets and make the decision.