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My 26-man England Euro 2020 squad

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.

GOALKEEPERS

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.


DEFENDERS

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.

Harry Maguire of England celebrates victory with team mate Luke Shaw following the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Albania and...

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.

Fikayo Tomori of Ac Milan gestures during the Serie A match between Ac Milan and Cagliari Calcio. The match ends in a draw 0-0.

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.


MIDFIELDERS

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.

Phil Foden: England’s best young player since Wayne Rooney, he was key to Manchester City winning the league and making the Champions League final and is pushing for a starting spot never mind a place in the squad.

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.


FORWARDS

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.

Harry Kane celebrates with Jadon Sancho of England during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on November...

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.

Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 1-0 with Marcus Rashford during the Premier League match between...

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.

Champions League last 16 predictions – RB Leipzig vs Liverpool

The Champions League is back and the last 16 has thrown up some really exciting ties to determine who will make it into the quarter-finals.

Among them are English champions Liverpool, who are currently going through a shocking run of form, who take on Bundesliga side RB Leipzig who came through a group of death in the group stages and currently sit in second place domestically.

The Reds are going through their worst run of form in the last three years and have now lost three league games in a row for the first time since November 2014, while the Bundesliga side have won each of their last four games.

A big factor of this tie will be the fact that neither side will benefit from home advantage at any point. Due to COVID-19 regulations, the first leg (Leipzig’s home leg) will be held in Budapest at the Puskas Arena while the second leg (Liverpool’s home leg) will be held in a neutral venue also – although it’s undecided where yet.

Being behind closed doors was already a big factor for both sides, with both clubs’ atmosphere key to their successes in previous years. Obviously this year has been different since the start, with no fans at all anyway, but in Europe it could make all the difference.

Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League : News Photo

Liverpool’s style of play would usually be the exact remedy to getting a result against Leipzig, with their capabilities to both counter at speed and also control possession and sustain attacks among the best in Europe. Leipzig have shown an ability to deal with top teams with their own system, with Nagelsman able to be tactically flexible with several systems under his belt.

It’s an intriguing tie moreso because of the way both sides are playing right now. On paper, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t see Liverpool progressing with relative ease when the draw was made initially.

The pace of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane up front with the playmaking abilities of Thiago Alcantara and Roberto Firmino would have made them a scary prospect on the counter attack, and they still are. But recent games have shown a true lack of killer instinct in the final third and has seen them struggle to convert chances against opposition they’d normally dispatch of.

Leipzig’s star defender Dayot Upamecano has just been announced as a Bayern Munich player for next season, which will likely have some sort of effect on the build up for the game.

RB Leipzig v Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Bundesliga : News Photo

Now however, Leipzig will take encouragement from the situation of both teams and will believe they can damage the Reds both home and away. A one-legged tie may have suited the Germans even more with their versatility in games, but as it stands I think Liverpool will still have too much for them over two games.

While they’ve lacked a cutting edge going forward, Liverpool are still showing enough in their build up to convince me that they will create chances and at some point those chances will turn to goals once again.

Jordan Henderson’s role in central defence could be a big problem for them defensively, but if Fabinho can get back to fitness and partner Ozan Kabak or Ben Davies, that would allow Henderson to move back into midfield and do what he does best. He is the leader of the team in more ways than just wearing the armband and his presence is needed back in the centre of the pitch.

While I think there will be goals in both directions in this time, overall I think Liverpool’s added quality will shade them the win and they’ll progress into the quarter-finals.

PREDICTION:

RB Leipzig 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-1 RB Leipzig
(Liverpool progress 3-2 on aggregate)

My Perfect Footballer #3 – Klopp’s Liverpool Edition

Words by @BubbIxs

Over the past three years we’ve witnessed the best Liverpool team in generations. They accumulated 197 points in two seasons whilst picking up four trophies, including a Premier League title, Champions League title and a FIFA Club World Cup, the first in the club’s history. 

There is no doubt that this squad of players have excelled all over the pitch, but would it be possible to build the perfect player by trying to merge attributes from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool players, with the only rule being you can’t use a player more than once? Lets give it a try… 


Brain
Fabinho 

Whilst firmly cementing himself at the heart of Liverpool’s midfield during the 18/19 campaign, Fabinho dominated in holding midfield sweeping up after those in front him. Virgil van Dijk once described him as Inspector Gadget because, “his legs are everywhere.” His ability to read the game is second to none, proven by his emphatic performances at centre back for the champions so far this season in the absence of van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, not to mention his appearances at right-back for the Brazilian national team as well. Definitely an underrated element of Liverpool’s recent success. 

Heading Ability
Virgil van Dijk 

It was pretty hard to think of anyone else for this attribute. Virgil is almost the most perfect player himself and so could fill a lot of these attributes to come on his own. He adds a calmness in your own box when dealing with set pieces and adds a threat in the opposition’s.

This was most clear in his Liverpool debut in the Merseyside derby, where he added a sense of security to the back line and went on to score the winner at the Kop end. His leap, strength and dominance in the air will be perfect for our perfect player. 

Physique
James Milner 

When you’re 35-years-old and still winning the long-distance runs within the squad, it’s made the decision easy. I’ve gone with James Milner. A model professional, always working hard to keep his physical condition in tip-top shape to still compete at this level.

To maintain the career he has from 16 years-old to now is something quite impressive and this may not have been the most obvious shout for this attribute but if our perfect player can stay at the peak of his physicality for 19 years (and counting) then there’s no doubt he’ll dominate the game. 

Hands
Alisson Becker
 

Well it’s fair to say there wasn’t much competition for this attribute, but nevertheless since joining the reds in the summer of 2018, Alisson has earned the status of one of the best goalkeepers with his hands but also his feet. An all-round solid goalkeeper who has come in clutch for Liverpool in so many key moments.

The “Goleiro Gato”, one of my personal highlights was when he collected more golden gloves than he had hands at the end of the Premier League and Champions League in 2019 and then with Brazil at the Copa America that same summer. 

Tackling
Roberto Firmino 

Having already awarded Fabinho with the “brain” attribute it was quite tough to think of who could fill this slot, and naturally of course I went straight to the remaining centre backs. But after a quick search I was surprised to find that Firmino had completed more tackles (275) than all of Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and even Virgil van Dijk in the Premier League.

One of the hardest working forwards in Europe, this attribute will be essential for my player, winning the ball back high up the pitch and in potentially dangerous areas. 

Agility
Sadio Mane
 

He can turn left, he can turn right, the fact of the matter is you never know! And neither do defenders, making him incredibly dangerous in the final third especially when bringing the ball into the box. Mane’s balance and agility will be key for our perfect player. 

Finishing
Mohamed Salah 

Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. With two golden boots in 3 seasons and the record for amount of goals scored in a single Premier League season, there’s only one man this attribute can be awarded to.

With him recently also becoming Liverpool’s all-time top goalscorer in the Champions League, there’s no doubt in my mind that Salah is one of the best finishers in Liverpool’s history and this attribute will make our perfect player a match winner.

Passing
Thiago Alcantara
 

A new addition to the squad but a star nonetheless. A diamond in midfield who shared the pitch with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso – and it shows! A truly blessed footballer who dictates the game from the middle of the park.

Speed
Joe Gomez
 

Having already allocated Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to different attributes I can’t also give them speed, so having said that I’ve gone with Joe Gomez. Gomez of course doesn’t venture forward in the same way the attackers do, in fact he’s never actually scored a goal, but going the other way he is rapid.

His recovery speed is ridiculous, and many players include him in the conversation when they’re asked who would win in a race. If you try to imagine his running ability going forward maybe it can be appreciated more, but I’m saying our perfect player has Joe Gomez’s speed! 

Dribbling
Naby Keita 

Maybe it goes quite under the radar just how press resistant Naby Keita actually is but when he’s on, he’s ON! One of the better ball carriers in Liverpool’s midfield and is great at breaking into the danger areas through the middle as an alternative to crossing into the box from the fullbacks. Our perfect player will have his dribbling, but definitely not his fitness problems!

Leadership
Jordan Henderson 

Filling the shoes of Steven Gerrard was never going to be an easy task for Jordan Henderson and it’s no secret that at times he’s struggled, but the turnaround to captain a side to winning the Champions League, after losing in the final the year before, and then winning the league, in an unprecedented way again after losing it the year before despite accumulating 97 points, only shows the signs of a phenomenal leader.

His teammates can’t speak highly enough of him and I always go back to the Champions League campaign of 2017/18, where Liverpool were in no way expected to reach the final but they did. A big part of that journey was down to Henderson. Particularly the home legs in the quarter-final and semi-final, Henderson never stopped running, set the intensity and led the press. A world class leader on and off the pitch. 

Crossing
Andrew Robertson 

It’s well known how crucial Liverpool’s flying fullbacks and their assists have been to their success, reaching the pinnacle of English and European football. I have given crossing to Robertson, but obviously, him and Trent have equally been a threat going forward. Robertson once shared that he looks for the “gap between the defenders and the goalkeeper,” knowing how tough that is to defend against himself.

His vision, paired with his technique but also his relentlessness to always being in a good position to whip the ball in, is what makes him the perfect crosser for our perfect player. 

Right foot
Trent Alexander-Arnold 

Trent Alexander-Arnold had to be in this list and I was happy to compromise and award Trent with the attribute of right foot. Trent is more than just a crosser. His passing ability in general is that of kid who grew up idolising midfielders like Gerrard and Alonso and being a midfielder himself all throughout youth football, his technical passing ability is superb. Scoring free-kicks on his right and striking a ball is not too difficult for him either so for that reason I’m giving our perfect player Trent’s right foot. 

Left foot
Xherdan Shaqiri 

Maybe quite a surprise shout given the high-profile status of a certain Egyptian’s left peg, but my word on his day does Shaqiri have a wonder of a left foot. With a collection of sensational strikes from long range throughout his career, Shaqiri’s left foot is no joke and he is technically one of the most gifted player at the club. With the whip and power he can generate our perfect player is going to be lethal. 


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What Is The Strongest England Lineup?

Another international break, another dodgy team selection from Gareth Southgate, another not-so great performance from England as they were beaten 2-0 by Belgium in Brussels.

First half strikes from Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens put the number one ranked team in the world into a comfortable lead as they cruised to victory with England struggling once again overall to turn in the type of performance that should be expected with the squad they have at their disposal.

Southgate once again opted to start the game with a back five and two holding midfielders, meaning the team struggled to get hold of the game in attacking positions until Belgium allowed them to do so.

As criticism came in post-game about Southgate’s team selection the obvious options the squad has are coming to light more and more. So what is his best XI right now?

Goalkeeper and Defenders

England v Republic of Ireland - International Friendly : News Photo

Dean Henderson (GK): The Manchester United stopper isn’t getting regular first-team football right now, but he is the best goalkeeper they have. He’s much better and more reliable than Jordan Pickford and his distribution is a big edge he has over Nick Pope. He shouldn’t be punished for not starting over David De Gea yet.

Reece James (RB): The Chelsea youngster has forced his way into the England squad following great performances for Frank Lampard’s side this season. He’s excellent on the ball, good going forward and defensively and is versatile enough to play in different positions too if needed. He fits the system that little bit better than Trent Alexander-Arnold and the other right-back options for me.

Harry Maguire (CB): If you know me, you know I’m not his biggest fan. England however are bereft of quality options at the back so experience is needed. Maguire is good in the air, decent on the ball and organises relatively well. He’s arguably the best of a bad bunch, so should start.

Joe Gomez (CB): His place in the side is up for grabs right now after a knee injury ruled him out for the next few months but when fit he should be an automatic starter. The 23 year old is quick, good on the ball, strong in the air and has all the attributes needed to help form a partnership with Maguire at the back.

Ben Chilwell (LB): Much like at centre back, England aren’t loaded with quality options at left-back right now. The Chelsea man‘s greatest competition is arguably Bukayo Saka, a natural winger, or Luke Shaw who hasn’t been in an England squad since 2018. He’s got good attributes but isn’t quite at the top level with any of them. Still, good enough to be starting for England.

Midfielders

England v Republic of Ireland - International Friendly : News Photo

Jordan Henderson (DM): He’s arguably at his best in a box-to-box role but Henderson has shown with Liverpool that he is capable of holding the fort defensively too. With his experience and leadership qualities as well as his ability to read the game means he can do that job for the national team too. Henderson can win the ball back and pass it off to the better, more technically tidy players in the team and let them focus on attacking.

Phil Foden (CM): Foden hasn’t broken into the England squad on a permanent basis just yet, but on ability he should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Foden is knocking on the door to be a regular in the Man City tea and his creativity is exactly what England are missing in midfield. He adds technical quality, goals, a killer pass and a little bit of x-factor to the centre of the pitch and would be a shining light.

Jack Grealish (CM): While his best form has come out on the left wing, Grealish is most dangerous when drifting into central positions. His dribbling and willingness to always show for the ball and create is much needed if England are to dominate games in the way they want to. He showed in the defeat to Belgium that he is more than ready for this level of football and he is one of England’s best players. He must start.

Attackers

England v Bulgaria - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier : News Photo

Raheem Sterling (RW): Sterling has spent the last 18 months playing primarily as a left-winger for Man City but prior to that he was just as effective from the right hand side. His pace, directness, ability to beat a defender one on one and eye for goal make him a world class attacker and one that must start for England.

Marcus Rashford (LW): The Manchester United poster boy has established himself as an England regular since making his debut as a striker back in 2016. Much like Sterling, he has untold amounts of ability out wide. Pace, strength, vision, passing ability, ball-striking technique and skill mean he is the best option out on the left right now.

Harry Kane (ST): England’s best player. A world class striker and the captain of the side, Kane has proven time and time again that when he plays he scores goals. He’s showed for Tottenham recently that having lethal runners either side of him brings out a new side to his game too so the potential of that front three is frightening, especially with Foden and Grealish supplying and creating in behind them too.

England 02-06 vs Current England Squad

England’s ‘golden generation’ is said to be from World Cup 2002 up until their failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

Some world class footballers represented their nation during that period of time, but they failed to make it past a quarter-final stage of any major tournament during that time under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren.

The current England side managed by Gareth Southgate finished fourth at their only World Cup together so far, finished third in the UEFA Nations League and are one of the favourites going into Euro 2020 next summer with a new golden generation on their way through the ranks.

So who would win if they were to face off in a one-off game today?

For the ‘golden generation’ the starting line-up essentially picked itself back then. There were the odd changes, with Sol Campbell involved at centre-back and left midfield often chopped and changed too. Central midfield had options like Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick and even Paul Scholes at one point all vying but it was Lampard and Gerrard who were more often than not selected together. A young, dynamic and fearless Wayne Rooney was up front alongside the legendary Michael Owen too to provide a huge goal threat.

These days, England’s biggest weakness is central midfield which was arguably the older teams’ greatest strength. The likes of Henderson and Winks have plenty of big-game experience, with Henderson having won the Premier League and Champions League in the last two years. Going forward, Harry Kane is on course to smash Wayne Rooney’s record as all-time top goalscorer for the national team, while Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho are among the best wide players in the game today. The depth in attack is fantastic too, with Marcus Rashford and youngsters such as Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood making the breakthrough to regulars in the international setup. Defensively though, they’re a shambles. Ben Chilwell is the only left-back with any shred of quality even close to being ready for international football at the moment, while Harry Maguire is a guaranteed starter despite his obvious flaws. At right-back, there is plenty of depth but only one man can play and Kyle Walker has proven to be the regular pick for Southgate, despite the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold over the last two-and-a-half years.

In goal, both sides have mediocre No.1’s with Paul Robinson and Jordan Pickford. Overall, both squads have holes but they’re very different.

The current side’s biggest issues are all personnel wise and just a lack of quality or experience for the level. The 02-08 sides biggest issues are the managers and formations deployed instead. In this day and age, it’s so difficult to play 442 without being overrun in midfield. Even with the lack of quality in the current England side, they would likely be able to hold onto the ball much better and look to cause problems with a sheer volume of control.

Defensively, individually, England’s defence was absolutely world-class and club partnerships were able to be re-made. Despite this, Robinson’s presence behind them was poor and the lack of midfield structure often saw them well beaten against the better sides.

It would be a fascinating tie in all honesty, with the pace and energy of the new school able to get at the 02-08 defence several times, but the sheer quality of the team back then would likely be able to edge a win. Wayne Rooney in that time period was one of the best footballers in the world and Michael Owen was lethal, while David Beckham was also at the peak of his powers.

When systems get cancelled out it tends to come down to the individual quality of the players on the pitch and for that reason I think the ‘golden generation’ would be able to scrape a win in a very tightly contested fixture.

England Squad Announced – Best XI?

Another international break is due to be upon us and Gareth Southgate has named his England squad for the upcoming games against Wales, Belgium and Denmark.

Harry Maguire has been recalled in defence following his withdrawal from the squad after being arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer in Greece last time around, while Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka receives his first call-up to the senior side listed as a defender.

Harvey Barnes and Dominic Calvert-Lewin both receive their first call-ups to Southgate’s side too, but Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden have been left out as punishment for breaking quarantining rules last time out in Iceland.

So with a 30 man squad named, what is the strongest XI that Southgate could put out? I’ve picked my team out of this crop of players and break down the strengths & weaknesses and how they’d cope against the better sides in the world.

GOALKEEPER – DEAN HENDERSON

It’s a tough call between Manchester United’s No.2 and Burnley’s No.1 for this spot but ultimately I’ve gone with who will undoubtedly be the better goalkeeper going forward. Jordan Pickford the current No.1 for Southgate but he constantly lets himself down with poor decisions and bad performances. Nick Pope would equally be deserving of the role having really become a very good goalkeeper over the last 18 months, but Henderson edges it. At 23 years old, Hendo has good feet, is vocal and has shown his reliability when it comes to shot-stopping on several occasions. He’d be my first choice goalkeeper.

RIGHT BACK – TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Denmark v England - UEFA Nations League : News Photo

He picks himself. At just 21 years old, the Liverpool academy graduate has won everything there is to win at club level as a key component of Jurgen Klopp’s side. Defensively he has his frailties, but going forward he is truly a generational talent from full-back and has earned his spot. England’s depth at right-back is so crazy that the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Reece James and Tariq Lamptey haven’t made the squad this time around but I believe Trent is the better option ahead of those three, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier anyway at the moment and should be first choice.

LEFT BACK – BEN CHILWELL

Now I’m not the biggest fan of Chilwell as a player, but he’s comfortably England’s best left back right now. The Chelsea man is back to fitness and has played well for the Blues when called upon so far but will now look to push on to get back to the level of consistency he had at Leicester. His only real competition for the spot in this squad would be Bukayo Saka, who having not been in a squad before now and being a natural attacking midfielder, wouldn’t be the best option ahead of him as it stands. Another option could be Kieran Trippier who played there during the last international break, but as a natural right back Chilwell definitely gets the nod over him too.

CENTRE BACKS – JOE GOMEZ & TYRONE MINGS

Now this will be controversial since Harry Maguire is almost guaranteed a spot in the side by Southgate, but he doesn’t start for me. Joe Gomez and Tyrone Mings as a partnership has everything you’d want from a centre back pairing in modern football. Both are lightning quick, both are very comfortable on the ball, Mings is more vocal and dominant aerially while Gomez is used to sweeping up in behind and covering behind a more dominant centre-back. In all honesty there isn’t much difference in terms of ability between Mings, Maguire and Dier in defence but the two latter options are more likely to struggle if they’re put in a position where they become isolated in a one-on-one situation. With the way England look to set up the team, this pairing would allow a higher line and more attacking influence from midfield to get the best players even closer to goal.

CENTRE MIDFIELD – JORDAN HENDERSON & KALVIN PHILLIPS

Another controversial shout as the inexperienced Kalvin Phillips gets the nod for me over Declan Rice in the heart of the midfield alongside Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. Henderson is an automatic choice with his experience and strengths. Defensively he is very good. He covers ground well, has a good range of pass to his game and offers leadership and a winning mentality to a fairly young squad. Phillips gets in for me over Rice simply for his ability on the ball. Defensively, Rice is probably a bit better but England want to be a side that dominates possession and controls games. A central midfield pairing of Henderson and Rice doesn’t do that. Phillips’ passing range and ability on the ball mean England can control games better but they don’t lose balance because he is also a very good defensive midfielder. With more Premier League experience I’m sure it will become a more accepted choice but I’d make the step early and do it now.

RIGHT WINGER – JADON SANCHO

The hottest topic of the summer transfer window will join up with the England squad next week, but whether he’ll be a Borussia Dortmund or Manchester United player is still up in the air. What isn’t up for debate though is just how good he is on the wing. Dribbling, pace, skill, ability to go both ways, assists, goals and excellent decision making put Sancho among the best in the world in his position and the fact that he’s a starting international player at the age of 20 shows you just how talented he is. He must start.

Netherlands v England - UEFA Nations League Semi-Final : News Photo

LEFT WINGER – MARCUS RASHFORD

A breakthrough campaign as a regular starter for Manchester United saw Marcus Rashford notch the best season of his professional career so far. Since coming back from a serious back injury, he’s not been quite as explosive but has still provided goals and assists to show his quality. In a one-on-one situation out wide he often has the beating of the defender and his passing range has improved over the last 12 months. He links up well with fellow attackers in tight situations too and having played as a striker for much of his senior career too he knows where the back of the net is. Another one who must start.

NUMBER 10 – RAHEEM STERLING

The reason the other two wingers must start out wide is because Raheem Sterling should start through the middle. He is the complete modern forward and has the ability to go left, right or as the most advanced central player if necessary and that’s why he should play in this role. His late runs into the box will see him continue to score goals like he does at club level, while also allowing him to link with the other attackers more frequently. His ability to drive past players also means he wouldn’t mind coming deep to collect the ball if necessary and make things happen to open games up too. For me, he is England’s best player and must be put in a position to get the absolute best out of him.

STRIKER – HARRY KANE

The man. Harry Kane is on course to break all the goalscoring records in England, including Wayne Rooney’s 53 international goals. As the number 9 he has always shown how reliable he is in front of goal but has also shown that when he has willing runners in behind around him, he is capable of picking passes out too. As captain he is guaranteed to start anyway but he’s there on merit too as one of the best strikers in world football.

Central midfield continues to be a problem for England going forward but there are pieces of a really top quality side coming through here. There are options all over the pitch and Southgate has an abundance of talent to pick from against all different types of opposition.

Wins over Wales, Belgium and Denmark over the next international break will affirm Southgate’s ambitions of leading England to glory at the European Championships next summer but it’ll be more about the performances his side can put together that will tell you where they are in the running.

Who Should Be Premier League Player of the Year?

A crazy Premier League season is drawing to a close and many questions we had are beginning to be answered.

Liverpool have officially been crowned Champions for the first time in 30 years, while Norwich and Aston Villa look certain for the drop having not won a single game between them since the resumption of the competition. Top 4 is still up in the air as are the Europa League places. One thing that seems to still be debated among fans, pundits and players is who is the player of the season?

With Liverpool on course for a record breaking season, a number of their players have been named as potential winners. Captain Jordan Henderson, winger Sadio Mane and young defender Trent Alexander-Arnold are all among the candidates after stellar campaigns and media pushes.

Liverpool FC v Aston Villa - Premier League : News Photo
Trent Alexander-Arnold has 12 assists this season, more than any other defender in Premier League history

Another name that comes to the fore but isn’t from Anfield is Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian is on course to break Thierry Henry’s assist record and has been the standout performer in an underperforming Man City side.

January signing Bruno Fernandes has turned Manchester United’s season on it’s head since joining from Sporting CP, with no player being involved in more goals (goals or assists) than him since his arrival. While he’s only been here for half the season, it’s hard to argue that anyone has had a greater impact.

Jamie Vardy is the current golden boot leader so could be in with a shout as Leicester currently sit in the Champions League places, while Virgil Van Dijk’s performances have once again seen Liverpool record the best defensive record in the league this season.

Manchester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo
Kevin De Bruyne and Virgil Van Dijk both have big claims to Player of the Year

So who’s the deserving winner?

For me, it has to be Sadio Mane. The Senegalese winger has scored 16 league goals this season and provided 7 assists for Liverpool en route to their title. But it’s more than that. His influence on games has been immeasurable with stats. If you talk to Liverpool fans, it’s always Mane that they mention as their biggest threat.

His ability to beat players one on one, to go in either direction with either foot, his first touch, his final ball, his finishing are all of the absolute highest level. Not only that, but the goals he scores are crucial.

According to Sky Sports, Sadio Mane’s goals have been worth a staggering 21 points this season – more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table as of right now is 23 points, which shows just how dominant they’ve been but just how important Mane is to them.

After winning the golden boot along with Mo Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season, his fine form has continued this year. Rumours of potential interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are far from surprising, but he seems incredibly happy at Anfield.

Despite De Bruyne’s potential record, Vardy’s potential golden boot, Henderson’s captaincy and Trent’s assists, Mane has been the main man this season for the most dominant team in recent memory. He should be the man to take home the individual awards to go with his shiny, new Premier League winners medal.