England players and Gareth Southgate after the 2-1 defeat to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finalThe Pinefox/Flickr

On Tuesday (25/05), Gareth Southgate announced a group of 33 players in a provisional squad, after pushing back the official announcement to the 1st of June due to injury-related deliberation. There are a lot of familiar faces in the group, many of whom are all but confirmed to be in the final 26. However, there are several notable inclusions, and by extension omissions, that raised an eyebrow or two. I will assess Southgate’s picks position-by-position and outline the final 26 that I would take to the Euros if I was wearing the navy waistcoat come the first of June.

Nick Pope was recently revealed to be undergoing knee surgery a mere three weeks before the Euros, which explains his omission from the squad. If he is deemed fit enough by the time the official squad comes out, he is almost certain to fill one of the three goalkeeping slots. Pickford will most likely be England’s number one for the tournament, despite being prone to errors. His most important work for England’s title hopes perhaps came in October, with that tackle on Virgil Van Dijk, who has subsequently ruled himself out of the competition.

“West Brom conceded 76 goals in the Premier League, but without Johnstone my suspicion is that the figure would be closer to three digits”

The provisional squad includes Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone and Aaron Ramsdale, with Ramsdale having never been included in a senior England squad before. In my opinion, it will be a straight shootout for the third spot between Johnstone and Henderson, with Ramsdale not quite on the same level as the other two, boasting a 13.2% clean sheet percentage compared to Johnstone’s 16.2% in the 2020-21 Premier League season. Given that they both play behind fairly shoddy defences, Johnstone just about outdoes him in terms of statistics. I personally would take Johnstone as he has proved himself to be a fantastic shot stopper behind the Premier League’s leakiest defence. West Brom conceded 76 goals in the Premier League, but without Johnstone my suspicion is that the figure would be closer to three digits. Henderson is very good, but has yet to cement a starting spot at Manchester United and at 24 years of age is less experienced than the 28 year old Johnstone.

The resurgence of John Stones at Manchester City this season has more or less cemented his role as starting centre-back alongside United’s Harry Maguire. As cover, Southgate named Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings, Ben Godfrey and Ben White. Godfrey and White are both new arrivals on the England senior scene, while Coady and Mings have featured several times in Southgate’s set-up. Godfrey has had an excellent season at Everton, despite their disappointing league finish, and White performed admirably in a fairly sub-par Brighton back four. Godfrey can also play as a holding midfielder.

For me though, there is one glaring omission in the squad that I cannot quite understand. Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori has spent the season on loan at AC Milan, firmly installing himself as a starter over the course of the Serie A campaign and earning plaudits from legendary Italian centre-back Paolo Maldini. Eric Dier also misses out, although I’m less upset about that based on his performances at Tottenham over the last couple of years.

“In my starting eleven for the tournament, Kane heads a front three with Grealish on the left and Sancho on the right”

In terms of full-backs, Luke Shaw’s miraculous return to form sees him in pole position to start at left-back ahead of Ben Chilwell. England’s wealth of right-backs sees four selected in the thirty-three: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier. Alexander-Arnold had a tough start to the season, but he has recently showcased his ability to whip crosses in, which is second to none amongst England’s options.

Reece James has been a fixture under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, and also can slot in at centre-back, performing well in the few games he’s played there. Similarly, Kyle Walker is versatile enough to slot in at centre-back, and has often played there for England when Southgate plays three at the back. Walker is also by far the quickest of the four, which may be necessary when coming up against the likes of Kylian Mbappé this summer. Trippier for me doesn’t make the final squad playing in a weaker division with age not on his side at thirty years old, but Southgate seems to be a big fan of his ability to play left-back as well as right-back, which may come in handy in the event of injuries. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, arguably England’s best defensive right-back, misses out, which may prompt him to switch allegiance to the DRC.


Mountain View

Euro 2020 Dark Horses: Turkey

The midfield picks are less controversial, with the only real snub being James Maddison, who in fairness has been struggling to find fitness this season. Jesse Lingard makes the squad after his fruitful loan spell at West Ham, as does Jordan Henderson despite having not played football since February. Seventeen year-old Jude Bellingham is also included, after stellar performances for both Dortmund and England this year.

Jack Grealish and Phil Foden also make the cut, much to the joy of England fans everywhere. Both can play in the number ten role or as part of the front three. Despite Grealish’s injury woes in the latter part of the season, he still managed to bag the fourth-most assists in the league with ten. Foden has been labelled by Pep Guardiola as the most talented player he has ever worked with, which is high praise indeed from the manager who spent four years with Lionel Messi. Those two must play this summer if England are to have any chance of winning.

Danny Ings and Patrick Bamford may feel hard done by after Tuesday’s announcement (25/05), having scored 12 and 17 Premier League goals respectively this season, but Ollie Watkins makes the squad ahead of them. In the tournament itself, star man Harry Kane will be the first name on the team sheet, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin as backup. Additionally, Southgate has picked Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Mason Greenwood and Bukayo Saka. In my starting eleven for the tournament, Kane heads a front three with Grealish on the left and Sancho on the right, with Rashford and Sterling on the bench. Sterling for me has not stood out enough at Man City this season to warrant being a starter, while Sancho just about makes it ahead of Rashford. Southgate has a lot of thinking to do before the first of June to narrow the group down to 26.

Joe’s Squad of 26

Goalkeepers - Pickford, Pope, Johnstone

Defenders - Alexander-Arnold, Chilwell, Godfrey, James, Maguire, Shaw, Stones, Tomori

Midfielders - Bellingham, Henderson, Lingard, Mount, Maddison, Phillips, Rice

Forwards - Calvert-Lewin, Foden, Grealish, Greenwood, Kane, Rashford, Sancho, Sterling