With the International break upon us, I thought this would be an appropriate time to have that inevitable debate of who should start for England in the Euros in their first fixture against Croatia on June 13th. I’ve done my eleven with some rationality behind it (I think!), and have written this before the San Marino game this evening. Although i’m not too sure how much we can asses a player after they play against the world’s worst ranked team. I’ve gone for a 4-3-3 with the idea being that we posses so much attacking talent that we need to utilize the individuals.
Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford
History has taught me that when England change the usual No.1 at a competitive stage it tends to go wrong. Jordan Pickford although can get flustered and does have an error in him, his experience in 2018 will be so valuable and I would have that fear if Nick Pope was to be picked, we would see history repeat itself once again.
Right Back – Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker for me has the pace and experience that is very important at the back. He carries presence going forward and I would have no fear when it came to having to track back as he will match any player in Europe when it comes to a foot race. Playing as a third centre-back in Russia in 2018, he would have learnt certain lessons when it came to being compact and will have an understanding on how Gareth Southgate will want to defend.
Centre-Backs – John Stone & Harry Maguire
For me this was hardest decision. This is where in my opinion England have the issues purely down to consistency. John Stones who I recently wrote about has improved greatly these last six months but I still have that fear he may try too much at the wrong time that leads to an error. Harry Maguie has had a tricky year but is a presence and very comfortable on the ball. I worry about his pace but with Stones who is the more athletic individual next to him, I would hope there would be an element of protection there if opposition play was to start going behind him. In all honesty I think there could be cases made for Tyrone Mings, Michael Keane and Conor Coady. But I took into account these two have played at a major tournament and took us to a semi-final.
Left-Back – Luke Shaw
I’m a huge fan of Ben Chilwell and the versatile Bukayo Saka, but Luke Shaw has been one of the the best players in the Premier League this season in my eyes. I can’t quite get over how well he’s done this campaign and what a player he’s become. He looks the complete full back at this time as not only going forward has he been great, but his defensive game has been nothing short of astounding. He’s the most improved player in the League and I think it will be difficult for Gareth to ignore his form.
Central-Midfielders – Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice & Phil Foden
Again a few cases could be made for other players but I can’t ignore the leadership of Henderson, the sturdiness of Rice and the ability and footballing awareness of Foden. Liverpool will be the first to say how important their title winning skipper is in that middle three. Jordan Henderson is a real leader, knows the game and has a pass in him. Although technically you could argue not as good as James Maddison, but if England need to be picked up and driven forward I wouldn’t want anyone else on that pitch. I personally feel he should be England Captain as well. Decland Rice has been phenomenal in that holding position for West Ham this season and since holding the captain’s armband for the majority he’s matured with the role. Brave in a challenge, good in the air and I think he will give a good level of protection to the back four when needed. Leaving arguably the most gifted player in the squad in Phil Foden. I think all football fans will know what a player this lad is and what he can bring. On the verge of winning another title with Manchester City, this young man will be pivotal if England were to go all the way and lift the trophy with his creative ability.
Front Three – Mason Mount, Jack Grealish & Harry Kane
This was the hardest for me and it seems ridiculous to leave both Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford out. My reasoning is purely down to how well Mason Mount is playing at this time and how assured he’s looking at both club and country since he’s been playing at senior level for England. He’s got a goal and a few assists in him and I think alongside Foden, Kane and Grealish that will terrify all defenses in Europe and I think once they gel it could be the winning formula. Jack Grelaish is our Gazza and I think he could be the player that carry’s this team all the way. I’ve been his biggest supporter since his early days and have been hoping he would get the opportunity to show his levels of performance on the global stage at a big tournament. He’s been one of the players of the season yet again and if he gets that free rein on that left hand side to come in on his right, it’s going to be an exciting watch with Foden on his shoulder. Leaving the No.9 till last who’s changed his game slightly but no doubt still one of Europe’s best strikers. He’ll be looking at winning that Euro Golden Boot and with the players around him he’ll have every chance. If Kane has that in mind and allows the likes of Mount, Foden and Grealish to feed him the service, it’ll give him a huge amount of opportunities to score and be that prolific goalscorer that he is.
It’s a debate that will never be agreed upon and there is a case for every player whether it be Pope, Trippier, Mings, Coady, Chilwell, Saka, Ward-Prowse, Maddison, Sterling, Rashford, Sancho and many others. What we have to remember is that this is the probably the strongest squad we’ve had since the golden generation which is so exciting, but it may be best not to apply a lot of pressure on these lads as we have seen what happens……