PAST England managers have struggled to fill a squad with enough players to challenge at a major tournament. This isn’t an issue Gareth Southgate will have this summer. In fact, the 50-year-old will have the opposite problem. Even after UEFA expanded Euro 2020 squads to 26 players, Southgate will find it tricky to accommodate every top tier talent.
When players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Maddison aren’t even sure of their place in the England squad, that’s when you know the Three Lions are well-stocked for options. There are, however, a number of players making a late case to be included. Even this close to Euro 2020, Southgate must keep an open mind.
Eberechi Eze is one such player. The 22-year-old has quickly become a key figure for Crystal Palace following his switch from Queens Park Rangers last summer, contributing four goals and five assists in the Premier League this season. Eze was in sparkling form against Sheffield United on Saturday, scoring one and assisting another in a 2-0 win.
We need to talk about Eberechi Eze.pic.twitter.com/sbn4hdumtW
— Goal (@goal) May 10, 2021
Much like Jack Grealish, Eze is a central creator who plays the game like a winger. He has yet to be capped at senior level for England, the 22-year-old but would give Southgate’s squad another dimension, especially if Grealish misses out through injury. Eze could offer some drive and dribbling ability through the middle of the pitch.
Ben Godfrey is another fringe figure who surely stands a good chance of making England’s Euro 2020 squad. The 23-year-old has improved with almost every game he has played for Everton this season to the point where he is now seen as one of the first names on Carlo Ancelotti’s team sheet.
England’s squad is weaker in the defensive positions than it is in midfield and attack. This could be to Godfrey’s benefit. He could be more than just a squad figure too, with a starting place up for grabs if Southgate uses a back three. The former Norwich City defender is capable of playing on the left side as well as at centre back.
Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane given major boost after UEFA confirm that the squad-size for the upcoming EUROs has increased from 23 to 26 players.
With both players being on the cusp of breaking into the England squad, do these two CB's deserve to be on the plane? pic.twitter.com/8z0YNEr7gF
— Everton Rumours (@evertonrumour) May 4, 2021
Barring any injury troubles, Harry Kane will start as England’s centre forward in every game they play this summer. Dominic Calvert-Lewis will act as his understudy. Marcus Rashford is also capable of playing through the middle even if he seems more likely to be deployed in a wide position. There is, however, a place for a depth option behind the trio.
Danny Ings appeared set to be that depth option after a blistering first half of the season, but injury has hindered the Southampton striker recently. It hasn’t helped the 28-year-old’s case that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have struggled for form over the last few weeks and months with Ings scoring just twice in eight games.
This has bolstered Patrick Bamford and Callum Wilson’s chances of making the squad, with both strikers finding the net for their respective sides at the weekend. Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins is another who is surely in Southgate’s thoughts following an impressive campaign. The 25-year-old was capped in the World Cup qualifier against San Marino in March, hinting at his England potential with a debut goal.
Others, like Harvey Barnes, Ross Barkley, Lewis Dunk, Tariq Lamptey and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, are further down the list, but could still find themselves in the 26-man selection if injuries force Southgate to rethink some areas of his squad. The England manager must plan for all eventualities.
In years gone by, these sort of players would have been considered key figures for England. Now, though, the competition is stiffer. This summer, England will take their strongest squad to a major tournament in a generation. While that is good news for Southgate, it will be bad news for others. There is, however, still time to make a case.