Gareth Southgate has included Trent Alexander-Arnold and 17-year-old Jude Bellingham in his final 26-man squad for Euro 2020. Despite dropping the Liverpool full-back for the March internationals, he has included him in the final squad. Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund teenager Bellingham is in, while Jesse Lingard, Ollie Watkins and James Ward-Prowse have missed out.
Tuesday morning began with the news that Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood will not join up with the squad and will instead stay at his club to spend his summer treating an underlying injury. The news then broke that West Ham United’s reborn on-loan attacker Jesse Lingard would be one of the names to miss out. That is in spite of the 2018 World Cup semi-finalist’s brilliant second-half of the domestic season.Embed from Getty Images
In total, seven players named in the provisional 33-man squad have failed to make the final cut. As well as Lingard and the injured Greenwood, Tuesday afternoon’s announcement brought bad news for Aaron Ramsdale, Ben Godfrey, Ben White, James Ward-Prowse and Ollie Watkins.
The squad includes three goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone. Pickford has been given the No1 shirt and will be England’s starting goalkeeper during the tournament.
The full-back areas are overflowing compared to previous years, with all four right-backs included. They are Kyle Walker, Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold. On the left side, Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw will fight it out for the starting berth, although the squad numbers indicate Shaw is in favour.Embed from Getty Images
There were no real surprises in central defence, which many argue is one of England’s weaker positions in terms of squad depth. John Stones, Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady are joined by Harry Maguire, who expects to have recovered from his ankle injury by the time of England’s opener against Croatia.
The midfield looks very thin given the omissions of Jesse Lingard and James Ward-Prowse. Despite being on the side-lines with a groin injury since mid-February, Jordan Henderson makes the squad. Included too are Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Jude Bellingham and attacking midfielder Mason Mount.
Further forward, the wide areas are where England are strongest. Mason Greenwood may have pulled out, but England can still call on Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka. Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin provide England’s striking options.
All of the indicators from the balance of this squad point to a return to the 3-4-3 system. Southgate is unlikely to ditch the front-three in favour of the 3-5-2 he used at the World Cup, but looks set to return to a three-man backline. England won all three of their opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers playing 4-3-3 in March. However, the level of opponents at tournaments is decidedly higher than in qualifying games, and England have looked suspect defensively against the World’s best when deploying a back-four.
Critics of Southgate would argue that while being mindful of the opponent is important, his side should be set up to create more freely. That is inhibited by a 3-4-3 system, especially one in which the midfield duo are both pivots. Defensively, England benefit from a back-three, but going forward they could do with that extra midfielder.
The omissions of Lingard and Ward-Prowse are surprising, even though neither was likely to get much game-time this summer. The other notable exclusion is Ollie Watkins, who scored on his England debut against San Marino in March. However, Southgate has only made space for two out-and-out strikers in his squad. Calvert-Lewin and Kane are the two included.Embed from Getty Images
Those dropped are due to stay with the team for the two friendly fixtures with Austria and Romania. Southgate told the England YouTube channel that he offered those who missed out the opportunity to go home, but all decided to stay with the team until the tournament begins. On Lingard, Southgate said it was “very difficult for me to speak to Jesse, who has given so much to England.” He then confirmed the Hammers star is likely to start against Austria tomorrow night.
While you can’t afford to read into the squad numbers too intently, there are one or two surprises. Most notably, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish — only just back from injury — has been given the No7 shirt. That may or may not mean he is in line for more game-time this summer than was perhaps anticipated.