Gareth Southgate has selected a squad filled with exciting young players, who might prove to be the difference at the showpiece event.
There were few surprises in store as head coach Gareth Southgate trimmed down the 33-man provisional squad to the final 26-man team on Tuesday. Four right-backs were picked in the squad with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inclusion raising a few eyebrows, while in-form Jesse Lingard missed out. Other surprise inclusions were Manchester United and Liverpool skippers Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson respectively. They both have not played for their clubs recently owing to injuries. The squad is also filled with exciting youngsters, which might give a renewed hope to English fans of making a mark in the tournament. Let us look at the major takeaways from the final squad selected by Southgate:
Half of the final squad is filled with defensive based players, which is 13 of the 26 players selected are centre-backs, full-backs or goalkeepers. There are ten defenders in the team and three keepers. It suggests that Southgate might go with his tried and trusted back-three formation. But the surprising aspect is that there are only four centre-backs. Conor Coady (Wolves), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa) and John Stones (Manchester City) are the ones who regularly play as centre-backs for their clubs.
This means Southgate has to hope that none of his defenders get injured during the tournament. But, it’s not that easy to predict. Infact Maguire has not fully recovered from his ankle ligament damage and is a big doubt for the opener against Croatia on June 13. However, Kyle Walker has centre-back experience in the past for Manchester City and his national team so the coach might expect him to play in a back three instead of a wing-back.
Another decision which raised a lot of eyebrows was having four right-backs in the squad – Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Reece James (Chelsea), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid) and Walker. Revealing the thinking behind the selection, Southgate said, “We went through this last week. We have four players that play sometimes at right-back for their clubs. Basically they are in the best 26 footballers and that is why they are in the squad. If I could have picked five or six right-backs I would have done.”
It looks likely that Walker will play as a right-sided centre-back in a back three. The 31-year-old has experience of play there, which means the starting spot for the right-wingback position is between Alexander-Arnold, James and Trippier. The Atletico Madrid full-back is the most experienced among the three, however, the Liverpool right-back is the most creative of the lot. But there are speculations that Alexander-Arnold might occupy a midfield position, meaning the real fight could be between Trippier and James.
One of the pleasing aspects of the squad is their youthful exuberance. There are plenty of exciting young talents in the final 26-man squad. Starting with the goalkeeper, Manchester United’s Dean Henderson is only 24 years old, which is pretty young for a keeper. Ben Chilwell is of similar age, whereas Alexander-Arnold (22) is two years younger than him, while James is the youngest defender in the squad at 21.
Midfielders Mason Mount (Chelsea) and Declan Rice (West Ham) are just 22, while Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund is just 17 years old. The promising teenager is the youngest player in the entire squad. There are a lot of exciting youngsters in the attacking department as well. Phil Foden (Man City) and Jadon Sancho (Dortmund) are only 21, while Bukayo Saka is just 19.
Marcus Rashford (23), Jack Grealish (25), and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (24) might have been playing club football for a while but they are relatively young as well. Young players are normally known for playing fearlessly irrespective of the occasion. If these players can maintain their club form and take on any opponent with the same confidence, then England might be the team to watch in Euros.