On the 12th of June 2020, the European Championships will kick off with Italy hosting Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico. From then on, it will be a summer-long spectacle of some of the finest players the continent has to offer, as we hop from nation to nation trying to keep track of where it is exactly these teams are playing. For better or worse, we’ll be continent-hopping this summer, and hopefully, it’ll be a treat.
As an Englishman, which some of you may have figured out I am one, it’s another summer where we’ll all be optimistically chanting about how it’s finally coming home after 50+ years of hurt, before we crash and burn before the quarter-finals and we all say how we were never actually serious about the prospect of winning a tournament. But with the final being held at Wembley this year, maybe that’ll be the boost the boys need to go out there, work their socks off, and finally the country can shut up and kill the meme once and for all. Who are we kidding, it’ll never die.
Since this will be posted exactly six months before the tournament starts, I thought be in everyone’s best interests to share with you all what my 23-man squad would be. I will give you all the acknowledgement as to who I think will actually be in the final squad, just to avoid any angry commenters who will inevitably call me a complete madman for putting Todd Cantwell in as a starting CAM. You know I’m right, guys.
Anyway, let’s crack on with bringing it home, and see who’d be in my team if I could put on the famous waistcoat for the day.
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope and Dean Henderson
We start off with what I think is the weakest area of this team, which might be controversial, but I think it has some merit to it if you really think about it. The nailed-on first choice is, of course, Jordan Pickford, who is undoubtedly a quality goalkeeper, but does drop the odd howler for a struggling Everton side. He’s not a bad keeper by any means, but he could be playing for a club higher up the league to prove his ability. Who knows, maybe that’ll change under Don Carlo. And he’ll be backed up by Nick Pope, one half of Netflix’s most recent Oscar bait film, and also the most out-of-nowhere squad player to emerge in recent memory.
Now, in any other scenario Tom Heaton would be the clear and obvious third choice, bringing an experienced head to the team. However, he literally got injured for the season just before I started writing this, so that’s no good for anyone, is it? So I’m going to have to go with the next best option, Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson. Henderson might only be a sprightly 22-year-old who might never get a game for his parent club, Manchester United, but he’s capable enough to make up the numbers here. If it’s experience we’re going for, then Watford’s Ben Foster could be called up for shits and gigs, but I think Henderson is the wiser choice here.
Right-Backs: Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka
England’s right-back position is arguably the single weirdest position on the pitch, in the sense that despite the wealth of talent they have at their disposal, both the first and second choice are clear for all to see. The obvious choice to start is Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is arguably the best right-back in the world right now, with impeccable delivery and growing increasingly competent defensively. And hoping to step into his boots is Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, arguably better defensively than TAA, but will be perennially stuck behind him in the pecking order for at least the next decade.
Kyle Walker appears to be out of the England picture for the foreseeable future, despite still being one of the Premier League’s best defenders, and I don’t see an aging Kieran Trippier forcing his way into the top two, regardless of how well he plays for Atlético Madrid. And it speaks volumes as to the quality of English right-backs that Norwich City youngster Max Aarons could have as good a career as he wants and still never make it into the national squad. Ridiculous.
Centre-Backs: Harry Maguire, Joe Gomez, John Stones & Fikayo Tomori
England’s centre-back options do tend to look a bit wobbly on occasion, with Big Gaz never seeming to settle on a consistent pairing. But changes seem to be on the horizon. Since the summer of 2018, it’s seemed as though the indomitable Harry Maguire will be a starter for the ages, one undroppable half of a brick wall, but who partnered him seemed to alternate between John Stones, Joe Gomez or Michael Keane, without ever settling on one of the three. However, Gomez appears to finally be cementing his place in the Liverpool starting XI, really coming into his own as a top centre-back. If he keeps going the way he is, he and Maguire will be a centre-back pairing for the ages. Moore and Charlton all over again.
Waiting in the wings is Manchester City’s John Stones, who clearly has something decent about him, and is certainly one of England’s 4 best centre-backs, but goodness me he certainly messes the easy things up a lot doesn’t he? For the simple reason that he needs to get his shit together, he can settle for a place on the bench for now. As for Tomori, whose English heritage is more complicated to explain than a plotline to a Steven Moffat Doctor Who episode, he can bring his youthful witticism to the squad to make up the numbers. To be fair to him, not only has he managed to force his way into the Chelsea team this season (even if it was because of the transfer ban), but he’s impressed too, becoming a fan favourite, a favourite of this writer, and who can forget that absolute corker he scored at Wolves at the start of the season? In he goes.
Left-Backs: Ben Chilwell & Luke Shaw
Out of nowhere, England have suddenly developed a number of excellent full-backs. On the left-hand side, to complement the attacking brilliance of TAA, we have Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell bombing up and down, whipping in crosses when he’s not booting the ball into Row Z. Quality player, easy first choice. Luke Shaw can be his back-up, proving recently that he is somewhat worth the £30million Manchester United paid for him all those years ago (he’s still only 24 somehow), so when he’s back from injury he’ll be in the team.
In an ideal world, I think Aaron Cresswell should have won more than the 3 England caps he has, since he’s 30 years old now, and there aren’t too many opportunities for him to win many more. He’s mostly been stuck behind Danny Rose, who I personally think is one of the most overrated players in the Premier League, someone I’ve never understood the hype about. Yes, I might be a biased Arsenal fan, but even I can admit Spurs have at least 2 good players in their team these days. Rose is not one of them, nor has he ever been. I will say I think Ryan Sessegnon will be Chilwell’s regular competitor for first-choice as this decade, playing in his original position in order to accommodate him in a team full of attacking talent. But that’s one for the future, and for now he’ll be watching it come home from his sofa. I’ll also extend an apology to Ashley Young, purely for the sake of courtesy.
Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & Declan Rice
Apart from in goal, which even then I admit is debatable, central midfield could be a cause for concern in terms of depth of ability. Or actual ability for that matter. It’s not exactly a crisis, like if you realise you only have one pack of Oreos ready for consuming rather than your usual stash of six. But compared to the rest of the team, it could be better. Not that a pairing of Jordan Henderson and Mason Mount is exactly a bad thing. I personally think Henderson gets an unfair rap because he doesn’t get massive amounts of goals or assists. But he’s the beating heart of Liverpool’s midfield, and their captain, always showing great energy, tenacity, and passing ability. No-one gets to be captain of the best team in the world without having something about them. And with the creativity and drive of Mount next to him, England would have a nice mix of strength, determination and flair to break up the play and get the forward line moving. Like the legendary Coquelin-Cazorla partnership we had at Arsenal a few years back. Oh, how I long for those days.
Of course, the midfield could be more physical, and that’s where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Declan Rice come in. Now, I’ll admit, I really don’t get the hype about Rice, despite being a healthy dinner option. But he’s a good tackler and is pretty strong I guess, so he goes into the team. And the Ox has gone some way to proving me wrong about his quality as a central midfielder, which I’m sure he’s chuffed about. His pace and physicality could prove to be a vital asset to the team, especially from the bench, and is of course a good option on the wing as well. So it’s a decent midfield at our disposal, but it could certainly be more star-studded.
As an aside, yes I thought about sticking Eric Dier and Harry Winks in this team, but decided to throw them in the nearest landfill where they belong.
Attacking Midfielders: James Maddison & Dele Alli
The attacking midfield is a whole different kettle of fish, another area where England has suddenly become stacked with talent. And no, Jesse Lingard isn’t one of those talents. Sorry Jesse, your goal against Panama will always live long in the memory. The talent in question relates to that of Leicester superstar James Maddison and Tottenham wizard Dele Alli. Maddison, to me at least, is the undisputed starter here, bringing goals, assists, skills, flair and versatility to the squad, a weapon any manager would love to have, and the perfect player to provide for the forward line. And while I do think that Alli is one of the good players Tottenham have on their books these days, I also think his form is wildly inconsistent and that his tendency for temper tantrums brings him down when he is on form. But he’s also a versatile bag of tricks, and is the best secondary option for this team.
While I think that Maddison should be a regular starter for the foreseeable future, I think Alli’s position in the squad is under serious threat, particularly from Manchester City starlet Phil Foden, who is most likely going to be Maddison’s understudy for the decade. And if Jack Grealish continues the way he’s going then he’ll also be thrown into the frame. I think any one of these players could drop back into central midfield, replacing one of the weaker links in order to accommodate this plethora of attacking talent. But for now, I’m happy with my choices, and that’s what really matters here.
Wingers: Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford & Callum Hudson-Odoi
Oh boy, what a selection we have here. A few years ago we were stuck with Andros Townsend and Stewart Downing as our most exciting wide players, and now look at us. On the right, we have one of the most lethal creative players in the world in Raheem Sterling, the literal definition of coming into his own and showing the world what he can do. And his opposite number, Jadon Sancho, already has 9 goals and 10 assists at the halfway mark of the Bundesliga this season, following on from his 12 goals and 18 assists last season. Friendly reminder that he’s only 19. England’s flanks have blistering pace, flair, and a wealth of end product, and we should count our lucky stars we have 2 players of this ability to work with.
But what if either of them get injured? Well, Marcus Rashford and Callum Hudson-Odoi aren’t exactly the worst back-ups to have ready and waiting. Rashford appears to finally be playing at his best on a regular basis, and whilst Hudson-Odoi is still young and hasn’t fully broken into the Chelsea first team yet, he’s still a player most teams would crave to have on the bench. I will say, as a legitimate statement, that because he’s playing regular first-team football and scoring goals freely, that Todd Cantwell should have a shot at making it into this team, and in my ideal world he is absolutely ahead of Hudson-Odoi in the pecking order, not a victim of the big-club bias that still occasionally rears its ugly head in the national team selection. I don’t think he’ll be a member of the squad this summer, much to my chagrin, but who knows, maybe one of the above four will suffer a horribly inconvenient metatarsal injury and have to sit this one out. Then maybe we’ll be seeing Super Todd in action.
Strikers: Harry Kane & Tammy Abraham
Is this really even a choice? Rounding out this team up top are 2 of the deadliest finishers in England right now. Yes, it’d be nice if the mostly-retired-from-international-football Jamie Vardy decided he would actually quite like to play at the Euros this summer, since he’s streaks ahead of anyone else in the Premier League scoring charts, and the prospect of him, Sterling and Sancho running at opposite defenders is indeed a mouth-watering prospect. And if Harry Kane remains injured, then maybe he will. But it appears as though Kane should be fit enough to lead the line this summer. Captain, for some bizarre reason, the unfortunate candidate to become the country’s all-time record goalscorer, and an excellent dribbler of the ball, he’s 99% sure of a starting spot here.
In behind him is Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, who has silenced all the doubters, including this humble writer, under the management of Frank Lampard this season. Ok, he’s had his dodgy patches, but he’s still netted 12 goals in his first season as a regular starter, including a hat-trick at Wolves, and he’s been impressive enough to warrant a place in the team. It’s tough that I’m only putting in 2 spots up top, but that’s the way the cookie’s crumbling here. A shame, because Southampton’s Danny Ings has rediscovered his goalscoring touch this season and can stake a legitimate claim for a call-up. And Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson appeared to be becoming a regular squad player for the national team, but both his and his teams’ form have hit a rather dodgy patch, so I don’t see him forcing his way back into my vision.
And there you have it, folks, there’s my predicted/hopeful England squad for this summer. In my opinion the squad is starting to pick itself, but for any die-hard fans of James Tarkowski and Nathan Redmond who are cripplingly offended at their omission from this team, then feel free to leave me a disgruntled comment in the section below. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up having a reasonable discussion about how entitled you are to having the wrong opinion.
Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you on June 12th!