For the first time in a LONG time, it feels as though England might be arriving at a major tournament with enough talent and experience to make a real statement. Whilst the nation is cautiously optimistic about the side’s chances, past experience has shown that selection and tactics can so easily unravel even the most talented of squads at these tournaments.
Ahead of this summer’s campaign, here are three points Gareth Southgate HAS to get right for England to WIN Euro 2020.
Drop Sterling, Start Foden
When Pep Guardiola described Phil Foden as the ‘greatest talent since Lionel Messi’, most of the footballing world dismissed the remark as just another mind game against the demands to start the young English talisman. Roll forward to the end of Manchester City’s all-dominating 2020/21 campaign and Phil Foden is, without a doubt, both one of the side’s most important players and perhaps the greatest generational talent English football has seen for some time.
At the time of writing, Foden has already won nine trophies with the Cityzens at the age of 20 and is their second-leading goalscorer with 14 goals in all competitions. His pace, balance, agility, and skills on the ball stand out even in a side as blessed with an abundance of talent as City’s, showcasing his football brain that is comfortably well above what you would expect from someone of his years.
Foden has so far only made six appearances for the England team, but there’s already plenty of reason to argue that he will be arriving at the Euros as the side’s most genuinely talented player. Not playing him from the off would therefore be clearly insane.
And yet, in Gareth Southgate, England have themselves a manager that knows the players he trusts, and it has proven tough in prompting him to make the daring changes needed to really win a major international competition. Ever since his appointment, Raheem Sterling has consistently been one of Southgate’s first choices and has cultivated a reputation as being something of an auto-include alongside the likes of Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane.
And whilst there’s certainly no denying the level of talent the Manchester City forward has, there’s a lot to be said about his performances for England at major tournaments in the past and his record at Manchester City this season. In comparison to the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, and even a player like Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling should not be considered an auto-include ahead of the players with better track records and form going into Euro 2020.
It would mean breaking the safety seal Southgate has made for himself over his tenure, but Foden, Mount, Rashford/Sancho, and Kane with Sterling making way could just be that little injection of form and energy England need to go all the way at Euro 2020.
Bellingham Must Make The List
2020/21 has been a tough campaign on the whole for Borussia Dortmund fans, with the side plummeting down the soccer odds throughout the season as the early season hopes for a first Bundesliga triumph since 2012 gave way to a desperate race to even qualify for next season’s Champions League.
One shining light for the Black and Yellow faithful however has undoubtedly been the emergence of yet another young English talisman, Jude Bellingham. Brought in for big bucks from Birmingham in the summer, Bellingham might only be 17 years old at the time of writing, but he has already established himself as an integral part of the team with some seriously impressive performances this season. He has scored against Manchester City in a Champions League quarter-final, performed impressively in Der Klassiker against Bayern Munich, netted in a DFP Pokal semi-final triumph, and has only gotten better as the season has progressed.
He was given a first appearance for England by Southgate in November 2020 against the Republic of Ireland, however, most rumblings around the national team camp indicate that the summer of 2021 might be deemed too ‘early’ for the Birmingham local. Given that the center of midfield is, without a doubt, England’s most uninspiring position in terms of energy, creativity, and overall depth (with Kalvin Phillips, Harry Winks, and Eric Dier probably the most favored partners alongside Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice), not taking a gamble on something different in Jude Bellingham could so easily prove to be the undoing of yet another England campaign at a major tournament.
‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough is a valuable message in football, and it should definitely be the message Southgate thinks of when it comes to selecting his Euros XI.