3 selection dilemmas Southgate must solve before Euro 2020
England have played their last competitive match before Euro 2020, but there are several spots in the team up for grabs.
Who partners Harry Maguire?
Barring injury, Harry Maguire will start England’s first game of Euro 2020, but Southgate is yet to settle on his partner.
At least three centre-backs are in a position to make the spot their own, but nobody could predict with much confidence who it will be, or how it will go.
It feels like John Stones is still the man in possession.
Stones missed both the September and October internationals through injury, but was immediately reinstated against Montenegro for his first England match since his calamitous performance against the Netherlands in the Nations League semi-final in June.
He has been the poster boy for playing out from the back ever since breaking through at Everton, and Southgate’s commitment to playing that way may work in his favour.
If not Stones, Tyrone Mings seems most likely.
Mings has been formidable for Aston Villa since January, and impressed in Bulgaria last month despite being racially abused from the stands throughout the match.
He is left-footed, though, which means that Maguire must play on the right, where he looks less comfortable.
Joe Gomez is unlikely to go away, particularly given Southgate offered him plenty of public support after the Raheem Sterling incident.
But he won’t make the first XI unless he gets more games for Liverpool.
Fikayo Tomori is picking up Champions League experience – a commodity Southgate values – and is clearly trusted by Frank Lampard. He plays on the left as well, though, and – like Lewis Dunk and James Tarkowski – is running out of time to make his case.
Who joins Henderson in midfield?
England’s midfield has never satisfactorily taken shape under Southgate, but the picture has become clearer in the last week.
Games against Montenegro and Kosovo were no huge test, but Harry Winks has made an unavoidable case to play from the start.
Winks is England’s best midfielder in possession. He can take the ball under pressure, wriggle away from challenges and pass or run through the lines, something England missed in both semi-final defeats under Southgate.
He is likely to be the midfield pivot, but his goal in Kosovo proved that he could play just in front of Declan Rice as well.
Jordan Henderson is likely to have lifted the Champions League and Premier League trophies in the 12 months leading into Euro 2020. Somebody with that pedigree is surely undroppable.
Ross Barkley will be back in the squad, but his injury has allowed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to take possession of the third slot for now.
So long as Oxlade-Chamberlain is getting regular games for Liverpool and remains fit, he will be right in the mix.
James Maddison and Jack Grealish couldn’t have done anymore at club level to impress Southgate, which suggests that they’re not to the manager’s taste.
Maddison will probably make the squad, but he is also below Mason Mount in the pecking order. For one of the best players in the Premier League, that feels unfair.
Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, meanwhile, have to go some in the next few months if they’re not to be forgotten about until next September.
Who plays on the wing?
There is a refreshing element to the Marcus Rashford/Jadon Sancho argument in that it doesn’t particularly matter which one wins.
Rashford has been electric for England in the last couple of months. His goal in Bulgaria in October can be credited for kickstarting his Manchester United campaign, while he impressed in both of last week’s matches.
He may have inched ahead, but there is plenty of merit to starting Sancho as well.
The 19-year-old is a more natural winger than Rashford, and the combination with Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right showed great promise against Montenegro.
Crucially, fielding Sancho would allow Raheem Sterling to play on the left, where he is at his best.
Southgate can just plump for the player in better form when Euro 2020 rolls around, but, if in doubt, should opt for the combination that works best for Sterling and Harry Kane.
It’s tough on Callum Wilson, but Tammy Abraham is the obvious pick as the reserve striker if he maintains the form he has shown for Chelsea.
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