England fans will feel like they were left waiting forever on Tuesday but, finally, bang on five o’clock, Gareth Southgate announced his squad for Euro 2020.
As the sun shone to mark the start of June, there was joy for Trent Alexander-Arnold but despite being one of the stars of the second half of the season, Jesse Lingard was amongst seven players from the provisional 33 not to make the final 26.
England can now look forward to playing all three of their Group D games at Wembley, taking on Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic and their
4/11 tag as favourites to top the pool is reflected by the excitement surrounding Southgate’s young Lions.
Relief For Trent
As is so often the case in this age of social media, there were plenty of rumours doing the rounds throughout Tuesday, with many of them proving wide of the mark.
The big question seemed to be whether Alexander-Arnold had played his way back into Southgate’s thinking after being dropped for March’s World Cup qualifiers.
His exclusion on that occasion was down to a lull in form, reflected by his club side Liverpool’s own struggles. However, like the Reds, the 22-year-old roared back to take his place in a right-back-heavy squad and will be part of the Three Lions’ quest for outright glory this summer, with England available at
5/1 to win the Euros.
That said, Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier have both played as left-backs and wing-backs, while Reece James and Kyle Walker have experience of featuring more centrally, giving Southgate the option of switching to the back three that has often been his default shape when the pressure comes on.
Of course, for those who get the nod, others must miss out. Mason Greenwood withdrew earlier on Tuesday with an “underlying injury”, while the uncapped trio of Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and Ben Godfrey were always seen as long shots after being included in the provisional squad.
The three men who will be hurting the most are Lingard, James Ward-Prowse and Ollie Watkins.
Ward-Prowse has drifted in and out of the squad for some time. His exclusion may point to Southgate’s wish to employ two more defensive midfielders, with Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson, and Kalvin Phillips included alongside potential bolter Jude Bellingham.
In a similar sense, striker Watkins, who scored 14 Premier League goals in 2020-21, and netted on his England debut against San Marino in March, is the victim of the boss’ preference for added flexibility in wide areas.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be the man to back up skipper Harry Kane, who is the
11/2 favourite for the Golden Boot, but the real loser on Tuesday appears to be Lingard.
After struggling both on and off the field, the Warrington-born star resurrected his career after joining West Ham on loan in January, earning the Premier League Player of the Month for April after scoring four times in as many appearances.
Although often playing as a number 10 for the Hammers, he has regularly featured deeper for his country. With so much talent further up the field, the 28-year-old’s preference for breaking from deep, as he did so well at the 2018 World Cup, gives him an extra dimension.
However, that strength has perhaps worked against him, with the feeling that this could be a cagey tournament after long and gruelling seasons for everyone involved.
Youth Given a Chance
A quick count up shows only 10 of Southgate’s 26 were part of the party that reached the semi-finals in Russia three years ago, as his side look to progress past that same point for the time ever at the Euros.
It would have been easy for the 50-year-old to stick with that squad over the intervening period but he has stayed true to his word and, in the main, picked on form.
England fans and neutrals alike will be excited to see Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford all included as forward-thinking options.
The early feeling seems to be that Southgate has made the right calls and with friendlies against Austria and Romania on Wednesday and Sunday respectively, the countdown is well and truly on to that opening match fixture against Croatia on June 13, a game the hosts are
20/27 to win.
*All odds correct at time of writing