The start of Euro 2020 is just over six months away, which means it’s time for Europe’s international managers to get their houses in order.
England now know who they’re facing in next summer’s Group stage; having drawn Croatia, the Czech Republic and the winner of play-off Path C, which could be any one of Scotland, Serbia, Norway or Israel.
Until then, Gareth Southgate will no doubt be thinking long and hard about who he wants to add to his talented squad for next summer.
Barring injury, there’s already quite a few players that can more-or-less guarantee their place in the team — such as Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling — but we reckon there’s a handful of spots still up for grabs, even for players who haven’t picked up any England caps yet.
Here’s five that might make the grade and sneak their way in.
England look fairly set in the goalkeeping department, with Jordan Pickford — despite the odd gaffe here and there — nailed on to be the Three Lions’ No.1 next summer, with Nick Pope of Burnley waiting in the wings.
Then there’s a toss up between Tom Heaton and Dean Henderson for the third goalkeeping spot, with both receiving call-ups to the squad recently.
But Bournemouth and England under-21 starter Ramsdale might also have his own eyes on the place, having produced a string of mightily impressive displays between the sticks this season.
His rise is all the more impressive considering he spent last term out on loan with AFC Wimbledon in League One, before returning to Bournemouth over the summer to become their undisputed first-choice — displacing the experienced Artur Boruc and fellow youngster Mark Travers in the process.
Eddie Howe’s decision appears justified, as Ramsdale is currently the highest rated English goalkeeper in the Premier League this season according to WhoScored, with a rating of 6.83 which trounces Pope (6.68), Heaton (6.55) and Pickford (6.40).
Six months ago, the thought of Smalling being anywhere near England’s Euro 2020 squad was universally laughable.
The defender hasn’t received a call-up since October 2017 and was so far down the pecking order at Man United that he was dubbed surplus to requirements and allowed to join Roma on loan in the summer.
But in Italy, the 30-year-old has enjoyed a dramatic renaissance; becoming one of the most deadly efficient defenders in Serie A.
He’s among this season’s top five Serie A players for clearances and defensive blocks, while his overall WhoScored rating of 7.49 means he’s statistically the best defender in the league.
However, Southgate likes his defenders to be comfortable on the ball and capable of playing out from the back, which in the past has been one of Smalling’s great weaknesses; but he’s even in the top 10 bracket for successful passes this term with a percentage of 90.5.
Considering England have been struggling to find a suitable centre-back to partner Harry Maguire — with Michael Keane and John Stones failing to impress, and Tyrone Mings and Fikayo Tomori lacking experience at the very highest level — Smalling could certainly fancy his chances if he continues his fine form in Rome.
It’s perhaps hard to believe that Grealish is still waiting for his first England cap, considering he was in the reckoning all the way back in 2015 when he switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland.
With Aston Villa dropping down to the Championship at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, Grealish has largely gone under the radar for the past three seasons while his playing time has often been interrupted by injury.
But he’s proven this season to be more than capable of mixing it with the very best players around in the Premier League, notching three goals and four assists in the top flight so far — meaning he’s been involved in more goals than any other English midfielder.
True, Southgate already has plenty of attack-minded midfielders in and around his squad, including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mason Mount and James Maddison, with Dele Alli and Ross Barkley also in the mix.
But Grealish can arguably boast a stronger goal-threat than the majority of his peers — just look at his show-stopping strike against Man United at the weekend — while his ability to create chances from open play is second only to Kevin de Bruyne in the Prem this term.
Having impressed during the first-half of the 2018/19 season while on loan at West Brom, Barnes was recalled into the Leicester team at the turn of the year and hasn’t looked back since.
Now a regular starter in Brendan Rodgers’ exciting line-up that’s challenging at the very top of the Premier League table, Barnes has had a particularly strong start to the campaign; scoring the August goal of the month with his spectacular strike against Sheff United and notching four assists so far — just one behind the likes of David Silva, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Of course, Southgate already has plenty of options in the wide areas with Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and even Callum Hudson-Odoi, but Barnes could certainly offer his side a reliable back-up option.
Here’s the left-field of all left-field choices available to Southgate in attack this summer.
England’s options in the final-third certainly look as good as ever at the moment, with Kane, Sterling and Rashford likely to be supported by the in-form Tammy Abraham and/or Callum Wilson at Euro 2020.
But if Greenwood can become a staple of Man United’s front-line this season and score goals at the same rate he achieved at youth level, then he could add his name into the equation.
Greenwood, who’s only just turned 18, has often been compared to his older club-mate Rashford, who famously picked up the final place in England’s Euro 2016 squad at the same age after a whirlwind final four months of United’s 2015/16 campaign.
Rashford burst onto the scene as a virtual unknown but a run of tremendous form turned him into a household name, and while a similar run for Greenwood would be even more dramatic, his potential to become a top Premier League goalscorer is certainly there.
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