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Gareth Southgate’s Euros Selection Headache (Part Two): Who Should Make the Final England Squad?

Choosing defenders and goalkeepers to represent England will be difficult as it is, but the most exciting parts of this hugely promising England team are the creative midfielders and devastating attackers.


Yesterday, I looked at the goalkeeping and defensive options that Gareth Southgate has for this summer’s Euros and who should make the cut. Click here if you missed it!


Onto part two, though, starting in midfield…


Midfielders


Where it looks pretty dry.


Who plays 6? Bellingham as an 8 or 10? Does Palmer start? All questions that remain to be seen.



The holding role isn’t Declan Rice’s best position, with his more box-to-box role at Arsenal bringing out the best in the West Ham academy graduate. However, he’ll probably play there and Jude Bellingham will certainly be joining him, but no one really knows who will make up the trio.


Kobbie Mainoo’s breakthrough has been spectacular and, even on his international debut, he looked like he’d been there for years. He played then with Rice and Bellingham and those three excited me, so I’d be inclined to start Mainoo.



Him or Trent Alexander-Arnold. Southgate seems to have found a space for him in England’s midfield recently, and the Liverpool superstar has been listed as a midfielder in England squads for the past year or so. He can also, obviously, slot into defence if anything happens to Walker and co.


Conor Gallagher would probably be seen as the new Jordan Henderson, the utility midfielder — a steady pair of hands that Southgate can rely on.



Then it’s a toss-up between two uncapped youngsters in Adam Wharton and Curtis Jones; I wouldn’t take both. Wharton has seamlessly stepped up to the Premier League, and it’s no surprise to see a huge upturn in results for Crystal Palace since his arrival. Jones started the season well but faded, only starting four games since mid-February.



If Southgate is picking based on form then Wharton would be the no-brainer, but it all depends on who can impress in the training camp and friendlies that preview the tournament. I’d take Wharton, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the manager dropped them both.


Attackers


This is where it spices up.


Every player in the attacking ranks is either in red-hot form or is an established international, making the decision to axe even one look daunting. It’s crazy to think that only three, possibly four, of the eleven forwards will start.


Starting with the certainties. No conversation or elaboration is needed for skipper Harry Kane, nor for Bukayo Saka or Phil Foden. Cole Palmer surely makes the cut, carrying Chelsea’s season with 33 goal involvements in the Premier League alone, and Ollie Watkins’ only falls one short of that number, so his selection is a given.



Do we really need a third striker? Is the question many are posing. 23-man squad and the answer would be no, given that the third choice very rarely features. But with the extra allowance, why not cover our backs?


Ivan Toney hasn’t performed up to his standards this season after returning from his suspension in January, but is probably more similar to Kane than Watkins is. Kane missed Bayern’s last two games with a back injury, so Toney seems a sensible insurance policy; providing his ego can handle being third choice.



That leaves Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Anthony Gordon, Jack Grealish and James Maddison.


Initially, one name sticks out for me: Maddison. Granted, he started the season on fire, but at present, he hasn’t really gotten back to those levels, plus he’s probably the least versatile of the remaining options. His favoured position is in the number 10 spot and he's highly unlikely to push Bellingham or Foden out of that role if it exists at all in Southgate's set up.


Bowen must be chosen for me. An incredible season in a somewhat struggling West Ham side, and he could play anywhere across the front line.


From the remaining guys I’m looking at impact, as it’s clear they won’t start. Imagine looking over your shoulder and seeing Eze primed and ready to make an explosive appearance. Plus, this is a guy with 11 goal involvements in his last 12 games — coming into form at just the right time.



The same true of Gordon, over Grealish, for me. It’s hard to think of anything the latter has done this season, massively overshadowed by the arrival of Jeremey Doku, whereas Gordon has excited and excelled all campaign. His pace and directness has spearheaded Newcastle’s attack, with 11 goals and 10 assists this term.


Southgate, although showing signs he’s moving away from it, is likely to factor in some kind of loyalty to players who have been there before in major tournaments, so choosing Grealish over someone like Eze or Gordon wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.



I’ve changed my mind on this ten times, and I imagine Southgate has done so plenty more. But this debate really brings home that it is an exciting time to be an England fan, and maybe, just maybe, it may finally come home this summer.


And in Germany’s back yard, even better!


My dropped seven: Trafford, Dunk, Shaw, Quansah, Jones, Grealish, Maddison.


Predicted dropped seven: Trafford, Guehi, Quansah, Jones, Wharton, Eze, Maddison.





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