As we wind our way towards the inevitable conclusion of the current Premier League season, all eyes turn to the summer.
Euro 2020 should have taken place last year, but the pandemic meant a shift to this summer. England have long since qualified for the tournament, and head into fixtures with a belief that they can lift the trophy. Their group, featuring Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic is not felt to be the most challenging, and their qualification was as straightforward as can be.
Indeed, Gareth Southgate’s men are amongst the favourites for the tournament after a solid qualifying campaign, in which striker Harry Kane scored 12 goals. Bwin’s feature on Euro 2020 reveals they had the best goalscoring record of all qualifying teams and are currently ranked 4th in the world. With the final scheduled to take place at Wembley, there is a deep belief this could be the year football finally does come home, as it has been threatening to for a quarter of a century.
Whilst the attack looks laden with exciting players such as Kane, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, the defence might be cause for concern. Anyone who watched Harry Maguire stumbling through Manchester United’s 3-1 FA Cup defeat against Leicester, and read his subsequent apology, might have some reservations about the direction Southgate might go in.
Maguire and fellow Manchester-based centre back John Stones are certain to be in the squad, but what other options could Southgate turn to? Whilst Maguire is without a doubt one of the best central defenders available for the squad, he is also prone to a loss of form, and a team cannot expect to go to a major tournament without at least three, if not four solid central defensive options. So, who else could the Three Lions turn to?
Enthusiastic Liverpudlian Conor Coady has been around the squad, but he has had a disappointing season with Wolves. Had the tournament taken place when it should, we may have seen him in a peripheral role, but he missed out on Southgate’s latest squad, which might see him excluded from the tournament, too.
Aston Villa’s season has been impressive under Dean Smith, and their centre back pairing are both in with a chance. Tyrone Mings had to drop out of the Premier League to resurrect his career with Villa, but he has been strong all season for them. He has a major attribute that Southgate will see as a benefit too – he is left-footed. That, combined with his fearless leadership, should see him in the squad.
Whether he will be joined by fellow Villa Park star Ezri Konsa is another question altogether, but he should be. Konsa is a thinking man’s defender, never one to jump in, but instead he waits to see the attacker commit himself before making a challenge. He has only been dribbled past on three occasions heading into the international break, and despite not being in the squad for the last batch of friendlies, he should be at least an outside consideration for the tournament.
The Other Options
Elsewhere, Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori is impressing in Serie A, but after only a handful of games, that is unlikely to sway Southgate. Eric Dier has not been brilliant for Spurs this season, but he is one likely to be included, and whilst Ben Godfrey misses out on the final squad, he too is likely to be in Southgate’s thoughts. His Everton teammate, Michael Keane is another likely to be under consideration.
On reflection, England have lots of solid options in the middle of the defence, but the major concern must be whether they can find the right blend in the event of Maguire losing form, or a possible injury to Stones. If they can, and those exciting attackers live up to their promise, there might just be something to celebrate on the streets of England in July.