Who Should Have Made Southgate’s Squad?
England’s 26-man squad was announced by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate earlier this week ahead of the 2020 Euros.
England will play Croatia in their first Group D match on Sunday, June 13th, and the 26 players will be trying to work their way into Southgate’s plans with another friendly against Romania taking place on Sunday.
However, while the usual players will feature, including captain Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Harry Maguire, some of the seven dropped players may feel they had done enough to make the 2020 Euros after impressing during the 2020/21 season.
Few players outperformed West Ham midfielder Jesse Lingard in the second half of the Premier League season.
Lingard was out of favour at Man United, and he moved to the London Stadium on loan in January. The 28-year-old hit the ground running and consistently performed for David Moyes’ side, who finished 6th in the Premier League and qualified for the Europa Conference League.
Since February, only compatriot Harry Kane and Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho had more goal involvements than Lingard in England’s top-flight. Lingard made 13 goal contributions (nine goals and four assists) after joining the Hammers on loan.
Impressive form earned Lingard a call up to the England squad for the March World Cup qualifiers, playing a leading role in the 5-0 win over San Marino.
However, Lingard’s turnaround was not enough to earn a place in Southgate’s final 26-man squad. Given the injury concerns of Jack Grealish, Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford’s dip in form late in the season, Lingard would have provided positivity, particularly as the matches usually become cagier in the latter stages of major tournaments.
Although he may not have been in contention for a starting place, he certainly would have provided directness and pace from the bench.
James Ward-Prowse has been one of the most consistent English midfielders in the Premier League. The Southampton playmaker played every minute of the league season, scored eight goals and made seven assists – only Danny Ings made more goal contributions for the Saints.
Ward-Prowse’s creativity would have been a welcome addition to the England midfield options. In the 2020/21 season, no Southampton player made more key passes (1.6), crosses (1.4) or had a better pass completion rate (86.4%) than Ward-Prowse.
Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham are the more creative options out of the five out and out midfielders. Southgate also selected defensive midfielders Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice, and Kalvin Phillips.
But Ward-Prowse would have added a creative element to the England squad. His forward-thinking approach would have balanced the use of Southgate’s usual two holding midfielders. The Saints midfielder would likely have provided cover for Mason Mount, but the two have similar playing styles and would have been a straight swap in tight matches.
By not including Ward-Prowse, Southgate has opted for the safer option of three defensive midfielders, including Henderson, who lacks match fitness after a long spell out with a groin injury. This overreliance on defensive players could prove costly if England finds themselves chasing a game in the tournament.