England will head into this summer’s European Championships as serious contenders to lift the prestigious trophy.
With a squad brimful of talent, Gareth Southgate has some tough decisions to make, most notably in the final third.
Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish has boosted his chances of being a regular starter this summer, while Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) and Raheem Sterling (Man City) are also in the mix.
Everton talisman Dominic Calvert-Lewin has secured his spot in the national squad after a breakout campaign this term. Danny Ings has been in fine form for Southampton and is also in the conversation.
However, there are two other strikers in the Premier League who are in fine form and making their case for an England call-up.
Watkins, Bamford making their case
Attacking talent is not an issue for this Three Lions side. Southgate has a bevy of players to choose from already and once you add in Ollie Watkins and Patrick Bamford into the mix, the decision regarding who England should select becomes a very difficult one.
Watkins has looked tremendous in his first season in the top flight. After bagging 26 goals in 49 appearances for Championship side Brentford last season, the Englishmen secured a move to Villa Park prior to the start of the 2020/21 campaign.
He’s hit the ground running with Villa, scoring 10 goals in just 22 fixtures, much in part to the top-tier service he’s getting from Grealish. Nonetheless, there’s something to be said about how Watkins goes about his business in the final third.
Sure, he’s got a natural eye for goal, but it’s his work-rate off the ball that really stands out. Watkins is always coming back into his own half to defend and make crucial tackles. He isn’t a one-dimensional striker who simply waits for opportunities.
He’s constantly putting pressure on defenders to make an eerie pass or mistake, while also possessing the ability to thread a ball and set up teammates for chances on goal.
Watkins has never got the call for England and although minutes could be limited, an-all around attacker like this is a player Southgate may want in the squad.
Bamford is another who has opened eyes this term. His path has been slightly different to Watkins, having already experienced dismal stints at the Premier League level with Crystal Palace and briefly, Chelsea.
A move to Leeds United in 2018 was the start of something special for Bamford, having netted a career-best 16 times last term for Marcelo Bielsa’s side en route to promotion.
The 27-year old has been key to Leeds’ vibrant attack in 2020/21, already scoring 12 goals in 23 appearances. It’s no secret that Bielsa demands the very best from his players and Bamford has been no exception.
Much like Watkins, he’s an extremely hard-working player who also defends from the front and retreats into his own half at times to contribute.
For a bigger striker, he’s brilliant with the ball at his feet. Bamford is creative, he anticipates dangerous opportunities, and his link-up play is also impressive.
There’s a certain way Bamford plays for Leeds in Bielsa’s system which is bringing out the best in him. If he does get a call-up to England, it’ll be vital that Southgate uses Bamford in a similar way.
Difficult decisions ahead for Southgate
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room for all of these players in the squad. But if Gareth Southgate makes the right decisions, there’s no doubt that England will have one of the finest sides in this summer’s tournament as they look to capture their first European trophy.