With an incredibly exciting set of players who are in the hunt for domestic and continental glory, it’s no wonder that England supporters are dreaming of an end to 55 years of hurt without a major tournament victory.
Gareth Southgate’s side will go into Euro 2021 as one of the red-hot favourites to lift the trophy, and given the stars at his disposal that’s no great surprise.
Don’t underestimate the power of home advantage too. In two of the last four editions of the European Championship the host nation has reached the final, and you only have to look at South Korea’s run to the semi-finals of World Cup 2002 or Russia’s progress to the last eight of the same competition in 2018 to see how hosting benefitted them. Backing the host nation has been a winning strategy to bet on soccer, and that may not end with England this summer. You can wager on a nation in the outright market at international competitions like Euro 2021, and in some countries even add an ‘each way’ kicker so that you may enjoy a payout even if your team loses in the final.
75% – Of players with 5+ @premierleague goals since the start of last season, only Jorginho (90% – 9/10) has scored a higher proportion directly via penalties (3) or direct free-kicks (6) than James Ward-Prowse (75% – 9/12). Specialist. #MCISOU pic.twitter.com/CEcQg8oZah
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 10, 2021
However, there are still some holes in Southgate’s likely squad, and you wonder if he will pluck some of the Premier League’s unsung gems to make up his unit for the showpiece occasion.
If he does, here are five players he may just be targeting.
Staying loyal to Southampton perhaps hasn’t done the career of James Ward-Prowse many favours – after all, he was once linked to a move to Liverpool prior to their Premier League and Champions League glory.
Nevertheless, the versatile midfielder remains an outstanding player, and his metronomic passing would be a huge advantage in Southgate’s possession-based system.
At the time of writing, Ward-Prowse had contributed seven goals and five assists to the Saints’ cause, and his ability to play in a number of different roles – and his impeccable set piece delivery – means that he could be an invaluable asset from the bench for the Three Lions.
Despite his undoubted brilliance with the ball at his feet, there are still question marks over Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive play when left one-on-one with an attacker.
With Kieran Trippier also shy of first-team action in recent times, there could a hole to fill at right back and Southgate could do a lot worse than call up Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) March 10, 2021
The Manchester United man ranks fifth in the Premier League for successful tackles made per 90 minutes, and while he may be lacking TAA’s flair in the final third he is arguably more reliable when facing a tricky opponent.
Of course, Southgate may want to go in a different direction with his right back selection.
Matty Cash has been nothing short of a revelation in the position for Aston Villa, and it’s worth noting that he has played as a midfielder for much of his career – versatility is always a useful string to the bow of a prospective squad member.
Only Manchester City have kept more clean sheets than Villa this term, and Cash has been a key figure in that defensive resolve.
There is something of an opening as a back-up striker too.
Harry Kane is locked in as the starting number nine, while Marcus Rashford or Raheem Sterling could also play there if necessary.
The jury is out on whether Dominic Calvert-Lewin, right now, is Southgate’s best choice as a replacement for Kane, and so he might want to take a look at Ollie Watkins in the upcoming friendly matches.
The Villa man has notched ten times this season, but more than his goal return it’s his unselfish running of the channels and intelligent link-up play that could see him look comfortable on the international stage.
If given a chance Watkins, and the three other players on this list, would not let anybody down in what could be England’s summer of glory.