The major prizes for the Covid ravaged 2020/21 season have now been handed out and in both the Champions League and Europa League finals. Each trophy went to the so-called underdogs in Chelsea and Villarreal. I was convinced this would be Manchester City’s year, but they can still look back on a successful season with the Premier League Championship trophy and the League Cup in their trophy cabinet.
This means our attention now switches to the Euros and I remain of the view that England will win a major trophy for the first time since the 1966 World Cup success.
This week Gareth Southgate will whittle his squad down from the provisional squad of 33 to 26. 7 players are going to feel mightily upset and it will be an unenviable task for Gareth, but it made sense for him to increase the numbers to cater for the possible loss of key players to injury sustained in the two European finals.
As with any tournament it is important to get off to a winning start and such is the quality of players available to Gareth that he will doubtless be influenced by training sessions and performances in the two warm up matches against Austria and Romania before the tournament starts but I think he also has to be mindful of the current form and fitness level of players after what has been a long season. There is no doubt that the current form of one or two of the established players is not what it was earlier in the season and some players have been out injured for some time.
We will all have our favourite choices but for me the team I would like to see in the opening match is based upon the formation Gareth has used to good effect in the qualifying matches.
In the modern game the goalkeeper is crucial in so many ways. He has to have the ability to pass the ball out quickly and his distribution has to be accurate, and he needs to spot the opportunity to break quickly on the opposition. He also needs to be confident in the air and dominate his area. Each of the goalkeepers has different attributes but Jordan Pickford ticks the most boxes and I go for him in goal.
I would have a back four of Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, John Stones and Ben Chilwell. Walker possesses blistering pace and recovers quickly, and he also reads the game so well and gets forward to support attacks. The same can be said of Ben Chilwell on the left had side. Maguire and Stones are good in the air in both boxes and distribute the ball well and at this level keeping concentration will be vital and they need to focus on that and avoid giving the opposition any freebies.
Declan Rice and Kelvin Philips would be my defensive midfielders to protect the back four and to allow Walker and Chilwell to go forward and join attacks and get crosses into the box.
The midfield three in front of the more defensive minded two is the engine room of the team and needs to be creative and have the ability to unlock teams who defend in numbers and I believe my midfield three of Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Phil Foden will do just that. All have had fantastic seasons with their clubs. Grealish wins an inordinate number of free kicks in matches and converting set pieces will be vital to England’s success. Grealish also runs at defenders at pace which they hate. Mount works incredibly hard and has an ability to open teams up with his passing and has goals in his game which again will be important. Foden is getting better and better in every match and this is the perfect stage for him to prove he is currently the best young player in world football which I believe he is. His passing, energy and finishing is outstanding.
The midfield three will provide the service and linkage with Harry Kane up front. Kane has a tremendous scoring record for England and deserves his place up front. I just hope that his Spurs future is resolved before the tournament so that we don’t have matches overshadowed by a media frenzy regarding his future.
After the restrictions of the past 16 months the country could do with the boost an England success in the Euros will give and if I am right football is well and truly coming home this summer.
Peter Varney, Chairman – Integral Sports Management
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