We’re finally in to the last leg- the strikers. If I’m being perfectly honest, it was probably the easiest decision out of every position. The first choice is obvious, but who plays second fiddle?
Harry Kane is the first name on the team sheet. Alongside Robert Lewandowski he’s the best out-and-out striker in the world. The way he has developed his game to come deep and collect the ball in order to bring other players in to the game will allow the likes of Foden, Rashford and Grealish to thrive. He’s clinical and has recently added assists to his game (the highest in the league at the time of writing). I mentioned earlier that Henderson should be England captain, but that’s no slight on what Kane brings to the team in that sense. In the modern game you need leaders all over the pitch and Kane, Henderson, Maguire and even Rashford bring that in buckets.
Who’s the backup?
There’s a lot of options as backup for Harry Kane and I’ve opted for the in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Since Ancelotti arrived at Everton just over a year ago, “DCL” has developed in to one of the league’s best strikers, picking up an astonishing 18 goals this season. Forwards are very much confidence players and I think Southgate should look at who is the most in-form striker in the league in the lead up to the European Championships. That may not be Calvert-Lewin and may be one of the below players, but I think at the time of writing, he is the best option.
Who misses out?
Danny Ings is the most obvious omission here. Since struggling at Liverpool and making the move to Southampton, he’s shown he’s one of the most clinical strikers around. But he also brings a work-rate that we might not see from others. The reason I’m not including him in my squad is that I can’t see Southgate switching to 2 up top at any point and Ings needs a player like Che Adams or Shane Long alongside him to allow him to wreak havoc on defences.
Callum Wilson has also been in great form for struggling Newcastle and my only reason for leaving him out really is that the other options available are better in my opinion. His recent injury certainly won’t help his cause.
Tammy Abraham has been in and out of Chelsea’s team and I think on his day he’s a very good player, but in a knockout tournament I don’t think he’s reliable enough to come up big when we need him. Of the strikers included, he is the one I would have least faith in when one-on-one to win the Euros and that’s my reason for omitting him.
Ollie Watkins is a very good hold-up player and would work well with Grealish for obvious reasons, but he’s just not yet at the standard as other players.
I wasn’t even going to write about Patrick Bamford but I suppose I have to. I’ve never been a fan to be perfectly honest. He’s putting up decent numbers this season, but I’m just still not convinced. He’s really good at being in the right place at the right time and playing in this Leeds team suits him perfectly, but I still think he’s a Championship-standard player who is having a good season. Maybe he will prove me wrong- everyone said Harry Kane was a one-season wonder and look at him!
Had I included a third striker, it would probably have been Michail Antonio. Although not as technically gifted as the likes of Ings, DCL or Callum Wilson, he would add a completely different dynamic to the England squad. He’s strong, fast, fantastic in the air and is again great at bringing others in to play. On top of that he has 9 goal contributions in just 14 starts. He’s probably the best all-round player of all the striking options; he can play up front, out wide or even as a wingback and with his current form I wouldn’t be surprised to see Southgate pick the former Reading and Forest attacker.
Although he’s retired from international football, there’s no doubting that Jamie Vardy is one of the best strikers in the league, or arguably, the world. Year on year he proves his worth and even at the age of 33 is competing with players much younger than him for the golden boot. If he were to come out of international retirement, I would absolutely take him. No one scares defenders like he does with his finishing and his electric pace. He seems to be getting faster with age! Just imagine being able to bring on a player of his quality in the final 15 when chasing a goal. I don’t even think fine wine justifies his rise since turning 28.
So that’s that! There are players that didn’t even get a mention! Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey, Spurs duo Harry Winks and Dele Alli, Liverpool’s injury-stricken Oxlade-Chamberlain and Atletico’s Keiran Trippier being prime examples. You could certainly make a case for any of them being included (less so Ox let’s be honest with ourselves). I could write an entire book on the players England currently have at their disposal, both for the first team and at youth level, but unfortunately for us all I don’t currently have the time or resources for that.
Here’s my Starting XI;
My substitutes are; Pickford, Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, James, Gomez, Chilwell, Rice, Ward-Prowse, Mount, Sterling, Sancho, Calvert-Lewin.
23 players- some certainties and some less so. I’m still not sure on all of my decisions. Why did I not include Harvey Barnes? Why on earth would I not start Sterling? Why have I gone for 3 right backs and just 2 strikers? It’s a good thing I’m not actually the England manager, eh?