The key department in the England squad, right now England’s senior team doesn’t have a central midfield unit to match the craft and guile of France, Spain or Germany. But the advanced midfielders and wingers provide a threat to worry the best with pace and skill.
- Dele Alli- A world class number 10 in the making although he’s yet to truly show his best at international level. If only England’s number 9 was on his wavelength like a club partnership, oh wait…
- Adam Lallana- far and away England’s most creative player, Lallana had evolved into a high tempo midfielder under Jurgen Klopp whilst England play him slightly further forward depending more on his creativity to unlock defences. Nailed on starter next summer.
- Raheem Sterling- Enjoyed a much improved second season at Manchester City (possibly because he had a manager who actually did done coaching!) Sterling faces challenges for his place at club level (more so if the buy Alexis Sanchez) whilst the likes of Gray and Redmond will be snapping at his heels for England. Must be mindful to keep his place.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain- Had a good run-in last season with Arsenal but still not guaranteed a place in the team after 6 years at the Emirates, where he’s scored a total of 9 League goals! For England the Ox is a great option off the bench when played as a direct attacking winger- evidenced by his goal against Scotland and that memorable strike in the Maracana) but clearly not a central midfielder as evidenced in the Stade de France.
- Jesse Lingard- A hard working winger with the happy knack of scoring in cup finals, Lingard has been schooled in the Alex Ferguson academy of ‘do a job’ players (previous graduates include Danny Welbeck, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Brian McClair). Hopefully he has a role beyond patrolling the flank for the final 20 minutes of a big game, but yet to show he can do more than that for England. The imminent arrival of Ivan Perisic at Old Trafford may push him further down the pecking order.
- Wayne Rooney– Is there anything left to say here? Southgate has handled Rooney well and the days of him being shoehorned into the England team look to be over. Should do well at Everton but their opening Europa League game suggested his rejuvenation has limits. In top form he may just get back in.
- Ross Barkley- Needs to move, now! Barkley is clearly done at Everton but where next remains unclear, would he get a regular start at a team better than Everton? Probably not. There is a great talent in there but needs a lot of coaching- if a move to Spurs is a realistic option he should camp outside Mauricio Pochettino’s porch.
- Demarai Gray- Wonderful to watch in full flow, Gray is a player I’d like to see make the cut; tricky, quick and with a potent shot he could be the player to challenge Sterling for a place in the first 11. But first he needs to be in the first 11 at Leicester and that means unseating Riyad Mahrez. Craig Shakespeare has promised Gray more chances next season but I suspect he’s one of the players whose club future will be decided by the ripple effect of Neymar’s possible move to PSG (see also Coutinho, Mahrez, Sanchez & Lemar to name a few).
- Nathan Redmond- A Southgate favourite from the Under 21’s don’t be surprised to see him get a second cap this autumn, I suspect Redmond is a bit too one dimensional for international football but a strong season at Southampton and he could build a strong case for inclusion.
- Michael Antonio- How depressed will he have been at Big Sam’s England demise! Antonio has been in the squad, warn the tracksuit, not got a cap. Antonio’s strength and pace may yet get him a look in, may be better suited to playing on the right of midfield in a 3-4-3. Either way needs a good season at West Ham.
- Theo Walcott- It’s almost 9 years since his brilliant hat trick in Zagreb. Since then Walcott has scored 5 international goals and played at 1 major tournament (Euro 2012). Walcott’s disappointing England career provides an acute metaphor of England’s disappointing decade of 2006-2016, Southgate picked him for his first 2 internationals and has since rightly looked elsewhere. But a 20 goal season at Arsenal and…
- Ademola Lookman- A £7.5 million transfer and a World Cup win, it’s been quite a 2017 for the ex Charlton youngster. Has a club manager who’ll trust in youth and facing a long season (should they make it to the Europa League group stages). Lookman should get plenty of chances to shine, but the Under 21s look the most likely route for now.
- Josh Onomah- Could just copy and paste Lookman’s situation for Onomah, may find early opportunities this season at Spurs with both Erik Lamela & Son Heung-min injured, again this World Cup is probably a bit too soon for him.
- Phil Foden- Amazing what a brilliant pre season appearance can do for a player. Foden is hugely gifted and may eventually replace David Silva, but the star of England’s Under 17s may have to wait for the League Cup to make a first team case at Citeh.
- Andros Townsend- We should finally be able to close the door on him as an England winger. Townsend made a great start to his England career in those final 2014 World Cup qualifiers but his club career has rarely measured up to that standard. Townsend has been a great Youtube player for England in 3 minute highlight reels due to his direct play and willingness to have a go from distance. But almost all his England appearances have been as an impact sub (brilliantly against Italy) or to make way for one after an ineffective 65 minutes. 13 caps & 3 goals is decent going but it probably ends there.
Football fan, follower of England, Leeds and will watch any game possible (between raising twins!)