Earlier this week Uefa confirmed that squads for the European Championship this summer will be expanded from 23 to 26 players. It is good news for players who were on the edge of squads and for international managers who were struggling to whittle down their options. Gareth Southgate has a deep pool of talent from which to choose. With that in mind, we have suggested three defenders, midfielders and forwards, as well as one goalkeeper, who will hope to squeeze into his 26-man squad for the summer. Players who are injured and at risk of missing out – Danny Ings and Jordan Henderson, for example – are overlooked.
Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Ollie Watkins, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Marcus Rashford have been the standout English forwards this season and are likely to be in the squad, leaving another spot available for an attacker.
Since Thomas Tuchel took over at Chelsea in January, Tammy Abraham has found playing time hard to come by. The 23-year-old has started just three games under the new manager. However, despite the club’s big splurge in the transfer market last summer, no Chelsea player has scored more league goals than Abraham (six) this season.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has also been in and out of the Chelsea team under Tuchel. The 20-year-old has been used in a number of roles by the new manager, notably at right wing-back. He has also operated on the right flank and even up front for Chelsea. His versatility could be an asset for Southgate.
Rounding off the trio is Leeds top scorer Patrick Bamford. It looked like the 27-year-old would feature in Southgate’s squad during the March international break, but he was overlooked in favour of Ollie Watkins. Bamford has shone for Leeds in the Premier League this season, having a direct hand in 21 (14 goals and seven assists) of the 50 goals the club have scored this season. Two thirds of those 21 goal involvements have come in away matches, so Bamford does not rely on home comforts to shine.
Bukayo Saka’s form has dipped at just the wrong time. He has only scored one goal in his last 11 games for Arsenal, but he remains one of the more exciting English prospects. Comfortable on either flank, and even at left wing-back should Gareth Southgate elect to use a three-man defence, Saka’s fearlessness could be used to great effect this summer.
Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jesse Lingard, James Maddison, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have excelled in the Premier League this season, but who should join them in the squad?
Ross Barkley’s time at Aston Villa started well enough, with goals in back-to-back starts for the club, but injuries and a dip in form have not aided his cause. That said, Barkley put in a solid showing against Everton at the weekend. If he can regain his form over the coming weeks, he could be a late shout for a spot in the squad. He has won 33 caps over the last eight years so certainly has enough experience.
James Ward-Prowse is likely to be in the squad given his good form for Southampton this season. The Saints skipper scored his first goal for England earlier in the year and has been a regular in Southgate’s squads. That he is on the edge of the squad rather than guaranteed a place speaks volumes about England’s options in midfield.
With Jordan Henderson expected to miss the tournament due to injury, there is a central midfield spot up for grabs and Jude Bellingham will fancy his chances. The 17-year-old has impressed in his debut season with Borussia Dortmund, having a direct hand in four goals, and ranking sixth for tackles per 90 (2.7) in the Bundesliga. The regular game time will have done the former Birmingham man the world of good in the build up to the summer.
Kieran Trippier, Reece James, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, James Tarkowski, John Stones and Ben Chilwell have been the top performing English defenders this season. Who should join them?
Right-back is the strongest position for England. Kyle Walker has not been guaranteed a first-team spot for Manchester City this season, starting just 20 games in the league so far. While his performance levels have dipped from previous years, he is a trusted performer on the international stage and will likely make the squad.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is yet to win an England cap, which says a lot about Southgate’s options at right-back. The offensive side of his game has improved at Manchester United this season, but defending remains his strength. Only Yves Bissouma (145) has made more tackles and interceptions combined than Wan-Bissaka (143) in the Premier League this season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is likely to be in the squad. Even though he has struggled to main his performances from last season, his tally of five assists is still a commendable return. Only Luke Shaw (66) has made more key passes than the Liverpool right-back (58) in the Premier League this season – and Southgate will not want to miss the creativity he brings to the team.
One of many players who benefitted from José Mourinho’s sacking, Eric Dier has looked more composed at the heart of the Tottenham defence since Ryan Mason took over at the club. Like his former Spurs teammate Walker, Dier’s form has dipped over the campaign, but a strong finish to the season will boost his chances, particularly as he is another player Southgate trusts.
One of Tyrone Mings’ greatest assets is that he is left-footed. If Southgate wants balance in the defence, the Aston Villa player is the ideal centre-back. He is willing to put his body on the line for the good of the team, having blocked the fourth most shots (36) in the Premier League this season and, as we saw in Rúben “The Brick Wall” Dias’ performance against PSG, this is a quality to be admired.
If Southgate wants to bring in a centre-back with experience of playing at the heart of a three-man defence, Conor Coady is the best of the bunch. Nuno Espírito Santo has sought to move away from the system this season, but Coady remains a good fit if England adopt the setup this summer. An adept individual at winning the ball, only Lewis Dunk (301) has won possession in the defensive third more times than Coady (272) since the start of last season in the Premier League. The expansion of squads could benefit the Wolves defender.
Nick Pope, Dean Henderson and Jordan Pickford are almost certain to be picked but, if Southgate wants a fourth keeper, who could join them?
Southgate is unlikely to change his goalkeeping options at this point but West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone is pushing for a spot. He has made more saves (144) than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. Although, unless Pope, Henderson or Pickford sustain a serious injury, he might have to watch the tournament from home.