It may have taken a week longer than it was meant to but today, Gareth Southgate has announced his 26 man squad for the European Championships.
After the useless 33-man provisional squad that was named two weeks ago, seven members of the squad have been cut, this including Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood, who pulled out of the training camp with injury.
This is not the absolute definite squad as changes have been made to the rules to work around COVID-19 rules, which allow changes to the 26-man squad up to the day before the opening match against Croatia (11th June.)
But what have we learnt from the squad and how does it help our understanding on how the team will be set up in the tournament.
- IT WILL BE A BACK 3
Despite taking 4 right backs and 2 left backs, the fact that Connor Coady and Reece James have made the squad imply that a back three will more than likely be applied. England have obviously used that tactic in the past: reaching the Semi-Final of the World Cup in 2018 using Kyle Walker-Harry Maguire-John Stones as the back three. With Connor Coady in the squad, who is more familiar and much more comfortable as part of a defensive trio at club side Wolverhampton Wanderers, it would be a risk to potentially play a him in a system that has been poor in. I also think that Reece James has come in to be a right sided centre-back rather than a rightback.
2. STERLING AND RASHFORD FIRST CHOICE?
It is slightly arbitrary looking at squad numbers to determine anything, but it gives more insight when it is for a major tournament. Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford have been allocated shirt numbers 10 and 11 respectfully, with both men trusted more by Southgate. It sounds like a weak argument to say this but if you take away the losses to Belgium during the 2018 World Cup (where the matchday squad was changed up due to being dead rubber matches), only four players with squad numbers higher than 11 started a match. Kieran Trippier (12) and Ashley Young (18) were staring fullbacks, Dele Alli (20) started three matches and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (23) played in the win agaisnt Panama.
Jadon Sancho is number 17 in the squad and unless I am reading too much into this will probably have to take a seat on the bench for the opening match at least.
3. Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire are their for experience
Both men were surprise picks in the squad not for their ability but for their availability. The Liverpool captain has not played since February’s loss to Everton due to a groin injury, and has not been played in his familiar centre-mid role since 2020. Harry Maguire has also had a major injury scare to be fit in time for the Euros, having missed the last four League matches and the Europa League Final due to an ankle injury.
Southgate in his press conference today has said how Henderson has already had a positive effect on the players in the camp with his knowledge and experience. With an abundance of possible centre back options, the probability of Maguire not being risked in the first game is minimal, especially as Southgate has said he does not know what game he could return to being fully fit.
4. A lot of shouting about nothing
My word for the past week, all we have been seeing in the media, on Television and in the papers is that Trent Alexander-Arnold will be dropped in favour of the other right-back options. Reports everywhere in the media proved to be wrong, as at around 3pm on the day of the squad announcement, Sky Sports News reported that he was in fact in the 26 man team, rendering all their shit-stirring meaningless. Southgate himself has said today that everything the papers about the 22-year-olds admission was a load of nonsense.
But who would have thought the English media would have a negative image of the England set-up in the run up to a major tournament.
5. The Standby list still have their chance
The seven players that have been cut from the original 33-man squad still have their chance to get into the team. Mason Greenwood may have pulled out due to injury but the other six names will still be hoping that they can make it into the squad if a member of the final 26 is injured.
Aaron Ramsdale, Ben Godfery, Ben White, James Ward-Prowse, Jesse Lingard and Ollie Watkins had the chance to leave the training camp after the news of not making the Euros squad but chose to stay and train at St James Park.
With England’s squad being littered with players half-fit due to injury or for their involvement in one of the European Finals, Southgate has confirmed that in tomorrows friendly with Austria, Jesse Lingard will start. I will say that again, Jesse Lingard, who has been cut from the squad for the European Championships, will play in the pre-tournament warm-up match against Austria. What even is the bloody point?
England start their preparations tomorrow night against Austria at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, before playing Romania (for the first time since 2000) on Sunday.
The start of England’s European Championships campaign is at 2pm on Sunday, June 13th against Croatia.