The postponement of Euro 2020 could be a blessing in disguise for Gareth Southgate – we take a look at five youngsters that could make the break through.
Today should have marked the start of Euro 2020 with England originally set to take on Croatia on Sunday at Wembley.
Following the decision to postpone Euro 2020 due to coronavirus, the Euro 2021 tournament will now take place between June 11 and July 11 next summer.
The 12-month postponement could give some young English players a chance to impress Southgate.
Here we take a look at five uncapped players that could make a breakthrough…
Japhet Tanganga (5/1 with Sky Bet to make 2021 squad)
“We haven’t got a great amount of strength in depth at centre-back at the moment,” Southgate said on The Football Show. That isn’t exactly a front-page revelation but it certainly backs up the view that there is not an array of options or alternatives to Harry Maguire and Joe Gomez.
There’s Tyrone Mings, who played in England’s last fixture with Kosovo, but he doesn’t have the same level of international experience as others and might well be a Sky Bet Championship player come this time next year.
John Stones is out of favour at Manchester City and Michael Keane’s stock has dropped over the past 12 months. Fikayo Tomori is becoming an important player for Chelsea and is sure to be on Southgate radar, along with Tanganga, who burst on to the scene in January after being surprisingly handed his Premier League debut for Tottenham by Jose Mourinho against Liverpool.
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He made nine further starts before the season was curtailed by the coronavirus outbreak, playing all across the backline but it is expected that his future very much lies at the heart of the defence.
The defender has represented England at every age group up to the U20s.
Jan Vertonghen looks set to be moved on during the summer, so Tanganga’s opportunities in the first team at centre-back will surely increase. That’s his natural position and he possesses all the required attributes to develop into a top-class defender, especially under the guidance of Mourinho, whose emphasis still revolves around making his teams hard to beat.
Phil Foden (6/4 with Sky Bet to make 2021 squad)
There is a chance that 2021 might just be the year of Foden.
The amount of focus and words written surrounding the 19-year-old is pretty staggering considering he has yet to complete 90 minutes in the Premier League this season.
His cameos for City have caught the eye, rubber-stamping the impression he made when starring for England U17s in the World Cup triumph of 2017 when he also was named player of the tournament.
The latest glimpse of his vast potential was enough to earn him the man-of-the-match award as City beat Aston Villa 2-1 to win a third consecutive Carabao Cup final under Guardiola.
But his time to become a regular might just be around the corner which is an exciting thought for Southgate and England fans.
Foden has been unlucky in some regard that his path to the City first team has been blocked by David Silva, one of the club’s greatest players. However, Silva will depart City in the summer after a decade of magic. According to Guardiola, Foden is the man to replace his illustrious team-mate.
“David is going to leave this season and we are not going to buy any player in his position because we have Phil,” Guardiola said in January. England’s future could be in safe hands.
Bukayo Saka (3/1 with Sky Bet to make 2021 squad)
When you think of cliches involved with the England national team, two immediately spring to mind. Perennial underachievers is one. A problem down the left is the other – but that might be about to change.
Ben Chilwell has developed into a fine player at Leicester City to the extent he is top of Chelsea and Manchester City’s wish-list for a left-back this summer. Chilwell has established himself as the first-choice down that side for Southgate, starting the last three qualification matches.
However, there is a vacancy as a back-up with Danny Rose is trying to rebuild his confidence and form at Newcastle and Luke Shaw’s inconsistency and injury issues continue to make him a frustrating candidate. It leaves the door wide open for Arsenal youngster Saka, who does not even turn 19 until the start of next season but he has already established himself as an important player for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.
Saka’s career progression is mirroring that of Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose attacking quality has been utilised from full-back while also possessing the learning capacity to improve in his defensive work.
Saka has already shown in his time in the Arsenal first team he has the culture and the guile with his delivery to produce game-changing moments in matches.
His cheeky nutmeg on Newcastle’s Valentino Lazaro and precise cross for Nicholas Pepe in the 4-0 victory over the Toon on a Super Sunday showcased to the watching world what Saka was all about.
That is one of nine assists he has racked up across all competitions. That’s more than Mesut Ozil, Wilfried Zaha and Paul Pogba have managed this season combined. His data puts him top of the shop when it comes to English left-back assist makers this season. An international call-up surely isn’t far away.
Mason Greenwood (4/1 with Sky Bet to make 2021 squad)
“I’d say Mason Greenwood is a better finisher than Marcus Rashford – and that’s saying something, he really does look the real deal,” said Gary Neville, after Greenwood rescued a point for Manchester United against Everton in December.
If anyone knows a thing or two about progressing through the Manchester United academy, it’s Neville. And he believes Greenwood could be among the very best the club has produced.
The 18-year-old has 12 goals in all competitions this season for United with his performances in the Europa League drawing big praise from onlookers. The numbers back up the visuals too. His expected goals data in the Europa League show that he should have scored just over two goals in his 481 minutes of action but he’s actually found the net five times. It’s that strike-rate and style that has seen his finishing ability likened to that of Robin van Persie, who had the same cultured left-footed method when banging the goals in for United.
Greenwood’s task of breaking into the England fold does look a tough one though as he’s competing in a special era for talented young attacking players. Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford all look nailed on for a spot in 2021, however, Greenwood is a player capable of providing a genuine match-winning impact, vital for tournament football, and that could edge him ahead of the likes of Tammy Abraham, Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Kalvin Phillips (3/1 with Sky Bet to make 2021 squad)
Since the World Cup in Russia, Southgate has used 12 different midfielders and has yet to find someone to play in the pivot role at the base. Harry Winks is in the driving seat for that position due to his previous performances, especially in the win over Spain, while Declan Rice also was given his chance in the qualification period but looked raw.
Those that have seen Phillips play for Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa won’t need convincing of whether or not he’s good enough to compete with the likes of Winks and Rice in this position when, barring no huge collapse, Leeds return to the Premier League next season.
He’s flourished to such an extent in a defensive midfield role that the Elland Road faithful now warmly refer to him as the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’.
Southgate has already been a visitor at Elland Road to watch Phillips up close with a call-up reportedly on the agenda before the season suspension.
Pick your England XI for Euro 2021
Who should make the starting XI for Euro 2021? Do any of the five above make a strong case? Pick your team below and share on @SkyFootball, or let us know any long-shots we may have missed by commenting at the bottom of the page…