England’s forward line is packed full of talent and certainly provides Gareth Southgate with his biggest dilemma heading into Euro 2020. The three games that the Three Lions will play over this international break will hopefully provide some clarity for the England boss, as San Marino, Albania and Poland are all set to feel the full force of the English attack.
There is only one certainty in this England team, that no fan, pundit or coach will have any qualms with. Harry Kane, barring injury, will be the starting striker at the European Championships and will look to add a second consecutive international Golden Boot to his collection, following his six-goal haul at the Russia World Cup three years ago.
So, with Kane as the number nine, that leaves two or potentially three places up for grabs in England’s attacking line-up. Unlike in 2018, where Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford partnered the Spurs striker up front in a 5-3-2, there is a growing queue of potential candidates in line for a starting spot.
This international break sees England without Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish, two players who have come on hugely in the past twelve months. Sancho’s form for Dortmund has been incredibly impressive with 28 goal involvements in 31 appearances this season while Grealish has been one of the standout players for club and country, impressing in a Three Lions shirt in the last international break. Both players missing these three competitive games with injuries will surely impact their chance of featuring in the starting eleven this summer.
Jesse Lingard’s return to the England squad has been well-earned due to his performances at West Ham and he did provide thrust to Southgate’s team from central midfield at the last World Cup. He faces much stiffer competition to even make the squad this time around but he does have the trust of the manager, and is playing some of the best football of his career.
In those central areas, Mason Mount and Phil Foden look to be vying for a spot in midfield. Mount has been heavily criticised in an England shirt but at 22, is always improving and has been impressive under both Thomas Tuchel and Frank Lampard this season. He gives an option to play in a deeper role if England need a goal, while Phil Foden is simply one of the most talented players we have produced in recent years.
At 20, he provides yet more competition to that attacking midfield area, while he has played out wide for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City this season. Foden is almost certain to make the squad this summer, but whether Southgate can find a place for him in the starting XI amongst players with more experience remains to be seen.
Another talented midfielder, James Maddison, had been impressing with Leicester before another hip injury ruled him out of contention for this squad and in turn, it is looking increasingly unlikely he will find a place ahead of some of these other names in the squad this summer.
One of the big questions Southgate will face, and the answer will differ from game to game in the build-up, is how to perfectly blend pace, striking ability and guile. In Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, England possess two incredibly talented wide men who could be potent on the break against sides willing to attack this England side. For the aforementioned duo, these three games are pivotal in securing a starting spot this summer. If they underperform, they may well be watching on from the bench in June.
Mount, Foden, Grealish, Lingard, Maddison, Sancho, Sterling, Rashford. England boast an embarrassment of riches to complement Harry Kane this summer. For Southgate, these three games are just about finding out which trio can form the most potent attack.