My England XI

Written by Edward Pitt

March 26, 2021

This one’s not an Arsenal piece, but I think it might be one that a lot of you may be interested in reading. With the Euros coming up this summer, and some of the games set to be played in the UK, England will have aspirations of going deep into the competition. We reached the semi-final of the World Cup 3 years ago, and in fairness we should have gone further. However, this will be arguably just as tough as the World Cup. Some of the best teams in the world right now are from Europe. I would imagine that for the next WC, France, Germany and Belgium will likely be the favourites. These are the kinds of teams we will have to beat to take home the trophy.

England will fancy their chances though. I would argue that our squad hasn’t been as strong since the golden generation about 15 years ago now. Plenty of options all over the pitch and there has been plenty of debate as to who should start. So, I’m going to pick how I would set England up for the Euros. Then, if you guys like it I will make some more Euros content, like which 23 players should be on the plane for England.

4-3-3: There are a number of potential formations, but I want to see England move away from the 5 at the back that we were using at the World Cup. When you have this much attacking talent, you need to play to those strengths. Rather than playing to guard your weaknesses.

GK – Nick Pope: I like Pope and I also really like Dean Henderson. I think between the two I don’t mind too much but in the interest of fairness, Southgate has to reward Pope for a number of years now as one of the league’s best goalies. He is a formidable shot-stopper who doesn’t make many mistakes. One thing I would say in making a case for Henderson is that it is very different being a Burnley goalie to a Manchester United goalie. Burnley face a lot of shots, so Pope generally has to concentrate for the entire game. At a club like United, Henderson goes 20-30 minute spells with nothing to do and then has to make a save. That is mightily impressive. If Henderson plays the rest of this season with United and takes some sharpness and more experience, I would be tempted to pick him, but as it stands I would go with Pope. Pickford would be lucky to be on the plane for me. If we play him, you know that he will cost us a goal during the tournament. It might be a goal that doesn’t matter or it might be the winning goal in the final. That kind of risk is not what you want with your ‘keeper

RB – Reece James: I really, really like Reece James. In my opinion, Trent is the best attacking fullback for England, Wan Bissaka is the best defensively, Reece James is the most well rounded. I’ve never seen him have a real clanger defensively, and going forward he has always looked really good for Chelsea. I think with the attacking talent we have, we don’t need to take the risk of TAA. Sure, he will create some goals and I’d have him on the plane. But, like Pickford, I feel that without Van Dijk next to him he could easily cost us a goal too. At the end of the day though we have an abundance of options here, and as long as it isn’t Tripper, I’m not gonna be too gutted either way

CENTRE BACKS – John Stones and Harry Maguire: John Stones can’t be dropped right now. He and Dias have been the two best defenders in the PL this season. They’re probably the best defensive partnership in the world right now. Stones is comfortable on the ball, good in the air and very mobile, which he will have to be to play next to Maguire. Harry Maguire may not be the £80 million player that United thought he was, but he is still one of England’s best. He wins most of his headers and actually carries the ball forward well at times. His issue at United is that Lindelof is also slow, meaning they just don’t work together. With a more mobile guy like Stones, I think they will be the best partnership that England can put forward

LB – Luke Shaw: I’m not going to be disappointed if Southgate choose Chilwell. They are both formidable left backs having good seasons. I just think Luke Shaw has been slightly better this season. Plus, he has that relationship with Maguire which will surely help. Though in truth, I think we can’t go far wrong with either of those guys

MIDFIELD 3 – Declan Rice, Mason Mount, Phil Foden: Any good midfield 3 in the modern game needs 3 types of players. Man City do this the best right now so I will compare it to their model. Rodri is the CDM, who just sits and allows others to go forward. Gundogan is the box to box guy. He largely plays next to Rodri but is able to get forward a bit more. De Bruyne is the creator. He is afforded the freedom to drift around, follow the ball and make things happen. Declan Rice can be the Rodri. He plays with two very attacking full backs at West Ham and Soucek who basically plays upfront at times. So, Rice is very used to doing the dirty work and sitting deep. Mason Mount has always shown a willingness to travel from box-to-box. Southgate clearly loves him and I really rate him too. I actually think he is better picking the ball up deep as well. In certain tough games I might go for Henderson in there ahead of him, but overall Mount has a lot more to his game. Meanwhile, Phil Foden is just pure class. He oozes skill. As we are playing with Kane through the middle, who will drop into that false 9/number 10 role at times, we don’t need a natural number 10. We need a tricky, smart creator like Foden who will have a field down playing off of Kane.

LW – Jack Grealish: That already tells you that two of Rashford, Sterling and Sancho will miss out. But, I just couldn’t leave Grealish out. He has been the most creative player in the league this season. To be fair, other than Kane and maybe Stones, I think he should be the first name on the team sheet. Both Chilwell and Shaw like to play high and wide, allowing Grealish the freedom to drift inside and make things happen in that left channel, like he does for Villa. Whenever I’ve seen him play for England, he has been our best player. If he’s fit, he must play

CF – Harry Kane: No questions asked here. DCL, Ollie Watkins, Danny Ings and Patrick Bamford are all decent options, but I think Kane might just be the best striker in the world right now. He is truly world class. It will be a strange few weeks where I actually want a Spurs player to do well. He is clinical, he is a leader, he is good in the air and he will drop into that hole and allow others to run ahead of him

RW – Marcus Rashford: I think of our wingers in two brackets. Sancho and Grealish are creative wingers, Sterling and Rashford are wingers that score goals. With that in mind, I wanted one from each bracket, meaning with Grealish playing, I ruled out Jadon Sancho (though he will be a great option off the bench). I like Sterling, but I just think he’s not been having a great season and I’ve never really been impressed with him in an England shirt. For the record, I think Rashford is better from the left. But, so is Grealish. Furthermore, with Reece James providing the width and Kane dropping deep, I’m expecting Rashford to play high and narrow, sort of like Son at Spurs. His job will take him back to basics; make those runs off Kane and in behind, and score some goals. I think as well, playing off the right simplifies his game. Like Pepe at Arsenal who had some success out on the left. I had toyed with the idea of starting Saka, and as a natural left-footer I think he has a chance. But, it might just be a bit soon for him to start. He will be on that plane though

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