our player-by-player verdict on Gareth Southgate’s 26
Gareth Southgate has announced his 26-man England squad for the European Championships and there are inclusions and omissions that raise eyebrows.
Here’s the full rundown of the squad and what each player can bring to the squad.
The first choice in a position not very well served. “Pickers,” as Southgate affectionately calls him, once answered a question that he may have “overthought” a situation by pointing out that overthinking was not a danger to a man seen as the one of the simplest characters on the team. A courageous and sometimes reckless guardian. It was his savage challenge on Virgil Van Dijk that ended the Liverpool captain’s season. But Pickford is also Southgate’s best in terms of distribution. His penalty save allowed England to win the round of 16 of the 2018 World Cup against Colombia.
Say: loves shots on goal (and rave).
Do not mention: a tendency to lead with his feet in times of great anxiety.
A strong 2019-20 season on loan at Sheffield United saw him return to parent club Manchester United declaring his intention to fight De Gea for the top spot. While he’s played majors in 2020-21, for a variety of reasons, it would be hard to say he made a compelling case for being United’s No.1. Another who is capable of mistakes and takes strange positions. Likes to project total confidence and self-confidence although this does not necessarily mean that it is shared by everyone around them. He’ll need to be able to be a No.2 and show he’s ready to be a good team player for what could be a long tournament.
Say: much better at saving penalties than De Gea.
Do not mention: the sizable portion of the goal left open for Salah at Old Trafford.
Would have been left at home had it not been for Pope’s injury which saw Henderson promoted to No.2. Another United academy boy who had a stellar season at relegated West Bromwich Albion where he made more saves than any other Premier League goalkeeper – which says a lot about him and perhaps the state of West Brom’s defense. Good on the cast, which is important to the way Southgate plays. At 28, he has experience, even if the main thing is in Championship and League One.
Say: zero errors leading to goals conceded this season in the Premier League.
Do not mention: 76 Premier League goals conceded this season.
At 30, one of the key senior players, and coming off one of his best seasons at Manchester City. His aggressiveness, pace and athleticism, as well as the technical qualities he has always had, make him stand out, Southgate played him as a right center-back at Russia 2018. Away from football, his life has at times seemed messy. He became a regular in the tabloids by fathering a child with a woman who is not his partner. Then he had to apologize for one of the most memorable lockdown transgressions – hiring sex workers. Oddly enough, his football has never been so good. Given the strict conditions of the Covid bubble in the English camp, he may have no choice but to behave.
Say: good performance against Mbappé in Paris this season.
Do not mention: that second yellow against Iceland in September – what was he thinking?
A Southgate favorite and a modern, versatile full or winged rear. With the dubious distinction of being one of the few top players to be banned by the Football Association for gambling offenses. It was on the bets of friends placed on his departure from Tottenham Hotspur in 2019. His performance from wide positions remains excellent and he is La Liga champion with Atletico Madrid where he has played 27 league games this season, even with the FA ban. He was a remarkable artist in Spain. His days as a useful tipster, hopefully, are now behind him.
Say: An Englishman playing abroad and winning a league title. How refreshing.
Do not mention: ” Thanks to this “.
A mainstay for Southgate as a premier center-back in a problematic position – which makes his ankle ligament injury a major concern. A determined and physical type of defender who is also kind to the ball, although there is this lingering concern that he does not belong to the highest caliber of international center-halfs. Will hope for a better summer than the last one who saw him enter the Greek criminal justice system after a vacation there went wrong and forced him to protest his innocence on BBC News at Ten. Another hero of Russia 2018 who saw his career take off at this World Cup, but who enters the Euro with a higher profile and an injury.
Say: neat on the ball, powerful tackling, slab header in the air.
Do not mention: “Fancy a pre-season friendly match in Mykonos? “.
By far, half of the best defensive duo in the Premier League. Resurrected his Manchester City career alongside Ruben Dias and performed as well as he ever did for much of the season. Like many of his City teammates, however, the Champions League final could have been better. There have been ups and downs since Russia 2018, when he, Maguire and Walker were the last three. Will always be the first choice to take the ball out of defense by Guardiola and does it as well as any midfielder when in form. Again, the question is whether he can avoid those moments when concentration gets out of hand.
Say: carry it out of defense and look for the ball between the lines.
Do not mention: that nagging fear that he might just overcomplicate things.