Who Should Play Attacking Midfield for England at Euro 2020?
While the FA work out whether England will play their scheduled friendlies against Italy and Denmark later this month – or in the continent-wide Euro 2020 in the summer – Gareth Southgate faces a few big decisions of his own. The England manager is sweating on the fitness of forwards Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford, but he has no such concerns when it comes to attacking midfielders. Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard started for England in the World Cup semi-final in 2018, but Alli is clinging on to his place in the squad and Lingard will almost certainly miss out. Southgate is facing a conundrum: who should come into the squad and who should start in that slot behind the forwards?
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is not first choice at club level but Southgate is a big admirer, particularly in light of the tactical versatility that he offers to the side. The 26-year-old – who has missed the previous three major tournaments through injury – should pick up enough minutes before the end of the season to make the cut. Rating in the league this season: 6.73
Ross Barkley, Chelsea
Ross Barkley is hitting form at just the right time and is another Southgate favorite. He made six appearances in the Euro 2020 qualifiers and had a hand in seven goals, scoring four and setting up three more. His braces in Bulgaria and Montenegro meant that Harry Kane (12) and Raheem Sterling (eight) were the only England players who scored more often in qualifying. Barkley has also been excellent for Chelsea recently. He has scored two goals and set up four more in his last seven domestic starts. His experience at international level will likely earn him a place in the squad. Rating: 6.90
James Maddison, Leicester City
James Maddison made his England debut in November when he came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a 7–0 win over Montenegro in qualifying. At the time, he was a frontrunner for the playmaker role in the team but his form has dipped badly in the last few months. He has not scored or set up a goal in his last 11 matches in all competitions for Leicester. Nevertheless, his creativity and ability over a dead ball will stand him in good stead. No Englishman has more key passes in the Premier League this season (75). Rating: 7.34
Jack Grealish, Aston Villa
Jack Grealish offers something different to the rest of the players on this list, but he has still not won an England cap. He has not even been called into a squad before, with Southgate seemingly unsure where the Villa captain would fit into the side. His form has been impressive this season, scoring seven goals and laying on six assists for a team in the relegation zone. Only Kevin De Bruyne has created more chances from open play in the Premier League. Grealish carries the ball exceptionally well and draws more fouls than you can count in most matches but, given Southgate’s previous reticence, the 24-year-old remains an outside bet. Rating: 7.33
Mason Mount, Chelsea
Mason Mount finally ended his three-month, 18-game wait for a goal at the weekend when he opened the scoring for Chelsea in their 4-0 thrashing of Everton. His return to the scoresheet could be vital. Mount does not have Maddison’s creativity or Grealish’s dribbling ability, but instead relies on his intelligent movement to pick up goalscoring positions. At 21, his potential is superb, but he needs to finish the season as strongly as he started it to make the squad. One thing for sure is that Chelsea’s match against Villa this weekend will be huge for the hopefuls involved. Rating: 7.01
Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
After an inspired period of form seemingly kickstarted by the appointment of José Mourinho at Tottenham, Dele Alli is looking more frustrated than ever. He has been forced to play a role that does not really suit him, leading the line rather than playing off Harry Kane, the 23-year-old’s form has nosedived since the turn of the year. He has plenty of experience with England so cannot be ruled out, but as things stand there are better options. Rating: 6.96
Phil Foden, Manchester City
Phil Foden is a long shot but his performance in the League Cup final may have tempted Southgate to give him a chance. Far stranger things have happened when it comes to England squad selections for major tournaments, but we should not forget that Foden has only completed the full 90 minutes in the Premier League once this season – Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday. His technique and composure are unquestionable, as he has shown this season in the Champions League. He and Lionel Messi have created the most clear-cut chances in the competition this season (six each). Foden may not make the cut this summer, but he will be a shoo-in for the World Cup in 2022. Rating: 6.46