The league season is over for most of Europe and with that sees international football return to close out the season. With the World Cup not until November, UEFA have decided to start the third edition of the Nations League with England facing Hungary twice, Italy and Germany this June.
Despite nobody even remembering France winning the last one and the tournament being in a format which not many people understand and described as glorified friendlies, international football is much more entertaining in a World Cup year. All games matter in terms of preparation, but for managers it is key in determining which players should be in the squads for the upcoming tournaments. Southgate has picked a squad of 27 for the Nations League, with only 23 places available for the World Cup, so it’s safe to say a good few positions are up in the air.
After 18 goals and 31 assists this season, West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen has been rightfully called up to the squad along with Roma’s Tammy Abraham who scored 27 goals this season. It is hard to argue with either of these inclusions, whilst most likely neither will be in the starting 11 come November, they have had much better seasons than the likes of Ollie Watkins and Emile Smith-Rowe, two players who have dropped out of the squad.
In terms of the defensive positions, James Justin of Leicester has received his first England call up. The versatile full-back has only played 19 games this season, but his ability to play both sides is why he’s been called up, with no left-footed fullbacks being at Southgate’s disposal. Serie A winner Fikayo Tomori is back in the England squad. He has had a stellar season at AC Milan and considering England play three at the back, with the way he’s performed since he left England he should be a guaranteed starter from here on out. Trippier is back in the squad, with Marc Guehi keeping his place in the squad and despite coming under criticism, Harry Maguire is in the 27 man team too.
England are obviously missing a natural left back and after James Maddison’s season, he’s unfortunate to miss out of this squad, but it’s hard to say he’d start ahead of Bellingham, Foden or Mount. Jordan Henderson is out of the squad however it’s hard to drop Rice, Ward-Prowse or Phillips, so on the whole, Southgate’s side is shaping up well for the quadruple header.
Best possible XI (3-4-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Tomori; James, Rice, Phillips, Trippier; Sterling, Kane, Foden
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Coady, Marc Guehi, Reece James, James Justin, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse
Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling