Fifteen years ago, England expected, as the Three Lions headed into a tournament with a so-called "Golden Generation".
With the emergence of more mega bucks into the top flight, ambitious English stars leaving for the Bundesliga and a crop of players to choose from who won World Cups at youth level, perhaps that makes the current bunch a "Platinum Generation".
Euro 2020 might just be the hardest England squad to pick, ever. In the past we've had obvious back fours, midfields that pick themselves: this time around, no one is a dead cert. Whoever gets chosen, other huge names are going to miss out.
So here at FourFourTwo, we thought we'd play God - or at least, play Southgate. We put the question to our writers for who they'd pick in their first XI, who would make their 23-man team and what formation they'd opt for.
No two writers picked the same XI, let alone the same 23 players to make up the squad. Now you're getting the size of Southgate's task...
Joe Brewin, Deputy Editor (@JoeBrewinFFT)
"I actually found this more difficult than expected – there are notable omissions for Bukayo Saka, plus the likes of James Maddison, Mason Greenwood, James Ward-Prowse, Danny Ings and (the presumably unfit) Joe Gomez... but on the whole, it's probably a good thing: on balance, these players probably don't get in simply due to the form of others.
"Trent is an exception – he's got money in the bank to ensure his pick here. Chilwell and Shaw are more experienced than Saka (great as he is); Walker nudges out Trippier/James due to his versatility; Maddison makes way for the extra centre-back Southgate might need with a back three; JWP suffers against the more dynamic and younger options.
"When it comes to the starting XI, I've gone for some tough choices – it's a real toss-up between Rashford and Sancho and could be a coin-toss for me. I've seen enough of the former this season to believe he's best upfront, but he'll never get that with England. He probably shades it here still, though. As for Sterling, I'm yet to be truly convinced. If Grealish isn't in the starting XI somewhere I'll be seriously peeved – for me, he's been the best English player in the Premier League this year – and I think Foden could be another brilliant lock-picker we've often cried out for.
"On the whole, I want to see something different from an England that is clearly very capable. Stodgy games in 2020 did little to inspire and suggested Southgate might really need to shake things up to avoid tired and one-paced slogs against stern opposition. In reality, I don't think he will be anywhere near this adventurous – but either way, there are some very welcome headaches at this stage."
Conor Pope, Online Editor (@ConorPope)
"Even in a solid Everton team, Jordan Pickford has looked flappable, while Nick Pope is a source of reliability for Burnley. The two sides' conceded columns are startlingly similar, despite their differing fortunes this season.
"Ahead of that, I've opted for a 4-3-3 – partly to get as many of England's best players in as possible, and partly because neither Stones nor Maguire play in a back three regularly for their clubs. After the season he's had, Luke Shaw was a no-brainer at left-back with Chilwell over Saka in reserve. Right-back is a tough one. I'd be keen to get Aaron Wan-Bissaka included, but Trippier feels the best option after Alexander-Arnold (who has to start, I think), while Walker's inclusion comes to ensure there is the flexibility to play a 3-5-2, if need be.
"The front three pick themselves – they're among three of the best players in the world – while Foden's selection over Grealish is partly down to his utility; one of Guardiola's big successes this season is that seeing his name on the teamsheet only vaguely implies what role he might be playing."
Chris Flanagan, Senior Staff Writer (@CFlanaganFFT)
"I've based my squad around playing four at the back, largely because of a dislike of 3-5-2 - it invariably ends up with too many defenders on the field, with someone playing out of position and making uncharacteristic mistakes because of it.
"Jordan Pickford retains his place in goal because of a lack of competition - I still worry that eventually, he'll make a mistake in a key England game. The full-backs were the trickiest decisions, particularly choosing between Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker. All three deserve to be in, but realistically there's no point picking more than two.
"Likewise, it feels harsh to leave Bukayo Saka out of the squad, but without wing-backs, he'd be competing against Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell, who are more proven at left-back. Further up the field, Saka would be behind some of the other options. It's hard to look past Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford as a pretty formidable front three, with Jadon Sancho as a more than handy back-up. Phil Foden takes the starting spot in attacking midfield but Jack Grealish is pushing for a place too, either in that role or out wide.
"I've opted for John Stones alongside Harry Maguire at centre back, which will be a key position for Gareth Southgate. Going forward, England should be one of the best teams of the tournament. Their success may depend on performances at the back."
Ed McCambridge, Staff Writer (@edmccambridge)
"Given the talent we can choose from, it’d be (typically!) daft of England to sit back and allow teams to dominate the ball this summer. That’s why I have tried to choose as positive a Iineup as possible - with a few experienced heads scattered among the technicians.
"Pickford still starts for me, as he’s the best in possession and has plenty of time to build form between now and the Scotland game. Three at the back is the safest foundation considering our lack of a truly world class central defender, and I believe Stones, Maguire and Mings provide the best blend of calm distribution, aerial ability and pace. The Aston Villa man pips Eric Dier to the third CB position on account of being left-footed and absolutely rapid.
"I’ve taken Bukayo Saka as my backup LWB (and all-round utility man) - he’s not as experienced or scrappy as Luke Shaw but he offers more going forward. Trent over Kyle Walker, while Ward-Prowse makes my starting XI just inside the Liverpool defender. The Saints skipper is arguably the best dead-ball specialist in European football and his pressing game and tactical intelligence have hugely improved under the tutelage of club boss Ralph Hasenuttl.
"Grealish takes the talismanic midfielder mantle that once belonged to Gazza. His confidence in his own ability is something too many great midfielders have lacked on England duty in the past. Harry Kane’s playmaking prowess should get the best out of Sterling, though the City forward will need to be at his best to keep Rashford and Sancho on the bench."
Mark White, Staff Writer (@markwhlte)
Ladies and gentlemen, England will be playing 4-3-f***ing-3.
Despite the embarrassment of talent we have right now, I’m being relatively cautious. A tight, Klopp-like midfield holds the key, while my front three is basically lifted from Manchester City’s template this season. I’d love to squeeze Jack Grealish, James Maddison or Marcus Rashford into a 4-2-3-1 here but I fear that the Euros will be won by the side who are physically and systematically supreme, rather than the most exciting.
That means a few things. Alexander-Arnold is a risk at right-back on recent form - but gets in based on the system - Kyle Walker has to be deputy, however, based on experience: sorry James, Lamptey, Trippier, Wan-Bissaka and everyone. Mount gets the nod over Maddison or Grealish based on security, in possession and positionally. Rice has a big role defensively for me, which Henderson has to do in his absence (Ward-Prowse to then cover). Greenwood, Alli, Hudson-Odoi and Ings all miss out simply through there being better in-form players in those positions.
In other years, I'd have loved to have taken either Jude Bellingham or Curtis Jones in the "Theo Walcott spot" of the squad. I just can't justify it with such talent available though: however, Bukayo Saka gets in over Chilwell, for me. It's a guilty pleasure pick; he's essentially a right-winger these days rather than a left-back but his versatility means I can feasibly reward him for the season he’s having. Hooray.
James Andrew, Editor (@JamesAndrew_)
"It’s been a miserable 12 months in lockdown but there is light at the end of the tunnel and by June hopefully things will be close to normal. If that is the case then the Euros should be one big celebration and hopefully Gareth and the boys can give us something to celebrate.
"But after the last year he should look to entertain the England fans too - so forget three centre backs, let's try and outscore everyone we play. England have one of the most exciting groups of attacking players they have had in a long time, so let's get as many of them in the team as possible.
"Start with Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and James Madison behind Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling and let's go on the attack against every opponent from the start. And if that doesn't work then the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood are all ready and waiting to come off the bench.
"If we conceded three, let’s go and score four."
Ryan Dabbs, News Writer (@RyanDabbs_)
"Unconvinced with a back three best displaying England's attacking talents, a 4-3-3 could best suit for the upcoming Euros.
"Three men in midfield best utilises the mix of energy and flair needed to dominate games, with Mount and Foden on either side of Henderson in midfield highlighting exactly that. Foden and Mount have been unplayable at times this season, and should start for England regardless of the formation.
"Henderson steals the goalkeeping spot despite playing second fiddle at Manchester United for most of the season, although all three goalkeepers have strong claims to the No.1 shirt, with no stand out choice. Walker's superior defending ability pips Trent to the right back slot, while Shaw's incredible season ousts Chilwell's inconsistent beginning to his Chelsea career for the other full back position.
"England's forward line are devastating on their day, and could include any combination of Kane, Sterling, Grealish, Rashford and Sancho. Greenwood and Maddison are notable exclusions from the squad, although they simply don't offer anything different or more to what is already there.
"Bukayo Saka and Jesse Lingard are a couple of wildcard shouts for the squad, with the latter's recent form reminiscent of why he started for Southgate's 2018 World Cup squad. Saka has been Arsenal's standout player this season, and at just 19, this could prove an invaluable experience for the versatile midfielder/forward/wing-back."
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