Gareth Southgate has a lot to mull over as the England boss decides who he is selecting for the rearranged European Championship, where he hopes UEFA sticks to a 23-man group amid talk of expanded squads.
Harry Maguire fired the Three Lions to a late 2-1 win against Poland on Wednesday evening to strengthen their control of their World Cup qualification group with a third successive victory.
It was England’s last competitive match before the Euros and their final Wembley game until they kick off Euro 2020 against Croatia on June 13 before facing Scotland and the Czech Republic under the arch.
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Southgate’s focus now drills down to the players representing the national team this summer, with his selection set to be revealed shortly after the Premier League season finishes on May 23.
“I’m really pleased with what they’ve all done,” the England boss said after the qualification wins against San Marino, Albania and Poland.
“We have of course got some players, particularly in attacking areas, who are out at the moment who are going to come into the reckoning.
“But we just don’t know what that will be like in reality. We’ve got another eight to 10 weeks of an intense season.
“Some players are going to be back from injury, unfortunately we’re likely to lose some others through that period. I think that’s going to be the reality.
“We’re just going to have to monitor all of that, make sure that we’re up to speed on where everybody’s at.
“There’s a lot for us think through, of course, but we’re pretty much where we knew we were.”
Southgate knows there will be some difficult decisions and situations to deal with as the selection edges closer, with the England manager and his coaches analysing the depth chart of strength in each area of the field.
Some areas look more competitive than others but such calls may become easier if talk of the squad being increased from 23 to 25 players comes to fruition after UEFA announced five substitutes can be used at the finals.
“I know there’s some discussion about perhaps an extended number in the squad,” Southgate said. “I’m not certain I’m behind that.
“I know Covid could play a part but I think there’s a skill to picking 23.
“It means you’ve got to make good decisions and important decisions and I think some of that can be lost as you get an extended group.
“So, yeah, let’s see how that develops but I’m not 100 per cent for it, I’d have to say.”
While unsure about the merits of an expanded squad, Southgate knows the need to stave off fatigue as much as possible is key.
The England boss felt his players were tiring towards the end of this triple-header and the Euros come hot on the heels of a frantic club campaign, offering precious little time for players to rest and recuperate.
Asked if it is going to be possible to give players time off before linking up with England like he did at the 2018 World Cup, Southgate said: “Yes, we will still look to do that.
“Whether they’re going to be able to go away is of course looking highly unlikely but I think they need a rest period. Psychologically they need that rest.
“Under normal circumstances there’s clearly potentially five or six attacking players that we’d have been able to refresh the team across the three games.
“Even though 45 minutes in the first game doesn’t seem anything, as you get towards the end of the third game all those things take their toll.
“We knew these were important qualifiers, we had to push.
“We’ve recovered and looked after the players in the best possible way but come the summer we will have more options to refresh during matches and to make those changes that I think will allow us to rotate the squad a bit more, so I think that’s going to be key.”
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