England’s fourth place finish at the World Cup has raised the team’s popularity in Britain to levels unseen since the early 1990’s. With so many young players in the team’s World Cup squad, is Gareth Southgate’s side only set to improve? And what about the other youngsters making their way through the ranks?
The soonest we’re going to get a hint about answering these questions is tonight. England face Spain away in a match counting for the Nations League. Spain will likely end up winning the group (that also includes Croatia) either way. But optimism for the England side has not subsided since the World Cup tournament ended. If anything, it has gotten stronger. Perhaps there is good reason for it.
Southgate seems to have options
There was a time, not long ago, when news of an injury or suspension would be enough to leave the England fans and management paralyzed with fear. But this may have changed. Take the example of Man. City’s John Stones who’s picked up a suspension and will not be playing against Spain. Liverpool’s Joe Gomez has been called up instead and few are fearful that Gomez will rise to the occasion.
The defender had been left out of the squad travelling to Russia this summer. But at 21 years of age and with increasingly good performances for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, everyone was all but certain that Gomez was bound to be part of England’s team soon enough. And he’s not the only English player anxiously looking to prove themselves.
The manager’s ability to work with the players may have accounted for some of the positive results. Even Spanish boss Luis Enrique has praised Gareth Southgate’s style. Enrique says that his counterpart is an example when it comes to molding his strategy to fit the strengths of his players.
“I like Southgate as a coach, because he proposes to play football by adapting to his players, something every coach should do. I have followed him to learn. I like him, I like the way he expresses himself and what he understands about football. In fact, he has renewed [his contract]. But I wish him less luck for tomorrow [Monday],” Luis Enrique says.
Youth intake ready for the Three Lions
It may not sound like much, but England’s recent results are significant. The Three Lions are once again fighting against the world’s biggest sides. Yes, they’re still not the top dogs as evidenced by their loss of the bronze medal to Belgium, or their recent defeat to Spain. However, England are clearly moving into the right direction. Joe Gomez is not the only young player that can enter into the England squad now and make a difference for years to come.
Manchester United’s Luke Shaw was shunned from the World Cup selection. But performances this season have shown that the 23-year-old has the potential to play well at an international level.
Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray, both players under 22, have been given an increasingly larger role for Everton and could receive a call-up soon enough. James Tarkowski barely missed out on the World Cup squad, but his stats recommend him as an option for Southgate.
Then there’s James Maddison who at only 21, is already being compared to some of the game’s great players, following these season’s memorable showings for Leicester City.
Then there are the players that are already established members of the squad, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, or Dele Alli. None of these players are over 25 and there is a feeling that, if lead in the right way, their careers could reach higher peaks.
England take on Spain today. It’s an important test for England, regardless of whether this will affect the final results of this Nations League group. The players will then travel to their respective clubs and we can expect to see most of them in the Premier League and La Liga games of next weekend, as well as the free FootballCoin contests that accompany them. Don’t forget to join and create your perfect drafts!
Author: Eduard Bănulescu