The delay of the 2020 European Championship, due to the current global pandemic, may have infuriated many English footballers who were hoping to compete this summer. However, the fact that the competition will now take place in 2021 may prove to be a blessing in disguise for some potential young lions.
Here're five players who have a lot to gain in the next 15 months and have a real chance of getting into Gareth Southgate’s squad if they continue on the same trajectory as they have this season.
Dean Henderson (Goalkeeper)
This 23-year-old shot-stopper has plied his trade for Sheffield United these past two seasons but is on loan from Manchester United. Recent talk of him replacing David De Gea next season shows how highly thought of he is. Ever since his howler in September’s 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool, Henderson has grown in confidence to become a top Premier League goalkeeper. The Blades have only conceded 22 goals in 27 league games this season, giving them the second-best defensive record behind runaway leaders Liverpool. Henderson has kept an impressive ten clean sheets this season which sees him lying second, behind Allison Becker, in the race for the golden glove. With England’s current number one Jordan Pickford struggling to find any consistent form, many were crying out for Henderson to replace Pickford this summer. Yet with no senior international experience, this summer may have come too soon for him. A return to Old Trafford might be a risk if he has to play second fiddle to De Gea next season but if he can find regular first-team football again, he will be the favourite to start between the sticks next summer.
Bukayo Saka (Defender)
Despite the 18-year-old being a left-sided attacking player, his transformation into a left-back, due to Arsenal’s injury crisis, has been seamless. The youngster has been a constant feature in Mikel Arteta’s defence since becoming their manager. He burst onto the scene with a dazzling display against Bournemouth in the FA Cup in January which saw him finish the game with a goal and an assist as Arsenal ran out 2-1 victors. Thanks to his impressive Europa League form, two goals and five assists, he was used to fill the gap in Arsenal’s defence. Saka slotted in quickly and, in no time at all, looked like a natural full-back who could not only attack with a purpose but could also defend against the very best. With Ben Chilwell and Danny Rose showing a lack of form, England would have been going into this summer without a solid left-back. But if Saka can maintain his starting position for Arsenal, even when Kieran Tierney returns to fitness, he could be the answer to England’s problems. Fikayo Tomori (Defender)
Last season, the 22-year-old was a constant in Derby County’s Championship campaign under Frank Lampard. So, when Lampard took over at Chelsea last summer, he was keen to keep hold of the impressive centre-back and give him valuable Premier League experience. Tomori has made 22 appearances this year and his confidence on the ball would be an ideal fit for Southgate’s style of play. Although he could struggle to get into England’s starting XI, he would be an invaluable backup for Harry Maguire and Joe Gomez. He also gives Southgate the option of implementing a three-at-the-back formation which was so successful during the 2018 World Cup campaign. He made his senior international debut as a substitute against Kosovo in November and with more regular first-team football, he is bound to improve.
Phil Foden (Midfielder)
Although the 19-year-old has had limited playing experience again this season, Pep Guardiola has constantly praised him and clearly sees him as an integral part of his Manchester City side in years to come. Touted as the “Stockport Iniesta”, Foden has an abundance of talent and would comfortably slot into England’s dynamic midfield trio setup. Southgate has warned Foden in the past about the need to play regular first team football but with David Silva set to leave City shortly, Foden will surely be his replacement. His outstanding performance in the Carabao Cup final victory over Aston Villa clearly shows that he has the talent to control a game. This could prove vital for England against stronger opposition. Similarities between Southgate’s and Guardiola’s defensive philosophies could make him a perfect fit for England’s midfield.
Mason Greenwood (Attacker)
With 12 goals in all competitions this year, the 18-year-old has been a revelation for Manchester United this season. He is the first teenager to score five goals in a single European campaign for the Red Devils. With only limited opportunities, Greenwood has featured primarily in the Europa League and his outstanding finishing has seen him average 77 minutes per goal. When given the chance in the Premier League, he hasn’t disappointed scoring five goals - a goal every 130 minutes. However, with tough competition from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial and talks of further attacking players joining United this summer, the forward may benefit from a loan spell next season. His natural finishing ability would be a huge benefit to England next summer and if he can secure constant first team football next season, I am sure he will feature in Southgate’s plans. The injuries to Harry Kane and Rashford have uncovered a large gap in England’s attacking options. With another good season under his belt, Greenwood would slot perfectly into the starting line-up if another injury crisis occurs.
Will these players prove pivotal next summer? I certainly believe they will.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk