The English national team will soon be back in action for the first time since reaching the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and Gareth Southgate will have some intriguing decisions to make for his 23-man squad.
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Will he stick with the vast majority of the players who led the Three Lions to a fourth-place finish in Russia this summer? Or will he freshen things up and bring in a few new faces?
If he does the latter for the UEFA Nations League games against Spain and Switzerland in September, then there are plenty of emerging candidates who he could have a look at.
Below is a closer look at seven players who deserve to be called up to Southgate’s latest squad.
Phil Foden (Manchester City)
The star for England’s U-17 side which won the World Cup last year, Foden is a regular in Man City’s matchday squad and often comes off the bench. His ability to hold the ball and play defense-splitting passes is something that England missed massively at the World Cup. In the Adam Lallana mould, but just 18 years old. Some may say this call is too early but Foden’s talent has been nurtured by Pep Guardiola and if he’s ready to contribute regularly for City, surely he can play a part for England.
Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
A former Man City star who starred alongside Foden at the U-17 World Cup, Sancho had really made a name for himself at Borussia Dortmund. He made 12 appearances for Dortmund’s first team last season and scored once as the 18-year-old can play anywhere across the front line. An exciting talent who can dribble past defenders and use his electric pace and power to cause havoc, Sancho is getting invaluable experience at German giants Dortmund at such a young age.
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Although he played for the Republic of Ireland youth teams, Grealish pledged his allegiance to England some time ago and the mercurial playmaker was a star for Villa last season as they were so close to promotion to the Premier League. At 22 years old, Grealish has matured on and off the pitch but still has a nasty streak which seems to bring out the best in him. Steve Bruce was adamant to keep hold of him as Tottenham wanted to sign Grealish all summer long and like Foden and Sancho, he can hold the ball, surge forward and has a real eye for a pass.
Alex McCarthy (Southampton)
There’s no doubt that Jordan Pickford is England’s undisputed No.1 following his heroics at the World Cup, but with Nick Pope out with a long-term injury and Jack Butland battling with Stoke City in the Championship and Joe Hart clearly out of Southgate’s thoughts, Southampton’s Alex McCarthy will surely be included. The former Crystal Palace and Reading goalkeeper had a sensational end to the 2017-18 season as he helped save Saints from relegation and he’s kept up that good form at the start of 2018-19. Many believe he was England’s fourth-choice goalkeeper over the summer and he could well have elevated himself to at least third-choice.
James Maddison (Leicester City)
A regular for England’s U-21 side over the past few years, Leicester’s new $35 million winger has looked the part in his first few games as a Premier League player after arriving from second-tier Norwich City over the summer. Maddison, 21, already has a goal to his name in the PL and his pace out wide and ability to cut inside and make things happen will intrigue Southgate. England have plenty of players in Maddison’s mould with Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and others springing to mind, but given his form for the U-21s and his start to the season for Leicester he may just be rewarded.
Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)
After battling back from multiple injuries, Wilson has started the season in great form for Bournemouth. The powerful striker has scored twice already, including a wondergoal at West Ham, and his ability to hold the ball up and make intelligent runs into the channels show he can slot in and replace Harry Kane, if England need that. At this point he is playing regularly, and delivering, in the Premier League and that’s not something the likes of Marcus Rashford is doing.
Demarai Gray (Leicester City)
Another Leicester player who is thriving under Claude Puel‘s ability to get the best out of youngsters. Gray is still only 22 years old and with Riyad Mahrez gone, he now has the chance to be the main attacking threat for the Foxes. His well taken equalizer at Southampton on Saturday proved he is capable of composure in the box as well as scoring stunners. Gray has scored six goals in 18 appearances for England’s U-21 side and it seems like the time is now for him to step up to the seniors.
Honorable mentions: Ben Chilwell (Leicester City, Declan Rice (West Ham), Conor Coady (Wolves), Danny Ings (Southampton)