(written by Cain Smith)
In the summer, Gareth Southgate will have a difficult time picking both his squad and line-up for the European Championship.
However, one position which is beginning to look easier to decide is at left-back and that is thanks to Luke Shaw’s wonderful form for Manchester United this season.
The English full-back has not played a match for The Three Lions since September 2018 and has just 8 caps in his career so far.
Shaw was tipped to be the countries best full-back after his breakout seasons at Southampton which saw Manchester United make him the worlds most expensive teenager in 2014 – purchasing the left-back for £33 million. However, due to injuries and other issues, United’s defender looked as if he would never reach that level.
Yet, in the last year, Shaw has looked revitalised and especially since November, he has been one of Man United’s standout players. He is looking strong in defence but has a new lease of life about him in the attack, gaining five assists in the Premier League this season so far – he managed just nine assists in his previous eight league campaigns.
It is not only his assists that make him a good attacking full-back, but Shaw is one of the best ball carrying full-backs in the league, often driving into the middle of the pitch or out wide and using his close control and pace to advance into the final third and link-up with his teammates.
According to fbref, he averages 6.94 progressive carries per 90 in the last year, which is in the 85th percentile rank – this means that, in the full-back position, only 15% of players progressively carry the ball more than Shaw in Europe’s top five leagues.
United’s number 23 also averages 3.19 shot-creating actions per 90 in the same period – this is in the 95th percentile rank and helps to show how he has been one of the best attacking full-backs in Europe.
It is very hard to argue against Shaw as the starting left-back for England this summer, as Ben Chilwell has seemed to lose both his form and his starting position since Thomas Tuchel came in at Chelsea and there are no other real competitors for the position.
Luke Shaw has also showed that he is more than useful as a third centre-back in a back three, but his new lease of life going forward also suggests that he’d be more than capable to perform the role of a wingback if that is the shape that Southgate goes for. Whether it is a back three or four, Shaw offers a lot of quality on the left side of the defence.
The possibility of a Man United heavy left-side for England is high, with Shaw likely to start alongside teammates Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford. This will be good for England – as United fans know how well their left-side gels, with Shaw and Rashford finding a great partnership in the last two seasons at Old Trafford.
The added pressure of the signing of Alex Telles has seemed to force Shaw into the next gear and he finally looks like the left-back he was tipped to become eight years ago.
There is always going to be ‘ifs and buts’ of a player that has so often been plagued by injuries throughout his career, yet if Shaw manages to stay fit for the remainder of the season, he will be starting for his country in the summer and it’ll be a great example of how he has turned his career around and become one of the best full-backs in the Premier League.