With England’s opening game in the rescheduled European Championships against Croatia just days away, we at Archball each submitted the best starting XI from the England squad – with an explanation.
We imagined everyone was fit, with the only criteria being that they had to be in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad – meaning Trent Alexander-Arnold was available for selection – despite his injury.
Here’s what we said.
(4-3-3): Pickford – Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Henderson, Rice, Mount – Sancho, Kane, Grealish.
Starting at the back, Pickford narrowly edges Henderson due to his experience. Alexander-Arnold gets the nod as a player of his quality simply cannot miss out and would’ve benefitted England greatly. The centre-backs are an obvious choice, whilst Luke Shaw just makes the XI – with Chilwell unlucky to miss out.
For me, Declan Rice will start in the holding midfield role, whilst the in-form Mason Mount has to start, driving England forward from the middle of the park. Now, Jordan Henderson may be a controversial choice, but his quality and experience will benefit the side greatly – however he could see himself replaced if England need to bolster their attack.
Onto the incredibly talented attack, Harry Kane will lead the line, shocking I know. Jadon Sancho should start on the right of the three after an excellent season for Borussia Dortmund. Finally, Jack Grealish narrowly beats Phil Foden to the starting spot on the left wing – with his form in England’s warm-up matches making the difference. However, expect to see Foden as England’s super-sub.
(4-3-3): Pickford – James, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Henderson, Rice, Mount – Sancho, Kane, Foden.
Pickford may not have had his best season but I think he has experience in the bank for Southgate that should see him retain the starting spot.
Any right-back starting would be fine by me but Reece James is so good going both ways, the attacking impetus of Shaw overpowering that of Chilwell too. Meanwhile, the centre-backs chose themselves assuming Maguire is fit.
Again, Henderson’s fitness is unknown but with him and Rice in midfield I think our two forward-thinking fullbacks can thrive. Mount then in front of them is capable of defending against the bigger sides and his ability on the ball is superb.
Grealish is unlucky to miss out of my team but I think Mount and Foden are just that bit better, as well as having more big game experience. Kane starting is another no brainer and I think despite not having the international experience, Sancho is the best player off of the right and his fearless approach and dribbling means he HAS to start.
(4-3-3): Henderson – Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Henderson, Rice, Mount – Foden, Kane, Grealish.
I have chosen this group of players because I believe they offer both balance in key areas as well as being highly talented.
The defence almost picks itself beside the right-back spot considering the plethora of options. I feel this defence is potentially the most defensively sound.
The midfield trio of Henderson, Rice and Mount offers a mixture of strength, athleticism and creativity, the ideal balance for a midfield three.
Finally, the use of inverted wingers in Grealish and Foden offer both dynamism with their dribbling capabilities, and creativity from wide areas, something that Harry Kane will thrive on.
(4-3-3): Pickford – James, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Bellingham, Rice, Mount – Sancho, Kane, Rashford.
As a Manchester United fan, the majority of these picks have been made out of pure tribalism. Despite this, there are some picks which I think are interesting.
One of the hottest debates in this England’s team is the full backs. I watched Reece James on occasions when he was at Wigan Athletic and I was a big fan so for me; he is our best right back.
My enjoyment of German football also makes me very fond of Sancho and Bellingham hence their selection. I also think my midfield is balanced with anchors and creators alike. The front three can arguably be improved however, given Rashford and Shaw’s link up, I believe this could be the ideal set up for England in the Euros.
(4-3-3): Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Henderson, Rice, Mount – Sancho, Kane, Foden
I’d go with Pickford between the sticks as he’s never let England down and cut out mistakes during 2nd half of the season. Kyle Walker is our most complete right-back whilst the rest of the defence speaks for itself.
Mason Mount’s performances this season earn him a place, whilst I’ve gone with Jason Sancho too who’s skill set perfectly complements Foden’s and offers a left foot right foot combination too.
Jack Grealish is unlucky not to make the XI due to his recent injury whilst Marcus Rashford has just looked a little jaded recently in my opinion. Raheem Sterling hasn’t done enough recently whereas Sancho’s form has been of a high level second half of the season.
(4-3-3): Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell – Henderson, Rice, Mount – Foden, Kane, Grealish.
This England team, in my opinion, would be the most well balanced and well-prepared line up to take us far into the Euros.
The defence is solid with reliable full-backs in Kyle Walker and Ben Chilwell as well as two of the most in-form centre-halves in John Stones and Harry Maguire. This should be enough to provide Jordan Pickford with the protection he needs to perform at his highest level.
With Declan Rice as the holding midfielder, Jordan Henderson as the box-to-box and Mason Mount as the creative midfielder, the midfield will be able to both, provide good protection at the back and good support to the forwards.
Then having Harry Kane up top you have both a leader and a lethal goal scorer, add to that Jack Grealish cutting in from the left and Phil Foden from the right, England could have one of the deadliest front-three’s this summer.
(4-3-3): Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Henderson, Rice, Bellingham – Foden, Kane, Grealish.
I’ve always believed football should be played on the front foot. To score more than the opponent, not to just focus on conceding less.
The keeper picks himself for me, Pickford has always been good for England and there is no reason for him not to play. Walker gets the nod at right-back and the other three defenders are clear choices.
As for the midfield, Rice and Henderson both are guarantees. For me, Bellingham is too good to miss out, he’s ahead of Mount.
Looking forwards, Kane is obviously there. Foden has to start and so does Grealish. Both have been too good, better than Sterling and Rashford, and have to start for me.
Mr Southgate, play this team.
(4-2-3-1): Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Rice, Bellingham – Rashford, Mount, Foden – Kane.
Setting up in a 4-2-3-1, I have chosen Jordan Pickford in goal due to his tournament experience and ability on the ball. In front of him, the defence almost picks itself.
In the midfield, Jude Bellingham has more than proved that he is ready for a starting slot in the XI after his impressive season with Borussia Dortmund. Declan Rice and Mason Mount have both had great individual campaigns in the Premier League.
Marcus Rashford adds an unpredictability and amount of chaos that no other England forward can offer, which is reasoning behind his inclusion. Meanwhile Phil Foden brings class and link-up play on the ball that will be needed. Harry Kane is the mainstay of the side.
(4-3-3): Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw – Henderson, Rice, Mount – Foden, Kane, Grealish.
Pickford or Henderson is a tough call but Pickford’s tournament, and general, experience tips him as my number one. Walker is a starter alongside the clear cut choice of Stones and Maguire, with their aerial presence was key in the 2018 World Cup where England were the most prolific team from set pieces (with eight goals). Shaw edges the left back spot due to his chemistry with Manchester United team mate Maguire.
Henderson, if fit, is a shoe-in for his leadership, Rice and Mount fill in the other slots, due to their great chemistry.
The front three is the toughest to chose, except Harry Kane- the first name on the team sheet. I’d go with Grealish and Foden – England’s two most talented players, but I’m also torn with Sancho and Rashford who possess great pace and dynamism – which will maybe be more effective off the bench.
(4-2-3-1): Pickford – James, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell – Henderson, Mount – Sancho, Foden, Rashford – Kane.
The reasons for my starting XI are that Reece James is the in-form right-back at the moment, whilst the rest of the defence chooses itself.
In my opinion, Foden should be played through the middle as for me he’s in the top five players in the world right now, so let him have the freedom to create, putting Mount that bit deeper – alongside Henderson.
Sancho and Rashford on the wings speak for themselves, plenty of pace and chance creation between the two help them to secure a starting spot. Obviously, Kane leads the line.
(4-2-3-1): Pickford – Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell – Henderson, Rice – Foden, Mount, Grealish – Kane.
I spent a long time deciding who makes the best 11 and the system that suits them best. This shows the competition for places England have and means the best players and system can be picked for the opposition.
Pickford just edges the fight for the goalkeeper spot. There isn’t much between the full backs, a case can probably be made for any them, but Alexander-Arnold and Chilwell start for me.
Rice, Henderson, Kane and the centre backs were fairly straight forward and all deserve their spot in the side.
Attacking midfield was the most difficult decision but I went with Grealish, Mount and Foden in the end. There are plenty of other options though especially if more pace is needed – with Rashford, Sterling and Sancho waiting in the wings.
Featured image credit: Sky Sports
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