The summer of 2021 brought highs and lows like no other for football fans in this country. In hindsight we can be proud of Southgate’s men, we can have optimism for what is to come in the future but we must also condemn the mindless idiots who plagued a festival of football. It doesn’t feel that long ago that Italy won Euro 2020 via a penalty shootout but international football is upon us again. Here is our Archball, most voted for starting XI going forward for the Three Lions…
Starting in defence and there aren’t many surprises from us here. Jordan Pickford’s spot in the side was surrounded by scepticism due to a shaky eighteen months or so with Everton, but that is something off the past now. Pickford was excellent at the 2018 World Cup in the white of England and he repeated that feat this time around, keeping clean sheet after clean sheet with Mikkel Damsgaard’s semi-final free-kick being the first to go beyond him. One player who maybe isn’t a nailed-on starter is Trent Alexander-Arnold. Last year, the Liverpool man had many doubters, including Southgate himself. This season though he has already shown just how good he is.
Pickford got in unanimously and the same can be said for the other three in our back four. Kyle Walker was just edged out by Alexander-Arnold whilst his club teammate John Stones is at the heart of the defence. Stones looked good alongside Tyrone Mings at the start of the Euros but it is no surprise to see him accompany Harry Maguire. They are a formidable duo and Varane’s move to the red half of Manchester can only help Maguire going forward too. Talking of the Red Devils and Luke Shaw is our left-back. Not too long ago there was a perfectly plausible debate for Ben Chilwell but Shaw has had a lot to say about that recently.
Moving up to the middle of the park and Jordan Henderson missing out is quite the blow. The Liverpool skipper is the heartbeat of any side and it speaks to England’s quality that he can be excluded. Henderson probably will remain as an integral part to Gareth’s plans for the time being but our team is maybe geared towards the distant future. Henderson’s loss is Jude Bellingham’s gain. The Birmingham lad raised a lot of eyebrows when he secured a big money-move to Dortmund but hasn’t looked back since. Jude has quickly become a key player at the Signal Iduna Park despite still being just eighteen; he forced a goal in the loss to Freiburg before scoring and starring last time out as Marco Rose’s side beat Hoffenheim 3-2 in dramatic fashion.
Youth is the theme throughout the midfield in all honesty but these two best mates prove age is nothing but a number. Mason Mount is viewed by many as a senior player at Stamford Bridge because he always has a lot of responsibility pushed upon him. That winning mentality and know-how is something quite underrated in football and whilst Henderson of course brings that in abundance, Mount himself is a Champions League winners lets not forget. Someone who would have been over the moon for Mount as he lifted the famous cup would have been his closest friend Declan Rice. They may not play for the same team anymore but they have both endeared themselves to England fans in super-quick time and have a key role to play for many years to come. West Ham were a surprise package last term and that has continued this season under David Moyes, Declan Rice being the perfect replacement for the soon-retiring Mark Noble in that.
Finally then to the final third and there are again, a couple of players who were guaranteed a starting berth. Captain Harry Kane is of course one of them. The Spurs man has been surrounded by links to Man City, most of which have been pushed by him, but a transfer failed to come to fruition. It remains to be seen how this will impact his time with the Lilywhites going forward but it is difficult to allow this to cloud ones’ judgement on Kane when it comes to the Three Lions. Raheem Sterling could have been a club mate of Kane’s had his transfer taken place but instead, their relationship remains as a national team one and Sterling also features unanimously. There were large question marks over his place in the side prior to Euro 2020 but he was far and away the best player at the whole tournament and has thus returned to the front of our minds. Are football fans really this fickle?
Jack Grealish is the final name on the team sheet even though he was a bit-part player for Southgate in the summer. His low-socks, swash-buckling aurora on the ball has won the hearts of most England fans and whilst some of us opted to play him in midfield, he features all the same. There were two other wingers who procured votes but just one-a-piece, and both have massive seasons ahead of them. Starting with Bukayo Saka and the Arsenal man is one of few shining lights in this catastrophic Arsenal set-up under Mikel Arteta. He plays well beyond his years in North London and he certainly took the chance that came his way at the Euros. Jadon Sancho will have all eyes on him for very different reasons. Saka is battling to save a sinking ship whereas Sancho joins a Manchester United side on the up, they are one of four teams in a title race for the ages after all. There haven’t been many better sights in my time watching football than Jadon in a Dortmund shirt and so whilst I’m no lover of his new side, I am praying for him to pick up where he left off.