While the hiatus on Premier League action undoubtedly disrupted the flow of some elite players, the postponement of Euro 2020 will benefit a number of fringe England players, all of whom now have an extra year to reach the standards required for inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s final 23.
With the England manager having already proven his desire to give younger players every chance of proving themselves for the Three Lions, the competition for places on the plane will be at an all-time high. In the end, one of the key factors in selection may be how current fringe players play alongside the more-assured picks for the England 23 at club level.
Here are five Premier League players who will likely benefit most from these factors.
Many would argue that Foden, above all of the young England hopefuls, has made the most of the ‘post-restart’ era. He has smashed in four goals since the start of June, with Manchester City winning by a margin of over three goals in each of his goalscoring league games.
Knowing that he will be ever more of a presence in a team set to have a high standing in fixed odds markets next year, Foden has firmly bought into Pep Guardiola’s setup. Foden’s natural talent enables him to roam in midfield, acting as a catalyst to teammate Raheem Sterling’s deadliest attacks, giving him a competitive edge despite his tender years.
This is especially true in the context of Sterling’s assured starting berth at Euro 2020 next summer. It is no coincidence that Sterling himself has enjoyed a new lease of life since the start of June, averaging 1.4 goals across his last five winning appearances for Manchester City, and the importance of Foden’s contributions are in no doubt.
Continued performances of this calibre throughout 2020/21 will see Foden’s inexperience become a non-issue, leading to his selection in the final 23. His rate of key passes and through-balls per game already surpasses that of many other seasoned Premier League midfielders, and the potential to make long shots his ‘party piece’ is also a great asset.
Harvey Barnes & James Maddison
Like Foden, Barnes is left-sided, and will face a lot of competition over any midfield position on that particular side. The possession-based system employed by Leicester in a successful 2019/20 campaign has aided Barnes’ development though, with a healthy return of goals and assists (21.85% apiece) from the first 32 games of the campaign.
There is some common ground between England and Leicester in the sense that the teams’ respective managers like to see wide defenders roam forward and contribute towards counter-attacking phases. With Leicester, Barnes has a great ability to drift to the inside to free up space for first-choice LB Ben Chilwell, and it would be foolish for Southgate to overlook their existing sense of familiarity as a potential competitive edge for England.
James Maddison is also firmly in the frame, with Rodgers having utilised him in a linear midfield rather than a mere number ten – as had been the case during his time with Norwich. Aside from the potential development of a ‘Leicester axis’ to England’s benefit, Maddison also offers a great threat from set pieces, with his accuracy certain to improve further still over the next year.
The running theme here is versatility, with Mason Greenwood able to operate on the right flank as an inverted winger, as well as the centre-forward role. His Europa League performances, in particular, have also served to impress, with Greenwood smashing five goals in the competition prior to the hiatus on football.
Displacing either of Harry Kane or Marcus Rashford as the number nine will not happen for the foreseeable future, even if the 2020/21 campaign proves to be Greenwood’s ultimate making. However, in a similar fashion to Harvey Barnes on the left, Greenwood’s main trait as a right-sided winger is to cut inside rather than attempt the cross.
If Greenwood can become peerless in this far more fashionable trade, he will automatically boost his chances of inclusion. In a mirror image of the Leicester axis previously detailed, Greenwood’s right-sided familiarity with Aaron Wan-Bissaka – who himself is a sure consideration for Southgate’s Euro 23 already – gives his international credentials a huge boost.
In a central midfield absolutely packed with competition, Mason Mount knows that his second full campaign as a Chelsea senior needs to be near-perfect if he is to make the plane next summer. His maiden season in Chelsea blue has shown the true extent of his natural ability to act as the link between defence and attack.
Mount’s tremendous sense of vision remains his primary strength, and his desire to roam forward and involve himself in purposeful attacks is in line with England’s general direction. Like Maddison, Mount has also emerged as a designated set-piece taker despite his tender years, a consistent crosser, and a reasonably accomplished ball winner.
While Mount will get into the England squad with increasing regularity on talent alone, his existing relationship with Tammy Abraham is another potential factor in Southgate’s final decision.