NO KANE, NO PROBLEM: SOUTHGATE HAS OPTIONS GALORE TO MAKE THE THREE LIONS ROAR AT EURO 2020
Despite England’s embarrassment of riches in the attacking third, the dependence on Harry Kane, their one-man army to bulldoze through every adversity has not escaped the point of view of the neutral critic. Kane is out for the foreseeable future, having recently suffered a major injury earlier this month on Spurs’ road trip to Southampton. Prior to that, relying on the 26-year-old was more than a safe bet as Kane had scored an unreal 26 goals in 29 official international appearances, barring friendlies.
The obvious choice here would be Jamie Vardy, yes, but the caveat of his international retirement could be a tricky situation. The Three Lions could definitely use the 32-year-old’s surprisingly searing pace which hasn’t left him yet despite his age, and the possibility of adding some much-needed seniority to the burgeoning youngsters to pull them in line by the scruffs of their necks is a valuable option to call upon. His collection of 2 goals and an assist in 10 competition appearances in an England shirt doesn’t do a shred of justice to his on-pitch application. His running in behind the back four, riling defenders up, clinical finishing and 21 goal appearances (17 goals, 4 assists) in the league do, however.
The dilemma for Gareth Southgate continues, as so far while Raheem Sterling has shown stellar leadership and dependability as a decoy forward, the 26-year-old is not an out-and-out striker and would be most effective out on the flanks. Similar deductions could be made about Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, the latter of whom, although initially regarded as a striker, has seen much of his successes on the left-wing.
While only Dele Alli has operated as a second striker out of his attacking-midfield compatriots such as James Maddison, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount, it has to be said that while this group can provide the verve going forward, a certified No.9 is a necessity in tournament football to bag the goals.
The Tammy Abraham point is a strong one, having slotted his way into the starting lineup of one of the biggest clubs in the country, scoring 15 in 31 club appearances this season But before any assumption is made about the 20-year-old, it must be considered that the lad has only had international experience at youth-level and a handful of friendlies. The same could be said about Mason Greenwood, despite showing a lot of promise, his gaffer Ole Gunnar Solksjær has openly stated that “he shouldn’t be called up yet,” clearly referring to the considerable amount of growing up the striker has to do among injury scares and the sheer physicality of the unforgiving Premier League.
That leaves us with the wild cards. Danny Ings has had a sort of renaissance to his injury-ridden self under Ralph Hasenhüttl’s rampaging Southampton side this season, roaring his way into the goalscoring charts with 16 goals and an assist in 26 games. If the former Liverpool man’s body doesn’t give out on now, Ings could be Southgate’s joker in the pack.
Callum Wilson is a different case to Ings, however as he was a guaranteed inclusion in the England set-up, prior to the 2019-20 season. The sprightly striker has seen his hopes of international football dashed after his form fell off a cliff, scoring just 7 and assisting once in 26 games as his Bournemouth side continue to languish in the bottom half of the top division.
Despite this sudden huge fix required, Southgate has an extremely fearless and talented set of young Lions playing an exciting, attacking and free-flowing brand of football. With Euro 2020 steamrolling in in a few months, there’ll be no telling how far they can go.
Over to you, Jamie?