How Much of England’s Euro 2020 Hopes Rely on Injured Players?

Posted on by SoccerPunter

England’s performances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia inspired the whole nation. Their third-placed finish was above pre-tournament expectations. Heading into Euro 2020, only a few years on, the squad will look different. A lot of new faces and talent will be present in the team for this summer’s tournament, while the players who were at their peak age in Russia are on the fringes. This looks like the beginning of a consistent stretch for England, where pre-peak players will be ready to challenge in this Euros, the Qatar World Cup 2022, and Euro 2024.

As things stand, to put in the terms of those who bet on football, England are second favourites heading into the tournament. Only France, whose second and third XI could well be among the tournament’s contenders, are favoured higher. Right now, though, two of those 2018 heroes are injured or returning from injury and another, new to the squad, could have his presence missed. How much will England’s hopes of victory rely on these injured players being fit enough to be significantly involved?

Harry Maguire

The Manchester United captain Harry Maguire missed his club’s last four domestic fixtures with an ankle injury, which means his fitness will largely be based on training and at least one of the pre-tournament friendlies, if he’s able. He will be a starter for Southgate’s side at the Euros, should he be fit enough. Do England need him to play 90 minutes, though?

Maguire has been playing as the left-sided centre half in a back-four in the World Cup 2022 qualifiers and friendlies. In 2018, at the World Cup, he played in a back-three, and was a great threat from set-pieces. England’s replacement, should Maguire not play, will likely be Tyrone Mings. The obvious benefit of having Mings play is he’s left-footed – a much-desired attribute for many club sides. He’s been solid in an impressive Aston Villa defence but isn’t as reliable aerially or as polished distributing the ball. His recovery pace is a plus, though, and, with Kyle Walker likely playing at full-back, as opposed to as the right-side centre half in a back-three, this could be valuable.

Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson was missed by Liverpool through the last six weeks of the season. If not in the XI, then as a rotation option. For England, he joins Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice as the go-to midfielder starters who will be the more destructive and balancing forces than creative ones. His flexibility and consistent performances across both the #6 and #8 positions could be missed. However, both Rice and Phillips can do this too. It’s highly unlikely all three would be deployed at the same time. Henderson’s presence is better than his absence, sure, but the midfield balance will not be lost without him there.

Jack Grealish

In the offensive unit, Jack Grealish is a unicorn. The squad is flushed with talent in this area, but none like him. Villa are a one-man team and desperately missed Grealish while he was recovering from a shinbone injury. His performances this season showed England what he could do, and he was impressive when he played for his country before his injury. He can take the ball from one area to the other consistently, draw fouls at an unprecedented rate, and create plenty of chances. Is he a nailed-on starter for England? He probably isn’t. Whether he should be entirely depends on what system Southgate employs. In a 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3 formation, he would be effective as a left winger, but the system would likely have to be built to his specifications, and he would have to adjust to Harry Kane’s dropping movements. Kane will start and is likely to be better complimented by having Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, or Marcus Rashford in the team, who shouldn’t muddy his space and will be the vertical threat Kane isn’t.

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