England will have qualification for Euro 2024 within their grasp if they make it five wins from five against Ukraine in the Polish city of Wroclaw on Saturday evening.
Since Gareth Southgate’s men secured a 2-1 victory over Italy in Naples in March, they have been in complete control of qualifying Group C.
Their June doubleheader saw them adopt the style and pile up goals as Malta were beaten 4-0 and North Macedonia were demolished 7-0.
Halfway through qualifying, England can look forward with confidence to next year’s tournament in Germany.
But the eternal question is whether the Three Lions have enough squad depth to go all the way and win the major trophy that has eluded generations of English teams since 1966.
England have cruised their way through Euro 2024 qualifying so far, winning four out of four.
Gareth Southgate will still have doubts over whether his team has enough strength in depth
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Southgate’s latest team left out Raheem Sterling, an England stalwart for many years now, in a possible sign of an embarrassment of riches in wide attacking areas.
Even when Manchester City star Jack Grealish was forced to withdraw from the team with a thigh injury, there was no rush to recall Sterling in his place.
This current group came together without the injured Tyrone Mings, John Stones and Luke Shaw, while Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, listed as one of England’s midfield selections, also had to withdraw.
Also missing are Reece James, Eric Dier, Conor Coady, Mason Mount and James Ward-Prowse – all regular picks in recent years.
However, the England team which will face Ukraine and then Scotland in a friendly match next Tuesday still looks quite strong on paper.
Scratch beneath the surface, however, and Southgate could face problems due to the lack of game time Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips will receive this season, with favored options ahead of them at their clubs.
Likewise, there will be concerns over the level of football Jordan Henderson is currently enjoying in the Saudi Pro League with Al-Ettifaq and whether he will be able to keep pace with Europe’s top players next summer.
A top-rated England XI by Sofascore from the season’s opening matches simultaneously highlights the depth they have and also what Wroclaw will be missing.
Harry Maguire has the trust of Southgate and continues to start for England even though he barely plays for his club Manchester United.
Kalvin Phillips doesn’t play much for Manchester City but plays – and scores – for England
Raheem Sterling was a surprise omission from England’s latest squad after good form
Grealish, Shaw and Ward-Prowse are all present. Of course, Shaw and Grealish’s injuries are unfortunate, but hopefully both will be fit and healthy when the real business begins at the Euros.
The fact that Ward-Prowse has been left out despite a very positive start to life at West Ham – one goal, three assists in three games – has raised eyebrows as his form suggests he should be in the squad. ‘England.
But Ward-Prowse faces tough competition from Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice, who are just as good, if not better, and Southgate favorites like Henderson and Phillips.
With Alexander-Arnold able to play in midfield, as he did in June qualifying, and players like Mount and Conor Gallagher also possibilities, England should absolutely not be short there.
Phillips’ lack of playing time for City has paved the way for Bellingham, who looks very comfortable as a Real Madrid player, to become a regular starter.
James Ward-Prowse started well for West Ham but was overlooked for the England squad
Jude Bellingham will be in England side long-term and excels at Real Madrid
Southgate needs assurances Jordan Henderson is playing at a high enough level in Saudi Arabia
In attack, England are certainly blessed. Harry Kane has already made a big impression following his £100million move to Bayern Munich, although all of England will be praying their captain stays fit for Euro 2024.
That’s because Kane’s centre-forward understudy isn’t entirely obvious. Ivan Toney was in first place, but we don’t know how he will come back after his betting ban.
Callum Wilson is in the squad this time but is not starting games for Newcastle, while Tammy Abraham has suffered a serious ACL injury. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has left the scene and Mason Greenwood is unlikely to be Kane’s long-term successor.
We hope Eddie Nketiah gets some time on the pitch to earn his first cap and show what he can do.
On the left, the absence of Grealish matters little when you can bring in Marcus Rashford or Phil Foden, but England rely heavily on Bukayo Saka to play on the right. Fortunately, he has been in good shape for a long time.
Harry Kane made encouraging start to life at Bayern Munich following his £100m move
Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah (left) could get the chance to prove he can be Kane’s understudy
James Maddison looks increasingly likely to break into the England set-up after a good start to life at Tottenham, while Eberechi Eze is hoping to earn a second cap.
England therefore have considerable depth in these attacking areas – or at least when everyone is available. They certainly haven’t struggled to score goals in this qualifying campaign, although as always any injury to Kane would be disastrous.
Defense could be more problematic. Southgate has stuck with the Maguire-Stones centre-back combination for a long time, but one is currently injured and the other has only played 23 minutes of football this season.
Maguire received more love from England fans at Old Trafford in June’s win over North Macedonia than he did from United fans all season.
Despite Erik ten Hag relegating him down United’s pecking order, Maguire finished England’s last eight games and started the last 10. In all honesty, he rarely lets England down.
We suspect that this series of departures will continue but with Marc Guehi at his side. The Palace man is picked by in-form Sofascore, albeit alongside Arsenal’s Ben White, who has once again been overlooked by an England side.
Sofascore says Marc Guehi deserves to start for England after good form at Crystal Palace
Arsenal’s Ben White deserves to play alongside Guehi at full-back, says form guide
Sheffield United’s Wes Foderingham is England’s best-performing goalkeeper this season
Meanwhile, Fikayo Tomori, Lewis Dunk and Levi Colwill are all lining up for opportunities and central defensive depth is seemingly not an issue.
Ben Chilwell had fallen below Shaw in the England left-back stakes since the last Euro, but he is likely to return this week.
Left-back has been a problematic position for depth in the past, with right-backs sometimes switching from one side to the other.
Sofascore suggests Kieran Trippier should get the nod on the right side, with Kyle Walker another strong candidate.
But it is in the goal that the real surprise arises. Jordan Pickford has been Southgate’s undisputed number 1 for almost his entire tenure and will likely remain so ahead of Aaron Ramsdale and Sam Johnstone, despite Everton’s struggles.
But Sofascore suggests Sheffield United’s Wes Foderingham, never capped for England, should have the gloves at the start of the season.
That would be a strength in depth!
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Courtesy of Couch Score