Can England Give the Nation a Post-Lockdown Summer Lift?

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With the on-set of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the casualties of the locking down of economies around the world was the 2020 European Championship, with UEFA reluctantly putting the tournament back twelve months until this summer.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson set-out the Covid-19 roadmap last week, you can bet that football supporters were looking keenly at what he had in mind during June and July given that that’s when the Euros are now scheduled for.

The last summer tournament was a good one for England. The 2018 World Cup in Russia saw Gareth Southgate’s team reach the semi-finals and a fourth place finish, England’s best World Cup performance since a Paul Gascoigne-inspired side stormed their way to the last four in Italy in 1990.

So what are the odds of Gareth Southgate’s men giving the nation a Post-Lockdown summer lift, according to the bookmaker in their wisdom?

Well, England can approach the tournament in a positive frame of mind, and draw on their Russian experiences of three years ago, while looking at the embarrassment of attacking riches that Southgate will have at his disposal – Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Mason Greenwood, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Raheem Sterling, all of whom have been in great form for their clubs – gives confidence that England can cause any team problems going forward.

Behind his forward line, Declan Rice has been a shining light for West Ham this season and will be hopeful of making his mark on the international stage, as will players such as Chelsea duo Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi, while Southgate will be hoping that Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson can get back to full fitness as soon as possible.

However, if there are areas of concern, these are both defensively and between the sticks.

Manchester United’s Harry Maguire will be a key figure once again, yet his form this season could be best described as average, something that you could also say about Tottenham’s Eric Dier. Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been excellent going forward but his defensive frailties have often been exposed, though that may have more to do with the Premier League champions’ overall issues than Alexander-Arnold’s troubles. Ben Chilwell has been in good form for Chelsea despite the upheaval at Stamford Bridge, and can be confident about his place in Gareth Southgate’s plans.

But if there is one place on the pitch where Southgate may have concerns, it may well be who dons the keeper’s jersey. Burnley’s Nick Pope would appear to be the favourite given his performances in a struggling team, while former regular Jordan Pickford has once again been up and down with Everton.

There is no doubt that England have a squad with the potential to excite, but there are areas on the pitch in which Southgate’s team can be exposed by the better teams, and for this reason, 2021 may well end up being another year of hurt.