If England’s woeful Nations League campaign last summer taught Gareth Southgate anything, it’s that post-season fatigue can make elite Premier League stars look like average internationals.
The Three Lions lost 1-0 and 4-0 to Hungary either side of drab draws against Germany and Italy, failing to score a single goal from open play and falling to the foot of their Nations League group ahead of the much-anticipated winter World Cup.
Plenty of fans quickly turned on Southgate after his miserable summer, and the England boss will be keen to avoid a repeat of last year when his side play their Euro 2024 qualifiers next month.
Southgate seems to be opting for a different approach this summer and plans to rest his Manchester City stars against Malta, conscious that Pep Guardiola’s side will be fatigued after their Champions League final with Inter Milan six days earlier.
To date, Southgate has loyally trusted his tried and tested players – keeping faith in the likes of Harry Maguire and Raheem Sterling despite their shaky domestic form.
Gareth Southgate will name his England squad to face Malta and North Macedonia tomorrow
Post-season fatigue marred the Three Lions’ miserable Nations League campaign last summer
But Sterling, who has endured a troubled first season at Chelsea following his move from Man City last summer, could be one of a number of high-profile casualties from Southgate’s squad when it is announced on Wednesday.
And, with the likes of Newcastle and Brighton breaking into the top six this season, there couldn’t be a better time to move away from the Premier League’s elite clubs.
Mail Sport takes a look at 10 players Southgate should consider ahead of England’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia next month.
Ben White, Arsenal
Southgate made contact with the Arsenal defender this week to see if he would consider an England return following his mysterious World Cup exit in November.
White left Southgate’s squad due to ‘personal reasons’ according to the FA and returned to the Emirates to focus on Arsenal’s Premier League title pursuit.
A hybrid defender capable of operating at right-back and centre-half, White could establish himself as a fruitful long-term option should he agree to return to the fold.
As Southgate has favoured defensive-minded full-backs during his reign – and with Manchester City defender Kyle Walker set to miss out – the Gunners star could see plenty of game time.
Ben White (left) mysteriously left England’s squad midway through the World Cup in November
Eberechi Eze, Crystal Palace
Fewer players have profited more from a managerial change this season than Crystal Palace’s star midfielder Eze.
The ex-Reading man has flourished since Roy Hodgson’s arrival at Selhurst Park, chalking up six goals in his last eight matches under the 75-year-old.
Creativity in midfield has long been an issue for England, who tend to fashion their chances from wide areas, and Eze could inject a boost of dynamism and flair into the Three Lions’ engine room if he’s handed his debut against Malta.
There are plenty of midfielders vying to win Southgate’s favour ahead of Wednesday’s squad announcement, but Eze’s form of late should make it very difficult for the manager to overlook.
Eberechi Eze (left) has been in superb form at Palace since the arrival of Roy Hodgson (right)
Tyrone Mings, Aston Villa
The centre-half staked a convincing claim for the future during England’s Euro 2020 campaign, deputising impressively in Harry Maguire’s absence and keeping two clean sheets in the opening group stage matches against Croatia and Scotland.
A year on from the tournament and Mings’ stock had fallen considerably, stripped of captaincy by his old boss Steven Gerrard following an unfortunate spell of shaky form.
Yet, since Unai Emery’s arrival midway through the season, the 30-year-old has been instrumental in Villa’s surge for Europe – win against Brighton on the final day, and Mings will feature in the Europa Conference League next season.
Southgate may decide there are younger defenders to bet on ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, but few fringe players can compete with Mings’ mix of Premier League and international experience.
Tyrone Mings starred in England’s first two matches at Euro 2020 against Croatia and Scotland
Morgan Gibbs-White, Nottingham Forest
Southgate has come under fire in the past for favouring players from top six clubs. But it seems Nottingham Forest midfielder Gibbs-White is on England’s radar.
Several eyebrows were raised when the midfielder completed his plus £40million move to the City Ground from Wolves last summer, but the Forest star has played an instrumental role in keeping them afloat, netting three goals in his last six matches under Steve Cooper.
On Monday, Jamie Carragher urged that Gibbs-White should be in Southgate’s summer England squad and labelled him the Premier League signing of the season – some feat when posted up next to record-breaking arrival Erling Haaland.
Choosing Gibbs-White over the likes of Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips and Conor Gallagher – who have largely failed to impress at top six clubs this season – would send the right message to young players at smaller clubs.
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher has urged Southgate to select Morgan Gibbs-White (above)
Lewis Dunk, Brighton
Despite winning only one cap with the Three Lions, Dunk has continued to shine at Brighton, marshalling Roberto De Zerbi’s side to a fairytale sixth-place finish in the Premier League with consistency and leadership from defence this season.
Furthermore, no player in the Premier League has completed more passes than Dunk this term, proving he can operate in a progressive defence despite his tall and stout physical profile.
De Zerbi even labelled the towering centre-half as one of the best defenders in Europe, soon after his arrival at the Amex last year.
It may be too late for Dunk to earn his stripes, but fewer players deserve an England call-up after the season he’s had on the south coast.
Southgate has continually snubbed Lewis Dunk despite his sensational form in recent seasons
Levi Colwill, Brighton
Not keen on the Brighton captain, Gareth? Then why not opt for his centre-back sidekick Colwill instead?
The on-loan Chelsea star has not been quite as integral as Dunk this season, having only chalked up 15 Premier League appearances under De Zerbi, but has more than proven he has the tools to be a future star at just 20 years of age.
During the Seagulls high-pressure run-in, Colwill started both of Brighton’s victories against Arsenal and Southampton and came off the bench to help his side see out a 1-0 win over Manchester United.
Handing Colwill a taste of international football now could pay dividends for England at future tournaments.
Levi Colwill (left) has enjoyed a breakout year under Roberto De Zerbi and could earn a call-up
Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa
Fewer spots in Southgate’s squad are more hotly contested than the role of Harry Kane’s deputy in attack, but Watkins will be confident of a phone call after contributing 14 goals and six assists for Aston Villa this campaign.
Ivan Toney’s eight-month ban for breaching the FA’s betting rules has blown the race wide open, and it’s not yet clear whether Southgate will select one or two centre forwards as back-up for Kane.
Marcus Rashford, who should be back from illness by next month, is likely to attend the England camp as a left winger, and Callum Wilson will be expecting a place after bagging 18 goals this term.
With free-scoring striker Folarin Balogun choosing to represent USA and Tammy Abraham netting just eight goals for Roma this season, Watkins will hope he’s the next in the line after Wilson.
Ollie Watkins could win his England spot back after a fruitful goal-scoring term with Aston Villa
Dan Burn, Newcastle
England’s shortage at left-back has been well-documented over the last decade. Southgate has been forced to deploy Kieran Trippier and even Bukayo Saka in the position in recent seasons.
Manchester United’s Luke Shaw and Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell seem to have a lock on the left-back spots, but Burn’s exceptional form at Newcastle this season should, at the very least, get Southgate thinking.
Few full-backs in world football can boast Burn’s 6ft 7in frame, and his height could be a used as an imposing focal point from set-pieces.
Also, as Burn has experience playing at both left-back and centre-half, he could be used as a handy utility player should Southgate continue to switch between back four and back five formations.
Dan Burn’s superb efforts at left-back have helped Newcastle seal a Champions League place
Jacob Ramsey, Aston Villa
Following in the footsteps of Saka, Mount, Rashford and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ramsey became the latest starlet to claim the Premier League Academy Graduate Award on Monday following an impressive campaign with Aston Villa.
With 11 Premier League goal contributions to his name, Ramsey has been an integral part of Emery’s midfield this season, taking up fruitful positions between the lines to feed the likes of Watkins and Leon Bailey in attack.
Rivalling Eze, Gibbs-White and Willock for a spot in Southgate’s midfield, the 21-year-old is yet another young star at Southgate’s disposal and could help England move away from a somewhat outdated midfield fronted up by 32-year-old veteran Jordan Henderson.
Scoring in his last two matches against Europe-chasing rivals Tottenham and Liverpool will no doubt help Ramsey’s cause as he bids for an international debut.
Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey continued his goal-scoring streak against Liverpool last weekend
Marcus Edwards, Sporting Lisbon
With Solly March expectedly out through injury, Southgate could view Edwards as the ideal deputy for Saka on the right wing in England’s upcoming qualifiers.
Chalking up 12 goals and 14 assists across all competitions at Sporting, Edwards has significantly improved his productivity this season and is peaking at the right time with four goal contributions in his last four league matches in Portugal.
Once likened to Lionel Messi by former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, Edwards has by no means lived up to the hype yet, but at 24 he’s finally showing the sort of production expected from a player of his raw ability.
With Phil Foden set to miss out due to his Champions League commitments, Southgate is short on left-footed wingers and could well opt for Edwards if he’s looking for a like-for-like replacement to support Saka.
Sporting Lisbon winger Marcus Edwards (above) could deputise for Bukayo Saka next month