Gareth Southgate has named his 33-man provisional England squad to join up at St. George’s Park ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
In his press conference, Southgate announced that the 33 will become 26 on June 1, as he locks in his final set of players ready for Euro 2020.
The action to name an original 33 players has been taken to provide cover for injury doubts Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson, who ended the season on the sideline.
England’s star-studded squad promises to make a deep run at the Euro's and competition for places is hotting up just a few weeks before it gets kick-started.
After a stellar season, racking up 18 goal contributions in 50 appearances for club and country, Bukayo Saka is tipped to make the final 26-man squad.
England journey so far
Saka made his England debut in October 2020, featuring as a wing-back in a 3-0 win versus Wales.
Arsenal’s academy prodigy has gone on to earn an additional three caps since, across two other England camps, grabbing an assist against the Republic of Ireland in the process.
The 19-year-old was included in the latest squad in March but did not feature due to a minor hamstring injury.
Nonetheless, his inclusion is a telling tale, suggesting that Southgate wanted the youngster in his side to integrate him into the squad’s culture for the future.
Versatility gives him an edge
There is no doubt Saka is a phenomenal prospect- skillful, intelligent, and showing maturity beyond his years.
Despite his age, the youngster looked like one of the more experienced players in the Arsenal side this year, keeping the club afloat during their worst season in 25 years.
He has flourished in a new right-wing role this season- featuring 22 times- but has played in various since first donning the red and white of Arsenal.
In 2019/20, his breakout season, Saka played 41% of his games at left-back for the Gunners, so it’s safe to say he could comfortably slot in there for Southgate if called upon.
Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are the two frontrunners for England’s left-back spot, but Saka’s attacking prowess certainly has him down as a superior wing-back.
However, in England’s most recent stretch of games, played in March, Southgate reverted back to a traditional four at the back- meaning Saka would be a third-string choice.
His game as a winger continues to improve week on week, leading Arsenal in chances created (38), dribbles completed (46), but it is also his endurance and determination that boost his chances of securing a place in the final 26.
Saka leads the Gunners in duels (146) and outfield minutes played (2560)- an impressive feat for one of the team’s youngest assets.
Despite his early stardom, he will very much be an insurance pick- able to cover senior players in case of injury, due to his versatility.
If selected, Saka will be the most recent Arsenal player to represent England at a major tournament since Danny Welbeck in the 2018 World Cup.