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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The best England XI from players without a senior cap

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England boast an extraordinary depth of resources right now, so much so that this XI of Premier League players are all without a senior cap for the national team.

Gareth Southgate is busy finalising his England squad ahead of next summer’s European Championship, could any of this side break into the plans of the Three Lions boss?

Levi Colwill and Eddie Nketiah, without a senior cap at the time of writing but involved in the latest squad, are not included.

The best England XI from players without a senior cap:

Goalkeeper: James Trafford – Burnley

James Trafford was one of the heroes of England’s u-21 European Championship win during the summer, with the goalkeeper making a stoppage-time penalty save as the Young Lions beat Spain 1-0 in the final.

Trafford became the first goalkeeper to win the u-21 Euros without conceding a single goal, form which persuaded Burnley to spend £15m to sign the 21-year-old from Manchester City last summer.

There are no words to describe this moment.

🔥 @Jamestrafford6 🔥 pic.twitter.com/v9XaeiDjZa

— England (@England) July 8, 2023

Trafford has leapt from League One football (on loan at Bolton last season) to the Premier League and it has been a challenging campaign to date, but the shot-stopper is a real talent and one whose development Southgate will be keeping a close eye on.

Right-back: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Manchester United

England’s right-back role is arguably the deepest stacked single position in international football. Kyle Walker, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Tripper are all considered among the very best right-backs in Europe right now, leaving several stars with a slim chance of international honours.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was included in an England squad in August 2019 before withdrawing through injury and has failed to get a look in since, despite recent improvement at Manchester United. The 25-year-old has expressed interest in representing DR Congo, having earned one cap for the African nation’s u-20 side in 2015.

Centre-back: Ezri Konsa – Aston Villa

Centre-back appears the position most up for grabs heading towards Euro 2024, with the established Harry Maguire out of favour at club level. Marc Guehi, Lewis Dunk, Fikayo Tomori and Levi Colwill are among the names pushing for a place, but could Ezri Konsa enter the conversation?

The Aston Villa defender has started the season in excellent form for Unai Emery’s side, taking responsibility alongside new arrival Pau Torres in the absence of the injured Tyrone Mings. Quick across the ground and composed on the ball, he ranks fourth in the Premier League for percentage of dribblers tackled this season (85.7%).

Centre-back: Dan Burn – Newcastle

Dan Burn might not be the most fashionable footballer on this list, but the defender continues to be one of the first names on the team sheet at Newcastle.

The towering local lad has been a fixture for Eddie Howe’s team, adapting brilliantly to a left-back role and filling in in his natural centre-back position on occasion. Burn might be unorthodox, but he can be mightily effective and scored a crucial goal in Newcastle’s 4-1 thrashing of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League this month.

Big. Dan. Burn. #UCL pic.twitter.com/07rAFYKExR

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 4, 2023

Natural left-footers, especially those competing at the highest level, are in short supply.

Left-back: Rico Lewis – Manchester City

Right-back, left-back, central midfield, Rico Lewis can do it all. The teenager has broken into the Manchester City side on a regular basis in recent weeks to earn lavish praise from the man in charge.

“What a player. What a player,” Pep Guardiola said after the recent win over RB Leipzig.

“18 years old. I have been a manager for 14, 15 years training unbelievable players.

“To find a player like him playing in the pockets, how he has to move in holding midfield, full-back coming inside moving in the spaces – he is one of the best I ever trained by far.”

Lewis was outstanding as England u-21s beat Serbia 9-1 this week, a bundle of roving energy who registered a couple of assists. That talent, temperament and versatility make him a Euro 2024 wildcard.

Midfield: Sean Longstaff – Newcastle

Sean Longstaff has been a central part of Newcastle’s improvement under Eddie Howe. Longstaff shone as the Magpies secured a top-four finish last season and scored as Newcastle welcomed Champions League football back to St James’ Park with a 4-1 thrashing of PSG this month.

“I haven’t spoken with Sean in any great detail about the England squad or his dreams and aims, but I’d encourage it for him because I think he is good enough,” Howe said recently.

“I think he’s got everything depending on what system you want to play but for us, he perfectly fits the number eight role that we’re using him in. I’d love to see him score more goals and get in more goalscoring positions because I think he is a very good finisher – you saw the other night with a really good goal – so hopefully there’s more to come from him. But he’s certainly done very well at the start of this season.”

Midfield: Curtis Jones – Liverpool

Curtis Jones is another of England’s u-21 European champions, but is now too old to represent the age group. The challenge now will be to break into the senior set-up, after becoming an increasingly important figure for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Jones’ career appeared to be stalling last season, but he impressed during the Premier League run-in to win Klopp’s trust. The 22-year-old was named Man of the Match in the u-21 Euros final after scoring – albeit fortuitously – the winning goal against Spain.

Jones is versatile, technically excellent, and willing to put in selfless shifts in midfield. Those are attributes Southgate will admire, even given the competition for places.

Midfield: Morgan Gibbs-White – Nottingham Forest

Morgan Gibbs-White was a big hit after signing for Nottingham Forest in a club-record deal, following the club’s promotion to the Premier League. The 23-year-old brought an x-factor to Steve Cooper’s side, scoring five goals and providing eight assists as Forest survived the drop.

Named as Forest’s Player of the Season, Gibbs-White then formed part of England’s victorious u-21 side at the European Championship during the summer. He has now won two major tournaments with England at youth level, after lifting the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017.

🅰 Cole Palmer
⚽ Gibbs-White#U21EURO | @England pic.twitter.com/AcyUc1Zm7e

— UEFA U21 EURO (@UEFAUnder21) July 5, 2023

Breaking into Gareth Southgate’s plans as an advanced midfielder will be difficult, but Gibbs-White has a confidence and charisma on the pitch that makes him stand out.

Right-wing: Anthony Gordon – Newcastle

Anthony Gordon has bounced back from a slow start at Newcastle to become undroppable for Eddie Howe in recent weeks. Two goals and two assists from six games has been an encouraging start to the campaign, as Gordon has built on being named the u-21 European Championship Player of the Tournament last summer.

The Newcastle fans have been won over by Gordon’s relentless running and invention, though the 22-year-old will need to increase his numbers to break into the senior England set-up. Southgate opted against calling up Gordon this month, despite Bukayo Saka’s withdrawal through injury.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Anthony Gordon finishing off a brilliant move by @England 👏#U21EURO pic.twitter.com/D0pmJOFj3a

— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) July 4, 2023

Left-wing: Jacob Ramsey – Aston Villa

Aston Villa fans continue to champion Jacob Ramsey’s credentials for England, with the midfielder having become a homegrown hero at Villa Park.

Ramsey has been named as Aston Villa’s Young Player of the Season in consecutive campaigns and produced 13 goal involvements in the Premier League last season. Former Villa boss Steven Gerrard said it was a ‘matter of time’ before the dynamic midfielder earned England recognition, with Ramsey having impressed with his drive and carry from midfield.

A potential all-Birmingham midfield partnership with Jude Bellingham could be seen in the near future.

Forward: Cole Palmer – Manchester City

Cole Palmer chose to leave Manchester City during the summer in search of regular first-team football, taking the difficult decision to leave his hometown – and club football’s best side – for increased opportunity.

The 21-year-old has already shown signs he has made the right decision with some eye-catching performances in a Chelsea shirt, with the forward scoring his first goal for the west Londoners at Burnley before the break.

Palmer – who has five goals in 15 appearances at u-21 level – captained the u-21 side during their 9-1 win over Serbia this month.

Read – Five former Southgate regulars struggling to make Euro 2024

Read Also – Five of the best Premier League Australians

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