Southgate’s striker woes increase as injury list mounts up

As the 12th of June and the start of Euro 2020 draw ever closer, England manager, Gareth Southgate’s selection headache grows, and his striker woes persist.

As in previous tournaments,  England have been led by captain Harry Kane, who secured himself the Golden Boot at the FIFA World Cup in 2018, however due to a serious hamstring injury, the 26-year-old finds himself out of action until April after having surgery on the injury. Losing their main goal scorer undoubtedly renders England a weaker attacking force, but unfortunately the crisis in England’s striking options does not end there, and the question of who will step up this summer is becoming more frequently asked. 

Harry Kane was not the only man England fans imagined leading the line, and Southgate has not been shy to try out the youth talent available. Manchester United’s homegrown star, Marcus Rashford has made 38 senior caps for England since May 2016 and was arguably placed ahead of Jamie Vardy at the World Cup finals, using the wider attacking routes when deployed.

 This season in the Premier League Rashford has shone brightly for United, being one of the few positives they can take from their below-par season. So far, he has netted 14 goals and has earned 4 assists, ranking him third amongst the top scorers in the Premier League this season.

 However, as promising as this sounded, it is followed by more sad news. During United’s FA Cup third-round replay against Wolves, Rashford had to leave the field early due to a serious back injury, placing him out of action for up to three months. This has sparked backlash in the footballing world, as many hold manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer responsible, as he knew Rashford was not fully fit to play, but his desire to restore United’s form came at the expense of Rashford’s fitness.  Now, one of England’s brightest and most promising players is not fit to play, leaving both United and England without a certain ‘fear factor’ that they need.

Another player, like Rashford, who uses his pace to torment defenders is Jamie Vardy, who currently sits at the top of the Premier League scoring chart with 17 goals. However, Vardy retired from England duty in August 2018 at the age of 32, and despite his prolific finishing for Leicester, Southgate often focuses on younger players. Now facing an injury crisis and options narrowing, it must be on the England manager’s mind, to try persuading Vardy out of retirement and see if his clinical finishing can once again be used on the international stage. 

Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson has attempted to fill Vardy’s boots since his retirement, and his explosive energy might be what England require. But Wilson, like the rest of Bournemouth’s players is sitting in a terrible slump which may affect his chances of playing in the Summer. 

With the first three choices to lead England upfront all seemingly unavailable, it is time to look at what other options are available. This season Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham has been a breath of fresh air for Lampard’s side, scoring 13 goals so far, and is arguably leading the pack competing to start in this summers’ tournament. However, Abraham is the least experienced of all the names above and still remains very untested against high quality opposition. 

This has led England fans to consider a less familiar face; Southampton’s Danny Ings, who has scored 14 goals so far in the Premier League this season. Previously earning an England cap in 2015, a knee injury cut his time short, but after his form this season it will be hard for Southgate to overlook his prowess in front of goal.  

Other outside options include Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who Carlo Ancelotti said could become one of Europe’s top strikers, and his potential was clear for all to see after scoring a brace against Chelsea in December. Other youngsters such as Mason Greenwood must also be in Southgate’s sights, although it is doubtful the England manager will thrust the young star into the limelight at such a young age. 

As unclear as it appears at the moment, some clarity should be given in March’s friendlies, where a large amount of the summer squad will likely be playing. 

Image rights:  Кирилл Венедиктов via Wikimedia Commons 

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