The countdown is on — Euro 2022 is drawing ever closer. Although England aren’t currently viewed as tournament favourites, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
For the first time ever, the Lionesses have a plethora of options in all positions. They can also call on the nous and tactical impetus of Sarina Wiegman, a genuine world-class manager. Factoring in the vociferous home support, and a not-unkind group draw, there is no reason they couldn’t go far.
The Arnold Clark Cup provided Wiegman with a chance to review her squad against quality opposition. Previously, she’d only been able to assess her attacking talent against opponents further down the world rankings.
While it’s always nice to win by high margins, it makes it tough to draw meaningful conclusions. However, we can now start to formulate a picture of which players will — and which won’t — be getting a call to represent their country this summer.
In this article, we’re assuming that England will call up between six and seven attackers, which is in line with recent squad selections.Embed from Getty Images
If recent matches are anything to judge on, Wiegman will be keen to start with Lauren Hemp and Fran Kirby on each wing. They are genuine superstars, with one currently in the form of her life, and the other rightly lauded as the best young player in the WSL.
They offer directness and pace, are adept at creating and scoring, and will be integral to any hopes of lifting the trophy.
Although Kirby has suffered patchy form in 2022, she is a genuine matchwinner and big-game player. Her performance in the Arnold Clark Cup final match underlines this. As for Hemp, she has carried the baton for City all season. Despite their poor start, she is one of a few who can claim to have been outstanding all year..Embed from Getty Images
Although her season has been somewhat hot and cold, it seems impossible to make a case for Ellen White not featuring in the squad either.
England’s record goalscorer grabbed a crucial goal in the Continental Cup Final for Man City, and with 49 goals for her country, she will be keen to add to her impressive tally.
White is a proper No. 9, and at times, that is something Wiegman really relies on. She also has extensive tournament experience which could mark her as a mentor for younger players.
The final certainty is Beth Mead. She’s enjoyed an influential season with Arsenal and has impressed with the Lionesses. Missing out on the SheBelieves Cup has given her a chance to refresh and re-galvanise herself and this has benefitted her immensely. She also offers versatility. Mead can play centrally or out wide, which is a boon to Wiegman. With a wicked delivery, an eye for goal, and penchant for the spectacular, she’s going to be another huge asset.Embed from Getty Images
The Manchester United duo of Ella Toone and Alessia Russo have both had good seasons for the Red Devils. They are both young, and whilst this tournament might come too early in terms of starting for the national side, they can both play a part in the squad.
Toone has tended to find herself with the unenviable task of competing with Kirby or Hemp when England have used a 4-3-3 system. When England use a 4-2-3-1, she tends to get shunted into the wide area in order for Kirby to play as the 10. It’s worth saying that Toone would prefer to occupy this role.
Toone’s quality is unquestionable, however, and at 22 years old, time is very much on her side.
Russo offers similar versatility to Mead. She can play through the middle, although recently has found herself coming off the wing. Her ability to consistently find the net is hugely beneficial, and her link-up ability is improving with every passing week.
Aged just 23, she’s again one who has a long-term future with the national side.Embed from Getty Images
Although she was called up for the Arnold Clark Cup, Nikita Parris has endured a tough season. Minutes at Arsenal have been limited, her fitness has been up and down and she’s not found the net on a regular basis.
Wiegman has made it clear that she will not select players purely on their name, and Parris may well be a casualty of this. The saving grace for her is her Lionesses record isn’t bad. With a goal on average every 4 caps, she might sneak in. Again, she also has tournament experience which will go in her favour.
Lucy Staniforth could be another option in the No. 10 role, but she is struggling for minutes at club level. This wouldn’t necessarily be a killer blow… until you realise she is already paling against Russo and Toone. As neither of them are undisputed starters, it’s hard to make a case for Staniforth.
She has always been in and around squads, but never been an undisputed name.
The other ‘big’ name who could miss out is Beth England. Although few doubt her pedigree as a striker, she faces the unenviable task of trying to usurp Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder from the current Chelsea starting XI.
If England had left in January — either permanently or on loan — and started scoring regularly, she’d definitely offer a credible option to Wiegman. However, she didn’t, and although her goals-to-minute ratio is impressive, and her Lionesses’ record is eight goals in 15 caps, it’s hard to see her getting in based on other players’ form.Embed from Getty Images
Toni Duggan is another player in similar shoes to Beth England. She is a good goalscorer who has been out of form and lacked minutes this season. Everton’s struggles as a team haven’t helped her recapture the form which made her so prized a player across Europe. She hasn’t actually scored for England in over 3 years and it seems like her time has possibly gone at the top stage.
England have always enjoyed throwing wildcards into their tournament selections — like using Rachel Daly as a defender at the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. There is always a good chance of a surprise. So who might fit that bill?
Ebony Salmon was expected to be England’s new No. 9. Her move to Racing Louisville has gone well so far, but she may be out of Wiegman’s radar for the time being.
Salmon is scoring regularly for England U23s, however, so she certainly isn’t one to totally rule out. If England want another pure centre-forward, she’s the likely name on a lot of lips.
Lauren James could have been the real challenger, but her move back to Chelsea has been littered with injuries and a lack of form. She also hasn’t got enough minutes under her belt so far. James does, however, offer pace, power, and attacking versatility.
If she had been fully fit, Chloe Kelly would have likely been a shoo-in for the squad. Her direct style and pace was a massive benefit to Manchester City last season and they have missed her ability this year. She does at her best have that special ability to decide games. On the flip side, she’s only had seven appearances for her country, even before the injury.
Having been out for such a long period, it would be surprising if she was thrown back into the fire.
Some other real wildcards for the Lionesses who could get into the conversation if they have good ends to the season include Emma Harries and Natasha Dowie of Reading, Danielle Carter of Brighton, and Shannon O’Brien of Leicester City.
All of this speculation comes with the caveat. Players will be desperate to keep their form, and most importantly, their fitness ahead of the tournament. Although a lot of England’s Lionesses’ spots are decided, there will still be time to change Sarina Wiegman’s mind.
This is, however, the first tournament in memory that England boasts a genuine plethora of options. There are quality players and backups in every position and some of the players are truly world-class talents. This can only bode well as the Lionesses look to bring it home.