Former Tottenham Hotspur and England manager Glenn Hoddle has hinted that Chelsea defender Reece James could now be in pole position to start at right wing-back for the Three Lions at Euro 2020 after Trent Alexander-Arnold was ruled out of the tournament through injury.
England chief Gareth Southgate opted to name four right-backs in his 26-man squad for the tournament, with Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Alexander-Arnold and James all making the cut.
However, with less than a week to go until the tournament begins, Southgate has now seen his right-back options reduced to three after Alexander-Arnold was forced off through injury during Wednesday evening’s friendly against Austria, in turn ruling him out of the Euros.
With Southgate poised to go with a 3-4-3 system, wing-backs will play a key part. Alexander-Arnold would have been one of the leading contenders to line up on the right, but now he has been ruled it out it could mean that James gets the nod, with Walker, you would think, the more likely to play in the right-sided centre-back role.
But for former England chief Hoddle, it will all depend on what formation Southgate goes for, whilst admitting that James’ versatility will assist Southgate’s thinking.
“It depends on what shape you’re going to play,” Hoddle said, speaking at a betfair event. “Reece James is a very good player as a wing-back, he’s done it for Chelsea this season.
“But he’s also played as a right-sided centre-back in a three. So he’s got those strings to his bow.
“I think if Gareth was going to play a three, Trent Alexander-Arnold would have been the choice as a wing-back because he’s been absolutely sensational going forward, I think it’s just defensively where there’s been a few question marks on it. But he’s going to be out, which is sad for him.
“In some ways, if you’re going to get an injury, get it in the right-back position because they’ve got four. If you had that injury in a position where you only had two people and you didn’t have enough cover, that would be different.
“So in some ways, Gareth’s been slightly lucky there because that can be a big headache. He’s done the right thing in not bringing anyone in yet because he’s got another friendly to get through and then he can sum up where he needs the strength: whether it’s the centre of midfield, whether it’s another defender; I think it might give him an option because he’s waited, I think he’s going to see how the Harry Maguire injury scenario is.
“Because day after day, you’ve got [Jordan] Henderson as well, he’s got some conundrums to work out and that’s where I think he’ll play his late card.
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“But I think it’ll be one where he thinks it can cover a few areas.”
Although Southgate has been criticised by some for his squad selection, the England boss is spoilt for choice throughout the team, with the Three Lions boss blessed with talent all over the pitch.
England enter the tournament as one of the favourites and it is easy to understand why because of the large talent pool Southgate has been able to choose from.