Can the new England strikers fire the Three Lions to glory?
Given the form of Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings, coupled with the ever-impressive Harry Kane, discussions have understandably turned to whether the current England strikers can be the ones to guide the nation to glory on the international stage.
Followers of the game are no strangers to seeing English players hyped, with many attributing this to the overreaching influence of the country’s media, as well as the immense popularity of the English Premier League.
Many opine that the players are not as good as they are portrayed and are only in the public consciousness because they play for such popular clubs in a popular league.
The constant stick to beat them with has been the visible lack of English presence in foreign leagues, with a youngster’s path to top-flight football already laid by the excellent youth structure in place at English clubs.
However, times are changing and the success enjoyed by Jadon Sancho when he traded Manchester City for Bourssia Dortmund as a 17-year-old three years ago has paved the way for several of his age-grade members to follow his path.
One of the greatest mysteries of international football is how the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ of England failed to win a trophy in the last two decades.
How a team including the likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, John Terry, among other failed to even make a semifinal appearance at a major tournament defies logic.
In light of this, fans could be forgiven for taking any new hyped team with a pinch of salt, after all they are used to seeing teams of high promise flatter to deceive on the biggest stages.
In rather contrasting scenes, it was the team from whom not much was expected that went the furthest, with the inexperienced squad Gareth Southgate named for the 2018 World Cup attaining England’s best result at the mundial for almost 30 years and even though ‘it did not come home,’ Harry Kane and co. increased belief among a fanbase that has a love-hate relationship with the national team.
Since then, the team has not exactly progressed at the trajectory that many expected and while they might have made the semifinal of the maiden UEFA Nations League, questions still remain over whether the Three Lions can be considered among the favorites for the European Championship next year.
Even though the Three Lions still trail behind the likes of Germany, France, and Belgium in overall talent, a case can be made to consider the current England strikers to be among the best in the world on current form.
3 – Tonight is the first time three players (Calvert-Lewin, Coady and Ings) have all scored their first England goals in the same game since June 1963 vs Switzerland (Tony Kay, Johnny Byrne and Jimmy Melia). Fresh. pic.twitter.com/GxL9Zpo12C
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 8, 2020
Dominic Calvert-Lewin can simply not stop scoring and already has 10 goals this season (including two hat-tricks) from just seven matches at club and international level, while Danny Ings was the highest-scoring Englishman with 20 goals in the league last season.
Both men opened their international accounts in the 3-0 friendly victory over Wales and proved to be more than able deputies for the irrepressible Harry Kane.
With the Tottenham man sidelined for England’s Nations League clash with Belgium, Calvert-Lewin has been charged with leading the line and if he can keep up his fine form, Southgate would fancy his side’s chances of victory against the star-studded Red Devils.
Beyond Calvert-Lewin and Ings, there are also several other English forwards who are making a mark on the domestic game.
The evergreen and internationally retired Jamie Vardy is still going strong at 33, and having ended the last season with the Golden Boot, the Leicester City forward has continued from where he left off and currently has five goals from four matches in the campaign.
Newly-promoted Leeds United have seen their charge in the top-flight led by Patrick Bamford and the Chelsea reject was one of only two England strikers to have scored in each of the opening three league games of the season (alongside Calvert-Lewin).
Aston Villa completed one of the biggest shocks in Premier League history when they thumped champions Liverpool and they were inspired by Jack Grealish, as well as new boy Ollie Watkins (who helped himself to a memorable hat-trick).
Elsewhere, Callum Wilson is offering a different dimension to a one-dimensional and stoic Newcastle team, Tammy Abraham continues to be key to Lampard’s plans, while Michail Antonio has also kept up his hot-streak post-lockdown since his change of roles.
Indeed, 37 goals have been scored by England strikers in just four rounds of Premier League matches this season and while several reasons have been given for this increased output, it cannot be denied that this is Golden age for English forwards.
Of course Harry Kane will remain the country’s number one pick in attack (provided he can stay fit) and the Tottenham man has shown a diversity to his game which was previously lacking – by dropping deep to influence proceedings.
But beyond the 27-year-old, Gareth Southgate now has an abundance of options to select from, who can be relied upon to deliver the goods.
The current crop of England strikers is unarguably the best in almost two generations but whether they can step up to the plate when it matters most remains to be seen.
In many ways, their glass ceiling depends on Gareth Southgate employing correct tactics to utilize the talents of those available to him and this is where many opine that the 50-year-old falls short.
The Three Lions manager is mostly conservative in his tactics, while his preferred midfield option is full of industry and grit but painfully short of creativity and technical quality.
He has shown a distinct distrust of Villa captain Jack Grealish – who despite playing as a winger on paper – can function effectively as a creative midfielder.
England have the forwards to get the job done when they are called upon but whether the players behind them would give them the opportunity remains to be seen.
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