It’s fair to say there are great expectations for England’s Under-21s this summer as Gareth Southgate’s side travel to the Czech Republic to take part in the Euros. Optimism as to the Three Lions’ chances next month rose to worrying heights as England overcame tournament favourites Germany in their last friendly outing, with France and Spain surprisingly falling at the qualification hurdle.
Despite the team’s progress in their absence, calls remain for Southgate to recall a number of players now seen as regulars in the senior set-up, dividing opinions as to whether the likes of Sterling, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere – whose birthday falls on the cut-off date for eligibility – should drop back down in an attempt to secure some long-awaited glory.
WhoScored.com reveal the top rated players able to play for England’s Under-21s this summer from the Premier League, with a number of high-profile omissions. Due to the difficulties with comparing players from England’s second tier to those in the top-flight, Championship players have not been selected.
Jack Butland – WhoScored.com rating 6.97
While the rest of the XI here have made at least 10 appearances this season, Jack Butland is the only eligible goalkeeper to have featured in the Premier League in any capacity. His recent displays in the absence of Asmir Begovic for Stoke certainly show that the England Under-21 captain is a safe pair of hands between the posts, with a league-leading save success rate of 90.9% over his 3 appearances.
Calum Chambers – WhoScored.com rating 7.00
He may have fallen down the pecking order at Arsenal but Calum Chambers’ displays at the start of the season were cause for encouragement for Gunners fans. He’s picked up a goal and an assist for his club and impressive averages of 2.1 tackles and 2 interceptions per game were enough to earn a senior England call-up last year, along with a place in this team ahead of the man he effectively replaced at the Emirates, Carl Jenkinson.
Phil Jones – WhoScored.com rating 7.46
His defending may be a little unorthodox at best but you can rely on Phil Jones to walk through walls and, indeed, headbutt floors for the good of the team. The defender’s impressive rating of 7.46 from WhoScored comes courtesy of a mightily impressive 3.2 interceptions per game, and the United man has been somewhat overlooked when it comes to those that could feature for the Under-21s this summer.
John Stones – WhoScored.com rating 7.17
Now very much a part of Everton’s first choice centre-back pairing, John Stones is expected to line-up for Southgate’s side next month despite having been called up to the senior squad by Hodgson this season. In a difficult campaign for the Toffees their defensive record improved upon Stones’ introduction to the backline, conceding 1.14 goals per game in his 22 appearances compared to 1.6 in his absence in the league.
Luke Shaw – WhoScored.com rating 6.79
Despite an underwhelming debut season at Old Trafford, Luke Shaw takes his place at left-back, albeit with the lowest rating (6.79) of the XI. It’s been a tough transition for a player who is still only a teenager, with injuries and a lack of fitness early on in the campaign hampering his progress. Louis van Gaal has stated that he doesn’t want the left-back to travel to the Czech Republic but in terms of his future aspirations at senior level it would certainly be beneficial.
Wilfried Zaha – WhoScored.com rating 6.93
After a dismal spell with Manchester United Wilfried Zaha is back on familiar ground and very much enjoying his football again under Alan Pardew at Palace. The 22-year old netted his 4th goal of the campaign as the Eagles ruined Steven Gerrard day at the weekend and he has shown flashes of his incredibly confident best form since returning to Selhurst Park, averaging 2.7 dribbles per game.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – WhoScored.com rating 7.20
Although he has expressed a desire to play at the tournament this summer one would expect, particularly given is injury problems this season, that Arsene Wenger would be against Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returning to compete with England’s Under-21s. A regular in Roy Hodgson’s England side, the 21-year old has again showcased his versatility this season, with no player completing a dribble more often (every 18 minutes) in the Premier League.
Jonjo Shelvey – WhoScored.com rating 6.83
Though his rating is identical to that of Ross Barkley this season, Jonjo Shelvey gets the nod having sustained a score of 6.83 over a greater number of appearances. With 3 goals and 5 assists in the league he has contributed significantly to what has been Swansea’s best ever season in English football and more so than Jack Wilshere has managed for Arsenal, having been restricted to just 7 league starts due to injury.
Raheem Sterling – WhoScored.com rating 7.27
He may be one of the first names on the senior international teamsheet but at just 20 Sterling is another player that perhaps should be given more tournament experience this summer. That said, it’s been a long season for the youngster, on and off the pitch, and while his rating here is strong Sterling has been suffering of late, directly contributing to just 1 goal in his last 10 league appearances.
Harry Kane – WhoScored.com rating 7.28
It’s little surprise that Harry Kane makes the side having had a quite remarkable breakthrough campaign at Spurs, notching 20 league goals for a rating of 7.28, as well as opening his senior international account on his debut. Kane is another player who seems to be struggling with a little fatigue, but should surely lead the line if England are to aim for glory in the Czech Republic.
Danny Ings – WhoScored.com rating 6.87
Completing the XI having netted 10 goals in Burnley’s unsuccessful bid to avoid relegation at the first time of asking, Danny Ings is among those that looks certain to be on the plane this summer. The 23-year old has had his problems in front of goal this season, recently ending a 10-game scoring drought, but with 4 assists to his name he has been the Clarets’ main attacking threat and is a proven finisher at Under-21 level.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their new free-to-download app