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Five in-form players pushing for an England place

Gareth Southgate will be casting a keen eye over his pool of English talent in the coming weeks, as the England manager finalises his plans for June’s internationals.

The Three Lions made a strong start to their Euro 2024 qualification campaign last month and will be looking to cement their place at the top of the standings with wins over Malta and North Macedonia this summer.

As the Premier League season reaches the run-in, we’ve looked at five players – not included during the most recent international break – who are pushing for a place in Southgate’s plans.

Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins was an unfortunate omission from the England squad for March’s fixtures, following a purple patch in front of goal for Aston Villa. Watkins’ form has proven no flash in the pan however, with the forward having continued in a rich vein of form for Unai Emery’s high-flying side.

Watkins has been involved in 16 goals in 17 league appearances since Emery’s arrival as manager, with the Spaniard having refined the 27-year-old’s game.

Gareth Southgate was in attendance as Watkins scored twice and created another against Newcastle last weekend, producing as complete a centre-forward performance as seen in the Premier League this season. Watkins harassed the visitors backline with insatiable work-rate and movement, with his runs in behind causing problems for Eddie Howe’s back four all afternoon.

Watkins has not played for England since scoring in a friendly win against Ivory Coast in March 2021, but appears a shoo-in for Southgate’s squad on current form. Only Erling Haaland can match his current rate of productivity in the Premier League and that is certainly fine company to keep.

Lewis Dunk

Lewis Dunk continues to be overlooked at international level, with the defender having failed to add to a single cap won with the national side in 2018.

Dunk’s omission comes despite consistent performances for a Brighton side who continue to ruffle the feathers of the Premier League’s elite. Managers and have come and gone at the Amex Stadium, but Dunk – who recently made his 400th appearance for the Seagulls – has remained a fixture and key figure for each.

The 31-year-old might not be a long-term option for England, but given a lack of convincing centre-back options can count himself unfortunate in recent squads. Aerially dominant and part of a Brighton team who progress the ball from deep as well as any side in the division, he has the qualities needed to perform at international level.

Roberto De Zerbi has taken instantly to the club captain and questioned how Dunk’s attributes of leadership and technical quality have continued to be under-appreciated.

“For me, it’s difficult to see how he has never played for a big team in the Premier League because if you ask me what I think about him, I would say he is one of the best defenders in the Premier League. I know well his potential and his standard of performance,” De Zerbi said in February.

“He is a very big personality on the pitch and a good guy because in the training I observe my players every day. He always helps the young players to understand about being inside the Brighton environment. If you speak about Dunk as a player, and his personality, technical quality and power he is complete.”

Levi Colwill is also understood to be under consideration for England, with the Chelsea loanee impressive on loan at Brighton this season.

Eberechi Eze

Eberechi Eze has been on the radar of Gareth Southgate and his England staff for some time, with the midfielder included in the provisional squad ahead of Euro 2020 before an Achilles injury halted his chances of reaching the tournament.

The 24-year-old has returned to form and fitness this season at Crystal Palace, with the recent arrival of Roy Hodgson as manager having elevated Eze. In the absence of Wilfried Zaha, the midfielder has taken on creative responsibility for Palace in the final third, with his brand of dribbling making Eze one of the most watchable footballers in the league.

Eze has completed 83% of his attempted dribbles this month, as Palace have won three consecutive games under Hodgson to move clear of trouble. He has scored three goals in his last two appearances and has seven for the season.

England are blessed with an abidance of creative talents, with Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Phil Foden and Mason Mount among those competing for a place in Southgate’s squad. Eze, however, has something different, a street footballer style that could give the Three Lions an x-factor.

Jacob Ramsey

Jacob Ramsey is enjoying his football right now, with the midfielder part of an Aston Villa side powering towards European football.

Villa have won five consecutive Premier League games and seven of their last eight, emerging as a team transformed under the management of Unai Emery. The Spaniard has brought the best from several names in the squad, with Ramsey among those reborn under the new head coach.

The 21-year-old has flourished in a roving role from the left and has two goals and three assists in his last five Premier League appearances. Gareth Southgate and England u21 equivalent Lee Carsley were in attendance to watch the midfielder against Newcastle last weekend, as Ramsey scored one and created another in Villa’s 3-0 win.

With established names in Jordan Henderson, James Ward-Prowse, Mason Mount and Kalvin Phillips either out of form or favour at club level, could Southgate take a chance on a player who could become a long-term fixture in his squad?

Ramsey – who has three goals in 11 caps for the England u21 side – might just feel ready for the step up to senior level.

Solly March

Gareth Southgate was asked directly about his decision to leave out Brighton pair Solly March and Lewis Dunk in March, following the duo’s performances for the high-flying Seagulls this season.

“They are playing very well,” Southgate said last month.

“The coach has the team playing in a unique style in our league. Solly is a player we know well but at the moment I don’t see him ahead of Rashford, Grealish, Saka in those positions on the field. They are hard calls.

“We’re always watching everybody and there is not a game we miss. We know there are some players playing well but I have to pick the team I think gives us the best chance of winning in two big matches coming up. You have to get the experience right for those types of games as well.”

March has emerged as an unlikely candidate for an England role this season, following a career-best campaign at the Amex Stadium. An always willing worker, the versatile wideman has added end product to his game to lead Brighton’s push for Europe.

March has seven goals and seven assists in the Premier League this season, including five goal involvements in seven games either side of England’s fixtures in March. The 28-year-old might not be the most fashionable footballer, but there’s value in his energy and versatility out wide.

Read – Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

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