England got off to a fabulous start to their Euro 2024 qualification campaign with their hard-fought 2-1 victory over Italy in Naples. It was England’s first victory on Italian soil since 1961, and Gareth Southgate’s men were good value for it too. It was also an occasion to celebrate for Three Lions captain Harry Kane who became England’s all-time leading scorer when he fired home from the penalty spot for his 54th goal. Southgate’s men followed up with a 2-0 home win over Ukraine at Wembley, in which Kane added another goal. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka topped off another excellent performance for his country with a stunning strike too.
As well as the aforementioned two attacking players who started England’s first two Euro qualifiers, Southgate is blessed with numerous excellent options when it comes to attacking players. The Three Lions might be short of a world-class centre back and have some weaknesses elsewhere too but let us focus on the positives. So as they hopefully cruise towards qualification, let’s take a look at the best attacking players England could call upon.
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) – All-time Leading Scorer
In an England shirt, Harry Kane seems to be improving with age. Not only has he surpassed Wayne Rooney’s record haul of England goals, but Kane has consistently shown his all-round play to be outstanding. His hold-up play, ability to bring in teammates and, of course, his scoring record means he’s first on Southgate’s teamsheet. If he stays fit, he’ll start for England in any meaningful game up to and including the Euros and even beyond.
Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – Dynamic, Composed, Effective
Bukayo Saka has developed as a player in the last two seasons and he now appears mature beyond his years in terms of his decision-making and his ability to boss games. At the time of writing with not many games of the 2022/23 Premier League season to go, Saka has scored fewer goals than Kane (12 to 21), but he’s made more assists than almost anyone in the top flight (only Kevin De Bruyne is ahead of him on that front). This, and his ability to beat players and create chances from nothing, could make him the perfect foil for Kane in the coming months and years. And he’s the sort of boy your Grandma would love too with a smile that could even charm Vladimir Putin!
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) – Return To Top Form
Marcus Rashford appears to have rediscovered his brilliance at Manchester United since Erik ten Hag became manager, scoring around a goal every two games and having a better shooting accuracy (63.46%) than Saka (53.33%), Kane (63.01%) or even Erling Haaland (59.46%). If he continues his excellent form at club level, he will certainly give Southgate a reliable and effective option as a back-up to Kane. In addition, he is a brilliant choice on the left, who can also play on the right too.
Ivan Toney (Brentford) – Muscled His Way Into Contention
It’s fair to say that if Ivan Toney played for one of the biggest Premier League clubs, he’d have more caps for his country (he’s played only once at the time of writing). But the Brentford striker has still forced Southgate to take notice and with 16 goals in the Premier League in the current season at the time of writing, only Kane and Haaland have netted more. Toney offers a brilliant combination of power and finesse and though his shooting success isn’t quite as high as others on our list, he can destroy defences, especially against lesser opposition. As such, he could be a good option to use when Kane is being rested or if he’s injured. And, of course, his prowess from the spot could prove invaluable in tournament football.
Raheem Sterling (Chelsea) – Proven Top-Level Performer
For a long time, Raheem Sterling looked like the go-to option for Southgate when seeking a dynamic and inventive compliment to Kane in the England attack. But since moving to Chelsea (and arguably when not playing as many games as he’d have liked at Man City), Sterling hasn’t quite been the player he was. Of course, all that could change if he rediscovers the kind of form that has allowed him to score 20 goals for his country. But as things stand, Sterling has been knocked down the attacking pecking order somewhat. Southgate is loyal and trusts Sterling, and also values his experience, but the Chelsea man could feasibly fail to make the squad for Germany 2024.
Jack Grealish (Manchester City) – Full Of Guile, Sometimes Ineffective
An often-fearless competitor who is not afraid to get stuck in and try things that others wouldn’t think of, Jack Grealish can be used to help unlock stubborn defences or to punish sloppy backlines. There is a feeling that he sometimes doesn’t quite make the right call, losing possession in potentially dangerous positions on occasion. But there is no doubt that Grealish is the kind of player who scares the hell out of defenders, and it’s always good to have that in your locker. In his 143 Premier League appearances to date, he’s scored 21 goals and made 23 assists which aren’t bad stats, but we feel he might need to produce even more in the final third to gain a regular place in England’s starting XI. The good news is that the former Villa man is really settling in at City now and his output seems to be improving.
Phil Foden (Manchester City) – Brilliant Star to Shine for Years
Greaslish’s teammate Phil Foden is more prolific in front of goal than the former Villa man: Foden’s goals per goal ratio is 0.27 in the Premier League to Grealish’s 0.15. And if the 22-year-old continues his development, he could become a near-permanent feature of Southgate’s attacking plans. He does have the tendency to let the biggest games pass him by on occasion, but when he’s on song, Foden regularly splits defences and creates goals for himself or his teammates. He really does have it all but perhaps needs to find the position that suits him best, with the young star capable of playing almost anywhere in midfield or attack.
Other Possible Contenders
There’s a long way to go until Euro 2024 gets underway and lots can change in that time, whether through injuries or loss of form. As such, here are some of the English attacking players who could force their way into Southgate’s thinking if they find form at the right time. Just as Saka put himself into England contention by delivering for his club in the Premier League, so there are others who could be knocking on Southgate’s door before the Euros.
The likes of Harvey Barnes (Leicester City), for instance, could well be on Southgate’s radar, especially as there’s a chance he might opt to play for Scotland if he isn’t brought into the England fold soon. His Leicester teammate, James Maddison, was superb against Ukraine, and brings a different option due to his preference for operating more centrally.
Then there’s Saka’s Arsenal teammate Eddie Nketiah, who has been showing some potential and goalscoring prowess, although he’ll need to nail down regular starts with the Gunners if he’s to make the step up to the England senior team (he scored 16 goals in 17 games for the under 21s). Olly Watkins could yet be the man to provide back-up to Kane, whilst Folarin Balogun is impressing with Reims, on loan from Arsenal. The youngster has outscored Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in France and could yet make a late charge into the Euros squad.
Overall though, it’s fair to say that Southgate is very much spoiled for choice when it comes to attacking options. And the competition between the players is sure to make them retain their desire to keep improving, which could prove very welcome for England fans!