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Euros: What are England's central midfield options?

England's qualification for the Euros appears to be all but assured and the debate as to who should start, make the plane or stay at home is starting to gather pace.

Perhaps one of the areas of the pitch that is likely to generate the most debate is in central midfield where Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham look almost certainties, fitness depending, to start England's opening game of the finals. 

But there are plenty of arguments taking place on who will potentially join those two in the starting XI and in the squad as a whole.

No doubts over Rice and Bellingham

England head coach Gareth Southgate has world-class talent throughout his squad, whether it's the defensive qualities of Kyle Walker, the attacking talents of Bukayo Saka or the goalscoring abilities of captain Harry Kane.

That individual quality is one of the main reasons England are among the favourites to be crowned European champions next summer and two more names you can add to that list are Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.

Both players have been excelling at new clubs this summer after being sold for fees in excess of £100m, with Rice catching the eye at the base of Arsenal's midfield and Bellingham showing his class for Real Madrid.

Bellingham, in particular, has the ability to be a generational talent and it is hard to believe he will not turn 21 until midway through next summer's finals.

The Henderson and Phillips conundrums 

Two central midfielders that are likely to form part of Southgate's squad are Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips, whose selections will no doubt garner criticism for different reasons.

Henderson's place in the squad has been called into question following his decision to leave Liverpool for Saudi Arabia over the summer, but despite that move, he was named in Southgate's squad and featured during the last international break.

The 33-year-old, who is managed by another former England midfielder, Steven Gerrard, at his new club Al-Ettifaq, does provide plenty of experience. If he is included next summer, he will be heading to his seventh major tournament and fourth Euros.

Manchester City midfielder Phillips has never let England down, playing a starring role as the Three Lions reached the final of the last European Championships in 2021.

However, his place in the squad has been coming under increased scrutiny due to his lack of game time at club level, as since joining City in July 2022, he has started just five matches for Pep Guardiola's side across all competitions and played only 45 minutes of Premier League football this season.

Southgate has continued to keep faith with Phillips despite those lack of minutes, but that could change if the 27-year-old continues to be marginalised at the Etihad Stadium.

Players on the fringes

The only other out-and-out central midfielder included in Southgate's squad during the last international break was Chelsea's Conor Gallagher, who appears to be a favourite of the head coach after also being selected for last year's World Cup in Qatar.

Gallagher will be hopeful of getting the nod for the Euros, but his cause may not be helped by the ongoing struggles of his club.

Another player that could come into the reckoning is James Ward-Prowse, who has impressed since swapping Southampton for West Ham over the summer, but he has not been selected by Southgate for over a year and has just missed out on the squads for the last two major tournaments.

Other players that could come into the reckoning if they enjoy good seasons at club level are Nottingham Forest's Morgan Gibbs-White, Joe Willock of Newcastle and Liverpool pair Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, all of whom have featured for England at youth level but are yet to receive a senior call up.

Square pegs in round holes could work

Southgate, of course, does not have to choose players whose preferred or regular position is in central midfield, as many members of his squad are capable of taking on the role.

Over the summer, Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold excelled for England in the middle of the park, albeit against perceived lesser opposition in Malta and North Macedonia, with some suggesting that central midfield could be where he is at his best.

Further forward, the likes of Mason Mount and James Maddison have shown they can play in the middle of the park, the former particularly has plenty of experience in that role.

Phil Foden is another that could drift into central midfield, the Manchester City ace has previously stated that it is a position he has always seen himself playing in, a view that has been endorsed by his club boss Guardiola, although Southgate has yet to be convinced.

England certainly have plenty of central midfield options, but finding the right balance and enough quality support for the likes of Rice and Bellingham could be key to their chances of going all the way next summer.

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