England manager Gareth Southgate is set to name his Euro 2020 squad shortly after the conclusion of the Premier League season and Jack O’Connell should be included.
The Sheffield United centre-back has played every minute of the league campaign so far, helping the Blades to the second best defensive record in the division behind Liverpool.
United have built their impressive return to top flight on solidity at the back. Heading into this weekend’s trip to Newcastle United, they are seventh in the table with a game in hand above those directly above them.
Only five teams, all in the bottom half of the table, have scored fewer than them. Yet, in defence they have been stoic, keeping ten clean sheets to date.
Southgate is yet to seemingly decide upon his centre-back partnership for Euro 2020. Former Blade Harry Maguire appears to be a cert. The Manchester United defender has started his country’s last eight matches.
Yet in the last four alone – all qualifiers – Maguire has had three different partners. They are Michael Keane, Tyrone Mings and John Stones.
According to the Telegraph, the odds suggest all three – plus Joe Gomez and Fikayo Tomori – are ahead of O’Connell for selection this summer.
But we don’t think that should be the case; and the stats agree.
Why Jack O’Connell should be in the England squad for Euro 2020
Stones has struggled for fitness at Manchester City once again this term, but is a mainstay under Southgate. Gomez, meanwhile, has established himself in a Liverpool team set to win the title and break several records along the way.
It would be easy to understand their selection. But beyond that, O’Connell should arguably lead the other trio – assuming Southgate takes four centre-backs.
Let’s start with Mings, the man who has partnered Maguire most in those past four games. Like O’Connell, the 26-year-old is left-footed and plays for a newly promoted team in Aston Villa.
Mings is part of a Villa side who have conceded more goals than anyone else in the Premier League in 2019/20. Not only that, but he trails O’Connell for interceptions, tackles won, headed clearances and aerial battles won.
It is a similar story with Keane, who plays for an Everton team who haven’t kept a clean sheet since January 11.
As for Tomori, he has started just one league game for Chelsea since December 29. In terms of Premier League experience, the 22-year-old trails O’Connell.
The one thing that counts against the United defender is he plays in a three-man defence. Southgate now operates with a back four and apparently didn’t select Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Conor Coady in the past for the same reason.
Yet with the Three Lions boss reportedly monitoring O’Connell for potential selection, surely the 25-year-old has done enough to deserve his chance?