What the England U21 squad tells us about the first team plans

England U21 announced their squad for this month’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship on Monday.

Aidy Boothroyd’s side face Switzerland in their first Group D fixture on March 25. They then take on Portugal and Croatia on March 28 and 31 respectively.

It’s a side packed full of talent, with Manchester United‘s Mason Greenwood one of the most notable inclusions.

Arsenal‘s Emile Smith Rowe, Chelsea‘s Callum Hudson-Odoi and Everton’s Ben Godfrey are also in the squad.

England’s senior squad are in action next week. They take on San Marino, Albania and Poland in World Cup qualifiers.

What does the U21 squad announcement mean for the senior team, with their own announcement expected in the coming days?

Greenwood set for tournament experience before England senior return

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The inclusion of Mason Greenwood in the U21 squad means that the Manchester United forward will gain tournament experience before he is recalled to the senior team.

Greenwood hasn’t been selected by Gareth Southgate since he was sent home from the squad alongside Phil Foden in September after breaching coronavirus regulations.

But strong performances in the Under-21 European Championship could strongly boost his chances of earning his spot back.

The 19-year-old has made 37 appearances in all competitions for United this season, scoring four goals.

James and Bellingham set for senior call-ups?

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Boothroyd said upon the squad being announced that Jude Bellingham and Reece James were not selected for the tournament as they have “moved on from the under-21s“.

He added that they “need to go and support Gareth [Southgate] in what he’s doing with the World Cup qualifiers this March.”

Chelsea’s James looks set to have the opportunity to add to his four England caps, all gained last year.

Meanwhile, Bellingham has had a meteoric rise since making his debut for Birmingham City in 2019.

The 17-year-old signed for Borussia Dortmund last summer and has impressed in the Bundesliga.

He jumped straight from the England U17 to U21 age group last year. Bellingham made his England debut in November to become their third-youngest full international.

Strength in depth all over the pitch

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Another positive for Boothroyd and Southgate is the strength in depth that the England U21 squad possesses.

In defence, Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons and Ryan Sessegnon all have Premier League experience behind them as first-team regulars. Japhet Tanganga has made nine appearances for Tottenham this season.

Midfielders Eberechi Eze, Dwight McNeil, Conor Gallagher, Tom Davies and Curtis Jones have all made solid contributions to their Premier League sides this campaign. Oliver Skipp has impressed on loan at Championship side Norwich City.

In forward areas, Greenwood, Smith Rowe, Hudson-Odoi and Noni Madueke have all played prominent roles in teams contending for Europe. 19-year-old Madueke has seven goals in 17 appearances for PSV Eindhoven.

Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah is England’s all-time leading goal scorer at U21 level.

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