Ben Chilwell and Reece James have been discussing how their experiences with competition for places and playing with a back three could prove crucial when they begin their Euro 2020 campaign with England against Croatia today.
Our two wing-backs are joined by Mason Mount as the three Blues representatives in the Three Lions squad for this summer’s tournament, with speculation still swarming in the media around which system and personnel England manager Gareth Southgate will employ.
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That fluidity could work in the favour of players like James, who has already shown great versatility and the ability to adapt to different formations and roles during his Chelsea career. He revealed England are keeping their options open when he was asked which position he has been playing in during Southgate’s training sessions.
‘Probably the positions you can guess,’ James said. ‘Wing-back, centre-back, right-back. I've played all three so far.
‘I played as a right-sided centre-back many times coming through the Academy so the position isn't new to me.
‘It's much different to wing-back, you can't really go forward. At wing-back you have the license to push on and join in attacks, but on the right side of a three you're kind of limited to where you can go and what you can do.’
Whether England play with full-backs or wing-backs at Euro 2020, it seems to be a particularly strong area of their squad, with James and Chilwell joined by Luke Shaw, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker, meaning there is plenty of competition for places.
However, given the strength of the Chelsea squad, Chilwell insists it is a situation he is used to and feels it will help get the best out of all the players, whoever gets the nod for the starting line-up against Croatia.
‘There will be competition for places in every position,’ said Chilwell. ‘I have the same situation at Chelsea with Marcos Alonso, I had it with Christian Fuchs at Leicester for two or so years and, in both cases, it made me a better player. It improves you and Luke will have the same mindset, if you asked him. Training is very competitive.
‘Luke and I get on really well and we’re excited. In a weird way, it is quite fun, pushing each other and training to get better. Whoever plays on the day will give their best and the other player will be very supportive.’
Chilwell also believes the experience of winning this season’s Champions League could be a big boost for the three Blues in the England squad going into this tournament, hoping to end the summer as champions of Europe with both club and country.
‘It obviously gives you confidence,’ he added. ‘I spoke to Gareth when I first came in – it was me and Mason in the conversation – and we said if you can win the Champions League, you can go on to win the Euros now.
‘There’s always the belief you can do it, but to win the Champions League and go on to the next tournament, you have that real belief you can go on to win the Euros as well.’
The Three Lions’ opening match takes place on home soil at Wembley Stadium, and the fact the semi-finals and final will also be played in London, also provides the perfect motivation for Chilwell, as he hopes to give the fans something to smile about after more than a year of empty stadiums.
‘A final in Wembley, in your home country, potentially with fans back in the stadium, hopefully, after what's been a difficult year for the whole country – there's not much more motivation than that to give everyone a bit of happiness and pride this summer.’