The 2015/16 season is set to be a hugely important one for a number of players across Europe who harbour dreams of competing in next summer’s European Championships in France.
It’s fair to say that the nucleus of Roy Hodgson’s England squad is in place given the consistency of line-ups during the qualifying campaign, but there are a handful of places that remain up for grabs. In turn we’ve asked WhoScored.com to pick out five potential hopefuls that have hit the ground running in the Premier League at this early stage. Let’s call them outsiders.
While Ross Barkley has picked up the highest rating from WhoScored.com of any Englishman after the opening two matches of the season (8.28), the youngster seems pretty certain of a place in next summer’s squad. His closest challenger, however, is uncapped Leicester winger Marc Albrighton (8.21).
The former Aston Villa graduate ended last season in similarly fine form, reproducing the sort of displays that saw him earmarked as such a bright talent when breaking into the first team at Villa Park. For one reason or another he lost his way, however, allowed to leave the club on a free to the Foxes.
Albrighton, now 25, has had a direct hand in four goals already this season – the joint highest figure along with David Silva – and considering only three players secured a higher rating from WhoScored.com since the start of April last season (7.83), he has certainly impressed beyond the opening exchanges of the current campaign. International recognition is certainly a long shot, but Albrighton is enjoying his football again and may well be attracting glances from Hodgson.
The second highest rated England hopeful is Jonjo Shelvey, who is hoping to add to his solitary England cap received against San Marino three years ago. The Swansea playmaker is likely to be in the reckoning given his maturing performances under Garry Monk and was exceptional against both Chelsea and Newcastle.
The 23-year old is now very much a regular in Swansea’s side having started 15 of the final 16 league games of last season and has earned his manager’s trust in the centre of midfield. No player has created more chances in the opening two matches of this season’s Premier League (nine), so he’s perhaps unfortunate to have just the one assist. Indeed, Shelvey is at the heart of Swansea’s play right now, averaging over 20 more passes per game (70.5) than in any other season at the club for a rating of 7.90.
Jamie Vardy is another player who will be hoping to avoid being another player in the ‘one cap club’ for England, with his international debut coming far more recently than Shelvey’s. The Leicester forward certainly hasn’t done his chances of a recall any good off the field of late, but has began the Premier League campaign in strong fashion on it.
The 28-year old opened the scoring under Claudio Ranieri’s reign against Sunderland and has been typically busy in aiding the Foxes to a perfect start under the Italian. Vardy played a crucial role in Okazaki’s first goal for the club against West Ham, whilst winning 10 aerial duels and creating five chances for teammates to date for a WhoScored.com rating of 7.79. Like Albrighton, he had a big part to play in Leicester’s sensational end to the last campaign.
If Vardy is something of a latecomer to the international fold, Nathan Redmond will certainly be hoping to make his senior bow sooner rather than later and has caught the eye already this season. Somewhat surprisingly left out of the starting XI for Norwich’s first game back in the top flight – having played a vital role in the Canaries’ promotion through the play-offs – the young winger already seems far better equipped to cope with the rigours of the Premier League than at his first attempt two seasons ago.
The 21-year-old scored from the bench to set up a nervy finish against Palace in Norwich’s opener, and found the net with consummate ease against Sunderland in the following fixture. With two goals to his name from four shots, along with four key passes and four dribbles in just 119 minutes of action this season for a rating of 7.72, Redmond could be in the running for an outside shot at next summer’s England squad.
Finally, one player hoping to come back into the reckoning having seemingly had the right-back spot sewn up for years to come, Micah Richards will be aiming to rebuild his career at Aston Villa. Immediately instated as Tim Sherwood’s captain following the departures of both Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar, the 27-year old should be approaching his best years having been signed to fill the latter’s boots at centre-back for the Midlands outfit.
Richards has 13 England caps to his name, but the last of those came in 2012, though he’ll hope his versatility at the back can play in his favour. He’s currently the second highest rated Villa player behind fellow summer arrival Jordan Amavi with a score of 7.56 from WhoScored.com, with only two Premier League players making more interceptions thus far (10). Richards’ proactive approach to defending is refreshing but risky and he’ll need to improve on his decision-making to be considered for selection for England once more, but it’s certainly not out of the question.
Download the free WhoScored.com 2015/16 season preview magazine for a comprehensive look ahead to each of the major leagues kicking off across Europe, including transfer round-ups for every team in the top 5 leagues.