ENGLAND: The key decisions for Gareth Southgate ahead of picking his XI
England will kick off their Euros campaign against Croatia on Sunday so we look at the key decisions for Gareth Southgate ahead of picking his starting XI.
Now that the England manager has finalised his 26-man squad by calling up Ben White to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold, the key decisions for Gareth Southgate in picking the starting XI remain.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Southgate said that he already knows what he would like it to be.
He said, “There’s probably one decision in my head. But, yeah, look, we’ve got another week to get through.
“Every time over the last three months I’ve pieced a squad together or a team, that’s changed rapidly and, you know, painfully with injuries. So, let’s hope we can get through to next Sunday without losing any more players.”
The concession that there is only ‘one decision’ in his head is somewhat surprising given England’s options in a variety of areas, with fans surely set to debate with each other all week over who should get the nod. Let’s have a look at some of the key decisions for Gareth Southgate.
One of England’s most stacked areas is right-back even with the withdrawal of Alexander-Arnold. Southgate has three fantastic options to pick from.
Kyle Walker is probably the most consistent performer in that position over the last ten years and has just won his third Premier League title in four seasons with Manchester City and also reached the Champions League final.
Kieran Trippier is also a consistent performer and has just won the title in Spain with Atletico Madrid. He can offer a bit more going forwards than Walker with a wicked delivery from both open play and set-pieces.
The other option is Reece James who has enjoyed a terrific season with Chelsea and looks the complete package despite his inexperience compared to Walker and Trippier. He performed terrifically in Chelsea’s Champions League final win over Manchester City.
Much of this will depend on Harry Maguire’s fitness. Should he be okay to play it would likely be him partnering Manchester City’s John Stones. However, Southgate said on Saturday that Maguire being fit would be a ‘bonus’ suggesting that it will indeed need to be someone else.
Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings both started against Austria in England’s first warm-up game but it was hardly nerveless at the back and if either were to get the nod, they would probably need to perform much better against a dangerous Croatia.
Ben White could be in line to come from nowhere to start. He has enjoyed two impressive seasons, firstly winning promotion with Leeds United and then a solid debut Premier League season with Brighton & Hove Albion. He produced a stand-out performance against Romania in England’s second warm-up game, impressing enough to get that final spot in the squad.
Again, there is a fitness element to this selection. Jordan Henderson has been one of Southgate’s go-to men and has enjoyed a fantastic few years. He impressed in England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 whilst at club level he reached two Champions League finals with Liverpool, winning one. He was also the Football Writers Player of the Year in 2019/20 as Liverpool won the Premier League title.
However, he picked up an injury back in February and did not play for the rest of the domestic season. Henderson had a 45-minute run-out against Romania but in truth did not look completely fit.
Therefore, the partner to West Ham’s Declan Rice is up in the air. 17 year-old Jude Bellingham has mesmerised with his maturity in his England appearances so far and is probably the favourite should Henderson not be fit.
If Southgate wants to be a bit more attacking, he could go for Chelsea’s Mason Mount in centre-midfield. Mount has been a consistent performer all season and would certainly offer a huge amount of creativity.
There is also Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips as a more defensive option. He has had a brilliant season for Leeds but does lack the big-game experience of Henderson, Mount and even Bellingham who plays in the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund.
Harry Kane is absolutely nailed on for the central striker position but the most hotly debated by all fans will surely be who should start either side of him.
A couple of months ago, you would probably have said Raheem Sterling was guaranteed a place. However, Sterling has experienced a bit of a loss of form and even found himself out of favour at Manchester City.
The player taking his place at club level and now vying for a spot for England is Phil Foden. He has just won the PFA Young Player of the Year and has absolutely dazzled with his ball-carrying skills in the Premier League and the Champions League for City.
Similarly impressive with the ball at his feet is Jack Grealish. The Aston Villa man has an incredible ability to draw players towards him and open up the space for others. He was player of the match in both England’s warm-up games, although he did start as a centre-attacking midfielder and could be utilised there instead of the wings should Southgate play a 4-3-3.
If Southgate wants pace in behind, he again has two world-class options. Marcus Rashford has continued to improve at Manchester United and has found his feet as a left-winger. Meanwhile, Jadon Sancho has impressed in Germany and Borussia Dortmund and is another very viable attacking option.
The debates will continue all week between England fans and the key decisions for Gareth Southgate will have to be made when England play Croatia at Wembley on Sunday 13th June at 2pm.
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