• Lun. Jul 15th, 2024

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England’s Euro 2024 squad analysed: Southgate shakes things up – but is the defence a concern?

England’s Euro 2024 squad analysed: Southgate shakes things up – but is the defence a concern?


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Ready for takeoff — England’s Euro 2024 squad is confirmed. The proverbial plane is filled.

“We’ve been one kick away from being European champions, so we know it’s possible,” said head coach Gareth Southgate recently, referencing England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final on penalties to Italy.

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Southgate, ever-balanced, utilised the post-World Cup period to integrate and test new talent, with 11 debutants from 10 different clubs featuring since the start of 2023. England still qualified unbeaten. “I think the nice thing is that (for) some players, it will be probably their last chance to win something, some will be at their peak and some have still have space to grow,” said Southgate in September. “I don’t see the team falling off a cliff after the next tournament.”

If Southgate’s squads typically err on the side of consistency and caution, this one is more chaotic. Only 12 of the 26 featured at Euro 2020 and half (13) of the squad did not feature at the World Cup just a year and a half ago.

Who, and why, has Southgate picked this 26?


Goalkeepers

Jordan Pickford

  • Club: Everton
  • Age: 30
  • Caps: 61
  • Major tournaments: 3 — World Cup 2018, Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

Many forget that one of Southgate’s biggest early calls was dropping Joe Hart and debuting Pickford, then 23. He had only three caps before starting at the 2018 World Cup and has played every minute of England’s three major tournaments.

Southgate has never cared for notions of Pickford (6ft 1in; 185cm) being too small. He values his passing range and coolness under pressure — epitomised by Pickford’s “no problem” response to the referee before saving Jorginho’s penalty in the Euro 2020 final.

He’s even a form pick. The 2023-24 season was Pickford’s best for six years at Everton in terms of additional goals prevented (saves made based on quality of chance faced) and clean sheets (14).


Aaron Ramsdale

  • Club: Arsenal
  • Age: 26
  • Caps: 4
  • Major tournaments: 2 — backup at Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022

Ramsdale’s career has hit a crossroads since losing his No 1 spot at Arsenal to David Raya. When he did play, his distribution errors were jumped upon.

He might count himself fortunate to be involved, but goalkeeping is ultimately about a ‘union’. Ramsdale described the national team call-up a “relief”. Expect him to continue the backup role he performed at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup, while he stood firm in England’s 3-1 away win over Scotland in September.


Dean Henderson

  • Club: Crystal Palace
  • Age: 27
  • Caps: 1
  • Major tournaments: 1 — backup at Euro 2020

Southgate took Henderson to Euro 2020 as third choice. The head coach has never been shy of mixing his trio of goalkeepers, calling James Trafford up from the under-21s in March — the 13th different goalkeeper Southgate has called up.

Henderson ended the season in good form under new Crystal Palace head coach Oliver Glasner, only conceding four in seven games and making 19 saves as Palace won six times.


(Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)


Defenders

John Stones

  • Club: Manchester City
  • Age: 30
  • Caps: 71
  • Major tournaments: 4 — (on the bench for Euro 2016), World Cup 2018, Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

Injuries hit John Stones in 2023-24, playing fewer minutes than each of the previous three campaigns. Physical limitations are Stones’ only ceiling; he’s now so good in the build-up that Pep Guardiola moves him into midfield to create overloads. In June 2023, he completed the most dribbles in a Champions League final (six) since Lionel Messi in 2010.

He made the most passes of any England player at World Cup 2022 and completed 100 per cent against France in the quarter-finals, though will have to establish a new centre-back partnership without the injured Harry Maguire.


Luke Shaw

  • Club: Manchester United
  • Age: 28
  • Caps: 31
  • Major tournaments: 3 — World Cup 2014, Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

Southgate’s inclusion of Luke Shaw, despite him being a “long shot” and “physically vulnerable”, proves two things: England have a shortage of creative left-backs and a fit Shaw is the best in the country. He scored the fastest-ever Euros final goal three years ago as well as assisting three times in five games en route to the final. Injuries have limited him to only 31 caps in over 10 years since his debut in March 2014.

His passing range, crossing quality and consistency, and work on the overlap are everything Southgate wants in a left-back, but will we get to see it in Germany?


Lewis Dunk

  • Club: Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Age: 32
  • Caps: 6
  • Major tournaments: 0

Dunk’s journey in the Premier League has seen him evolve from a head-it and kick-it box defender under Chris Hughton to a ball-playing centre-back under Graham Potter and then Roberto De Zerbi. He is not physically exceptional but offers an aerial threat in both boxes, plays an exceptional diagonal pass to the right wing and will throw himself in front of opposition shots, too.


(Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)


Marc Guehi

  • Club: Crystal Palace
  • Age: 23
  • Caps: 10
  • Major tournaments: 0

Roy Hodgson once claimed (and then retracted it) that Guehi would be a future England captain. A right-footer who plays left centre-back, Guehi is a graduate of Chelsea’s famous Cobham academy who cut his teeth with Swansea in the Championship before moving to Crystal Palace and is in line to replace Maguire and start next to Stones.

His long-range passing is a particular standout and Southgate has praised the maturity of his defensive positioning.


Kieran Trippier

  • Club: Newcastle United
  • Age: 33
  • Caps: 47
  • Major tournaments: 3 — World Cup 2018, Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

Having scored the opener against Croatia in the World Cup 2018 semi-final and assisted the opener in the Euro 2020 final, few players have provided more key contributions to Southgate’s England than Trippier, a set-piece specialist. He endured a difficult 2023-24 campaign at Newcastle but remains an important part of the squad — and with issues at left-back, he could be fielded on that side.


Kyle Walker

  • Club: Manchester City
  • Age: 34
  • Caps: 82
  • Major tournaments: 4 — Euro 2016, World Cup 2018, Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

Eternally complimented for his recovery pace, Walker has developed into a more mature, tactically intelligent player in recent years. Southgate often fielded him on the right of a three-man defence, although the current preference for a back four probably suits Walker. He overlaps more sporadically and dangerously than earlier in his career. He also possesses a decent shot from range.


Joe Gomez

  • Club: Liverpool
  • Age: 27
  • Caps: 14
  • Major tournaments: 0

Gomez went over four years without an England call-up before Southgate recalled him in March. England’s massive right-back pool has been quickly narrowed by injuries, and Gomez is versatile enough to play across the back line. He has never been to a major tournament and is very much a wildcard pick, with 2023-24 being his best senior season for appearances (51 in all competitions for Liverpool).


Ezri Konsa

  • Club: Aston Villa
  • Age: 26
  • Caps: 3
  • Major tournaments: 0

Like Gomez, Konsa’s tactical adaptability makes him a useful squad pick, capable of playing at full-back or centre-back. His senior debut came against Brazil at right-back, on as a substitute for the injured Stones inside 15 minutes, and his reward was to try to defend against Vinicius Junior.

Konsa started 35 of 38 games last season as Aston Villa finished fourth, excelling in a build-up system where he has to bait the press and play through the thirds, similar to Southgate’s style.

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Midfielders

Trent Alexander-Arnold

  • Club: Liverpool
  • Age: 25
  • Caps: 24
  • Major tournaments: 2 — World Cup 2018, World Cup 2022

England have never really had a player like Alexander-Arnold before, to the extent that Southgate has always seemed slightly perplexed about what to do with him. He took him to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups but only gave him one appearance at each.

A technically brilliant right-back who has sometimes seemed to lack defensive qualities, Southgate used him in midfield before he’d played that role at club level. Now he’s drifted into that position more for Liverpool, his best chance of starting matches seems to be in that central role.


Adam Wharton

  • Club: Crystal Palace
  • Age: 20
  • Caps: 1
  • Major tournaments: 0

This time last year, Wharton had just finished a Championship season with Blackburn Rovers. His rise to England’s senior side has been meteoric, making his under-21 debut this March, and then his senior debut in June. Southgate has been particularly impressed with how Wharton “sees pictures early; can play forward”, a profile the head coach feels England have always struggled to find or develop.


Declan Rice

  • Club: Arsenal
  • Age: 25
  • Caps: 50
  • Major tournaments: 2 — Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

A centre-back when emerging from West Ham’s academy, a holding midfielder when he established himself in the first team and a free-running No 8 when at his best for Arsenal, Rice is a true all-rounder.

For England, he’ll have to play a more conservative role, owing to the national side’s lack of central midfielders and plethora of attacking talents.


Conor Gallagher

  • Club: Chelsea
  • Age: 24
  • Caps: 13
  • Major tournaments: 1 (on the bench for World Cup 2022 games)

Affectionately described by Southgate as “a bit of a scurrier”, Gallagher has fully settled into a senior role at Chelsea. In one of the league’s youngest squads, he has played a variety of midfield roles, at his best in games that contain a combative midfield battle.

He shared captaincy duties last season, leading Chelsea to eight wins, three draws and only one defeat in the final 12 Premier League games. His style has evolved to more of the box-crasher that he showed on-loan at Crystal Palace in 2021-22, with five goals and seven assists, but Southgate may well need his out-of-possession skill set for knockout games.


Kobbie Mainoo

  • Club: Manchester United
  • Age: 19
  • Caps: 2
  • Major tournaments: 0

Southgate was prepared to ease Mainoo into the senior team, but phenomenal displays for club (see the FA Cup final) and country (see his full debut against Belgium) mean the 19-year-old (the only teenager in the 26) is in Southgate’s squad to do more than just make up the numbers.

His spatial awareness, composure and footballing brain belie his age, consistently knitting attacks together by playing the right passes at the right time. Southgate has said Mainoo is “a different profile of midfield player to anything we’ve got”.


Forwards

Jude Bellingham

  • Club: Real Madrid
  • Age: 20
  • Caps: 29
  • Major tournaments: 2 — Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

What a 12 months for Jude Bellingham: La Liga player of the season with 19 goals and a Champions League winner in his first season at Real Madrid. All this after a coming-of-age World Cup, where he vindicated his famed No 22 shirt at Birmingham City — because he could play as a No 4, a No 8 and No 10 all at once.

He is as outstanding physically as he is technically, equally prepared to press and tackle opponents as he is to crash the box, dribble through defences and link up with forwards. England’s biggest issue will be circumnavigating how teams set up to stop Bellingham, tactically and physically.


Phil Foden

  • Club: Manchester City
  • Age: 24
  • Caps: 33
  • Major tournaments: 2 — Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

Foden has never fitted perfectly in Southgate’s plans, often shunted around various forward positions, but his quality is too good to ignore. Pep Guardiola relentlessly talks about how good Foden is in the “pockets” between opposition players, receiving, taking contact and linking play, effectively a pick-lock against the increasing low blocks that England face.

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Additionally, his long-range shooting threat was on display all season for City, with Foden’s six Premier League goals from outside the box the most of any player in 2023-24.


Bukayo Saka

  • Club: Arsenal
  • Age: 22
  • Caps: 32
  • Major tournaments: 2 — Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

Despite missing a penalty in the shootout at Euro 2020, Saka has grown into an England superstar. As with Arsenal, he often gets double-marked but finds solutions, can score from distance, dribble through gaps that aren’t there, and create for others.

In June, he became the youngest England player to score a hat-trick since Theo Walcott in 2008, accounting for three of England’s seven goals against North Macedonia. An indication of his quality was how aggressive France were in tackling him in the World Cup quarter-final.


Harry Kane

  • Club: Bayern Munich
  • Age: 30
  • Caps: 90
  • Major tournaments: 4 — Euro 2016, World Cup 2018, Euro 2020, World Cup 2022

England’s all-time record goalscorer made a huge personal impact in his first season with Bayern Munich, finishing as top goalscorer in the Bundesliga. He’s more than just a goalscorer, however, and thrives when he can come short to receive balls to feet, before playing the ball around the corner for onrushing midfielders.

England don’t simply need to supply him, they also must give him runners to supply.


Eberechi Eze

  • Club: Crystal Palace
  • Age: 25
  • Caps: 3
  • Major tournaments: 0

“Swagger”. That’s the word Southgate used to describe Eze after the recent game against Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Crystal Palace midfielder has made a name for himself as a goalscoring No 10, able to turn games on with weaving runs through midfield, scoring 10 league goals in 2022-23 and 11 in 2023-24.

Southgate has spoken of needing “creative solutions” against a low block and Eze’s individuality offers this, while the switch to a 4-2-3-1 has opened the space for a player with a No 10 profile.


Jarrod Bowen

  • Club: West Ham
  • Age: 27
  • Caps: 8
  • Major tournaments: 0

Bowen is as perfect as depth picks come: he can play anywhere across the front line, has been used by David Moyes as a winger and No 9 at West Ham, and can finish with either foot or his head. He is equally as threatening as a dribbler, with 2023-24 his best top-flight season for goals (20 in all competitions).

Southgate has praised Bowen for his goal threat and his work rate. The forward is a relentless presser and channel chaser, able to be an off-the-bench solution regardless of opponent and game state.


Ivan Toney

  • Club: Brentford
  • Age: 28
  • Caps: 2
  • Major tournaments: 0

After a hugely delayed start to the season owing to a gambling ban, Toney can consider himself slightly fortunate to make the cut. But, on his day, there are fewer better all-round strikers in the Premier League. Toney is a fine finisher and excellent at receiving long balls. He’s also a penalty specialist, notable for his extraordinary slow run-up — and Southgate has shown in the past he’s happy to bring on shootout specialists late in extra time.

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Ollie Watkins

  • Club: Aston Villa
  • Age: 28
  • Caps: 12
  • Major tournaments: 0

On the back of an outstanding Premier League campaign in which Watkins didn’t merely score 19 goals but also recorded more assists than any other player in the division, he has established himself as Kane’s backup. Watkins has performed reasonably well for the national side without looking sensational, hitting the only goal in a friendly win over Australia in October.


Cole Palmer

  • Club: Chelsea
  • Age: 22
  • Caps: 3
  • Major tournaments: 0

Palmer had such a dominant season that Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino had to try to justify Chelsea being more than “Cole Palmer Football Club”. He landed the young player of the year prize but is more of a wide playmaker than a winger.

Palmer’s penalty record is fantastic, scoring all nine last season, the most taken without missing by a player in a Premier League season. His first England goal, against Bosnia and Herzegovina this week, was a penalty.


Anthony Gordon

  • Club: Newcastle United
  • Age: 23
  • Caps: 2
  • Major tournaments: 0

The 2023-24 season was a breakout one for Gordon, proving himself right after a successful summer winning the Under-21 Euros. It was not just that he scored 11 goals and registered 10 assists — one of only five players to reach double-digits in both — but how he got there and who against. He scored goals from distance, from dribbles and crashing the back post for crosses from the right. Of his 21 goal involvements, 11 were against ‘Big Six’ opponents.

His acceleration and top speed are outstanding, though he might offer more from the bench than as a starter.

(Top photos: Getty Images)