Left Back has become England’s biggest problem ahead of Euro 2024

Sport

Gareth Southgate likely hasn’t given much thought to England’s full back positions in some time. On the right side of the defence, the Three Lions are stacked for quality with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier all among the best in Europe in their position. On the left side, England have Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw.

Chilwell and Shaw have operated at the elite level – for club and country – for years. Until recently, they were considered among the best left backs in the Premier League. Of late, though, the landscape has shifted. Shaw is injured and a doubt to make England’s Euro 2024 squad while Chilwell is struggling for form.

The latter was highlighted by Chilwell’s less-than-convincing performance against Brazil on Saturday. Up against one of the strongest attacks in the international game, he looked out of his depth and was withdrawn for Joe Gomez in the second half. Southgate is surely concerned about the Chelsea defender, even if he did his best to spin a line.

“I thought Ben defended really well [against Brazil] and it was an important game for him,” said Southgate before revealing it’s “highly unlikely” Shaw will be fit enough to play a full campaign at this summer’s European Championships. “I don’t want to kill Ben,” continued Southgate, “but Luke’s one of the best left-backs in world football, frankly.”

With Euro 2024 under three months away, left back has quickly become England’s biggest problem position. If Shaw is unable to play a maximum of seven matches in Germany this summer, Southgate must look at alternative options because England seemingly can’t rely on Chilwell right now.

Gomez is a useful squad figure and can play on the left side of the defence, but the Liverpool defender is most comfortable in the centre of the backline. Gomez offers little going forward and has a tendency to come insider where England already have a lot of quality. They need an outlet down the left wing.

Tino Livramento is believed to be on Southgate’s radar, but the Newcastle United full back was omitted from the squad for the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium. That omission now looks to be a mistake. This week would have been a good opportunity for Southgate to get a closer look at Livramento within the England set-up.

Not only would Livramento have been a good option at left back, he can play on the right side too where England are currently experiencing an injury crisis with Walker, James and Trippier all sidelined and unavailable at the moment. It’s still possible Livramento could have a seat on the plane to Germany.

Rico Lewis has been called up to the senior squad from England’s Under-21s for Tuesday’s match against Belgium and there’s a chance the Manchester City youngster could be given an opportunity in one of the full back positions, whether that’s on the left or right side. Lewis is capable of playing in a number of different positions, including in midfield.

Tyrick Mitchell has two England caps to his name and has been a regular for Crystal Palace in the Premier League this season. He could be another option at left back, although the 24-year-old hasn’t been in the national team picture for the last two years. Nonetheless, Mitchell would surely make a shortlist of emergency left back candidates.

The ideal scenario for England is that Shaw recovers ahead of schedule and is able to play every minute of every match at Euro 2024 this summer, but this current international window has cast into focus the scale of the problem Southgate will have to solve if the Manchester United left back is sidelined.

Author: Mark Hayes