Three questions Southgate must answer before Euro 2024

Sport

This summer could be a landmark one for England. The Three Lions are among the favourites to win Euro 2024 having made the final of the past European Championships. England’s long 57-year wait for a major trophy could come to an end. They certainly have the talent to go all the way in Germany.

Gareth Southgate, however, has a number of questions to answer before the start of the tournament that could be his last in charge. Here are three issues the England manager must address before the Three Lions’ Euro 2024 opener against Serbia on 16th June.

Who should play in central midfield alongside Declan Rice?

Declan Rice will be the central pillar of England’s midfield this summer. He has taken another step forward in his development since joining Arsenal and has earned the trust of Southgate over the last two major tournaments. It’s no certain, however, who will start alongside Rice in the centre of the pitch.

Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips have been Southgate’s preferred options in this role, but the former is now into the twilight of his career and playing in the Eredivisie while the latter is suffering a nightmare loan spell at West Ham. Meanwhile, Jude Bellingham is more effective in a more advanced position.

Kobbie Mainoo might have been an option, but the Manchester United teenager has been left out of Southgate’s most recent England squad, suggesting he will be left at home for Euro 2024. Southgate has a number of top quality midfielders, he just has to find the right formula.

Where will Phil Foden fit into the England attack?

Phil Foden is enjoying the best season of his career. He has found the back of the net 18 times in all competitions for Manchester City and has been a driving force for Pep Guardiola’s side. At club level, there aren’t many better than Foden at this moment in time. For England, though, Foden has frequently been a peripheral figure.

At City, Foden has the freedom to get in between the lines. Southgate’s system, however, is more rigid and this could restrict the 23-year-old. It’s not even certain he will start for England at Euro 2024 such is the level of competition in the forward areas, but Southgate surely has to find a role for one of his most in-form players.

This will most likely see Foden deployed on the left wing. Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford have both delivered in that position for England in the past, but Foden is the sort of player the Three Lions should be building around. He could be a genuine difference-maker in Germany.

What will England’s defensive line look like?

Southgate has a lot to think about with regards to the defensive line he will use at Euro 2024. At left back, Luke Shaw is sidelined through injury while Ben Chilwell has struggled for consistent form this season. Joe Gomez has played on the left side of the Liverpool defence recently, but this isn’t his natural position.

At right back, England have numerous options, but Kieran Trippier isn’t currently playing his best football, Reece James is injured and Ben White refused a call-up to Southgate’s squad. This leaves Kyle Walker as England’s only dependable right back in the squad for the upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

In central defence, John Stones is nailed on to be England’s dominant figure. Harry Maguire is one of Southgate’s favourites, but Jarred Branthwaite could force his way into the first team if he continues to impress for Everton. The 21-year-old has a lot of potential and could be the perfect partner for Stones.

Author: Mark Hayes