Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

England's questionable Euro 2024 squad selection

Gareth Southgate’s England squad selection for Euro 2024 has four questionable selections, as he has omitted a healthy Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Dominic Solanke, James Maddison, and Jared Branthwaite.


Goalkeepers

Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Dean Henderson

There are no surprises in the goalkeeper selection. Jordan Pickford is the clear number one, he is on the plane. Aaron Ramsdale has been second choice at Arsenal, and Dean Henderson spawned out of nowhere towards the tail end of the season for Crystal Palace.

Watch for the steady theme of favoring and giving opportunities to Crystal Palace players in this squad. Crystal Palace had a good end to the season, and Gareth Southgate is a former Crystal Palace player.


Defenders

Lewis Dunk, Joe Gomez, Marc Guehi, Ezri Konsa, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker

  • Having the experience of Lewis Dunk is smart; he’s error-prone but a great passer of the ball.
  • Joe Gomez had a great season, is very versatile, and is able to play on the right and left sides at fullback and at center-back if needed.
  • The first questionable decision is Marc Guehi. Guehi had a pretty mediocre season overall, being injured from February 3rd to May 6th. His first meaningful minutes since February came in the final game of the season, 76 minutes against Aston Villa. I think Chris Richards might have displaced him at left center-back in Crystal Palace’s lineup towards the end of the season.
  • Ezri Konsa deserves a spot based on how he has played this season for Aston Villa and in recent international friendlies, playing 70 or more minutes against Brazil, Belgium, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He can be used at right-back or center-back. Very composed, kind of slow, but solid in the tackle.
  • Luke Shaw has been injured for most of the season, but he needs to be in the squad if fit because of his leadership and ability. There are not a lot of options at left-back, Ben Chillwell isn’t a very reliable option due to constant injuries, and he’s not as good of a defender as Shaw.
  • John Stones is John Stones.
  • I don’t think Kiernan Trippier will start over Kyle Walker or Ezri Konsa, but he has a lot of experience, and if you need an assist from a cross, he’s one of the best England can offer.
  • Kyle Walker like Luke Shaw, is a leader and has the ability to be the starting right-back. It’s either him or Ezri Konsa at right back, probably.

Left-back is the weakest position, with only Luke Shaw or Joe Gomez as solid options. Kiernan Trippier or Trent Alexander-Arnold could attempt to play there, but they never play left-back for their clubs.

Harry Maguire missed out due to injury; Jared Branthwaite and Jarrel Quansah were sent home. Quansah was never going to make the final squad; he barely starts for Liverpool but is a selection for the future. It was a nice gesture to include him.

Branthwaite is rumored to be moving to many of the top clubs. Anyone who can afford him is interested. If he made that move last summer, I think he likely gets picked. He has a ton of momentum when compared to Guehi in terms of form and likely has a higher ceiling. They’re both the same age, 23 years-old. I don’t understand that choice.

The starting back-four is likely Ezri Konsa, John Stones, Lewis Dunk, and Luke Shaw. It’s not a defense that fills me with a ton of confidence defensively, but offensively, it looks solid.


Midfielders

Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher, Adam Wharton, Kobbie Mainoo

  • Declan Rice is the ultimate Swiss army knife. He can play in defense or midfield. Holding midfield, attacking as an eight in the half-spaces. He should be on all corners and free-kicks.
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold is listed as a midfielder in the England team-sheet. This is fantastic news because, in my opinion, he is a better midfielder than a fullback. England’s Toni Kroos.
  • Conor Gallagher had a really good season, but he played as a number ten for Chelsea. He should be a backup to one of the holding midfielders. He’s a solid option off the bench, a great tackler, and a good leader, but he has confusing decision making at times when attempting to create chances. Should never play as a number ten.
  • Kobbie Mainoo is the darling of Old Trafford. He impressed against Brazil, offering something that England has lacked in holding midfield as a six.
  • Adam Wharton has had a break-out season for Crystal Palace. He’s better at finding the least obvious pass, he can offer more than Kobbie Mainoo as a six, but he’s very inexperienced like Mainoo. Mainoo is a better dribbler, and Wharton is a better passer.

For me, it is either Kobbie Mainoo in the squad or Adam Wharton. One stays, one goes home. I’d pick Kobbie Mainoo because he is more versatile and can play in advanced positions as an eight. Neither will get meaningful minutes; it seems like a waste to have both. Adam Wharton could be England’s future starting number six, though, because I don’t consider Declan Rice a six; he’s much more than that because he has more to offer in other positions.

Second questionable decision. This is a lot of holding midfielders taking up spots in the squad, especially when you add John Stones into the mix because he can play in the midfield. It seems unnecessary and overkill, a decision that has knock-on effects for the forwards.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice should be the starting holding midfielders.


Forwards

Jude Bellingham, Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Phil Foden, Anthony Gordon, Harry Kane, Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins

  • Jude Bellingham is a Ballon D’or candidate; no one will displace him for many years.
  • Jarrod Bowen is an experienced option off the bench in a game. He is an impact player who can carry a team. A great backup to Bukayo Saka, who may or may not have been injured off-and-on during the tournament off injury towards the end of last season. An important selection.
  • Eberechi Eze is on fire form-wise at Crystal Palace since Oliver Glasner took over. When I watch him dribble, he is what Pep Guardiola thought Jack Grealish would be when he signed Grealish. He can play on the left-wing and as an advanced midfielder. Great creator.
  • Phil Foden is the Premier League Player of the Season, but he is the Player of the Season in the midfield. They should not play him on the wing. If I see him playing on the wing, I will cry, and I rarely cry. He has not played very often on the left-wing this season but can play on the right-wing, but Jarrod Bowen is there.
  • Anthony Gordon is quick, he is sharp, he is great one-on-one, and he can find the corner cutting in from the left. He should be starting on the left-wing, first choice.
  • Harry Kane is Harry Kane, a goal-scoring machine and first-choice starting center-forward.
  • Cole Palmer is silky and unique. He shouldn’t start, but he can play left-wing, advanced midfield, and right-wing.
  • Bukayo Saka is the nailed right-winger.
  • Third questionable choice is Ivan Toney. I am happy for him, but I have no idea why he has been picked. He was out until January 20th due to an eight-month betting ban. He has looked subpar in comparison to the season prior and has not scored for Brentford in the past three months, since February 20th. If I was Dominic Solanke, I would be fuming.
  • Ollie Watkins is the most underappreciated player in England today. He had a remarkable season, leading the line as the talisman for Aston Villa, barely missing a game, scoring 23 goals, and assisting 13 in all competitions.

One of Dominic Solanke, Marcus Rashford, James Maddison, or Jack Grealish should get a place ahead of Ivan Toney. And then one of whoever is remaining, once you replace Toney, should get a place ahead of one of Adam Wharton or Kobbie Mainoo.

Picking Eberechi Eze over Jack Grealish or Marcus Rashford is a very difficult call because both Grealish and Rashford haven’t had the best of seasons, but they both are big-game players. I do think Eze offers more than both as far as his ability to play in multiple positions, but Rashford will get you that big goal and Grealish has a ton of composure. A very ruthless call to make, kind of questionable, but might help with the balance of the squad.

I understand why James Maddison and Curtis Jones were sent home. Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Cole Palmer are in their way, and they are not as useful on the wing as Eze or Palmer.

Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden should be the advanced midfielders; Bukayo Saka will start on the right-wing, with Harry Kane at center-forward.


Figure 1.1 - Illustration of a potential England Euro 2024 starting lineup.

I’d rather they lineup like this to replicate the dynamics these players have at club level, but the likelihood of that happening seems low.

We may see Phil Foden play on the left-wing, but hopefully he’ll be rotating with Jude Bellingham in and out of that number-ten position.

Ezri Konsa can move back to right center-back in possession, like he does for Aston Villa, to allow Luke Shaw to move up the left-wing. That will allow Phil Foden to invert. A double pivot of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice would be super overpowered. Bukayo Saka can maintain width on the right, and Harry Kane can drop to help.

There are four questionable decisions in total. The squad is fairly balanced and built like a Premier League all-star team, but I don’t think it is as impressive in balance or depth compared to France, Germany, or Portugal.

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