Gareth Southgate
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

Gareth Southgate: The Problem May Be An Excess Of Talent, Not A Lack

This England team is far and away the most talented it has been in decades with terrific players at every part of the pitch. The talent is no longer a problem for Gareth Southgate, it is simply finding the best lineup to maximize this team’s potential. In the Euros so far, he has tried a variety of different players and different combinations, and they have had a very successful tournament thus far. Let’s take a step into Gareth Southgate’s shoes and figure out what would be the most dangerous English lineup for the last two games of the Euros in a 4-2-3-1 formation.


This is truly the only position on the pitch that Southgate should have no second thoughts about when picking his eleven. Jordan Pickford, with his slicked back hair, has suddenly transformed into prime Manuel Neuer at this year’s Euros, ending any hope in Sam Johnstone and Aaron Ramsdale’s hearts of touching the field. Plus, Pickford becomes a borderline maniac with a face resembling a Roma tomato when yelling at his defenders after they mess up, which means he has to start, right?


This group has been truly sensational through the first 5 games at the Euro 2020, not conceding a single goal. With four in the back, the two center backs to start are, without a doubt, John Stones and Harry Maguire. Both are strong, faster than people think and are real aerial threats not only defensively but also offensively, especially off set pieces. At left-back, there was a case for Ben Chilwell or even Kieran Trippier, but with his performances in the last few games, it would be idiocy if Luke Shaw wasn’t starting at left back. His defensive work has been great, but his ability to attack from the left wing and serve in beautiful crosses for his teammates in the middle is a legitimate X-factor for this English team. Lastly, at right back, the most sensible decision would likely be the experienced and rock-solid Kyle Walker. Although the younger Reece James has an extremely bright future ahead of him, Walker has had a great tournament for the most part, and his combination of speed and strength is really difficult for teams to deal with.


With 2 holding midfielders and a central attacking midfielder, Gareth Southgate has a few different options with the players he wants in the middle of the park. Out of the 2 defensive midfielders, Declan Rice likely will have one of the spots and it is deserved. Although the English defense deserves plenty of credit for keeping the ball out of their net, Rice has been instrumental defensively for his country as well, acting like a literal brick wall ahead of his defenders. The second holding midfielder will likely end up being Kalvin Phillips, who, to his credit, has had an extremely solid tournament and was far and away the best player in the Three Lion’s first game. However, if my name was Gareth Southgate and not Aarav Raina, 17-year old wonder kid Jude Bellingham would be starting for the rest of the tournament. His defensive poise and calming presence on the ball is rare and provides England with a new edge that I think Phillips simply doesn’t give them. Lastly, the attacking midfield spot should and will be Mason Mount. There isn’t much room for debate as his creativity and skill ensure he is always at the heart of the best English attacks.


Gareth Southgate has a ridiculous amount of talent to pick from but only three attackers to start. As one can imagine, no matter which three he picks, there will be a lot of controversy and media backlash. The central striker will be Harry Kane. There is little room for debate, as if you have arguably the best finisher in the world, he will always be in your lineup. On the left, the spot looked up for grabs at earlier stages of the tournament, but after 5 consecutive games in which he has produced, Raheem Sterling has truly earned his spot. His pace, dribbling, and overall movement in the attacking third of the pitch have been crucial for the English at the Euros. Lastly, we have the attacker on the right, and this spot is literally a toss-up with four different legitimate options, who have all proved themselves for the club as well as for the nation. When you have Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, and Jack Grealish at your disposal, it is difficult to make a wrong decision. However, Southgate does have to choose one, and as much as it hurts me to say this as an Arsenal fan, Jack Grealish has been the most impressive out of the 4 and truly deserves a spot in the starting lineup. With Grealish and Kane being heavily linked to Manchester City, we may end up also seeing this top three playing together in a few months as well in light blue. However, I want to see them this upcoming week as Grealish’s evasiveness with the ball and understanding of when to take it on himself or deliver the perfect pass complements Sterling and Kane perfectly and takes the English attack to another level.


No matter what eleven Gareth Southgate ends up starting, the way the Three Lions have been playing should give their fans legitimate hope that “football’s coming home.” Denmark can’t be underestimated considering what they’ve accomplished in the tournament so far. However, let’s be real here, England is the favorite and should make it to the finals. Beating Spain or Italy won’t be easy, but the English are a top quality side and clearly have the talent to beat any elite team in the world.

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