England boss Gareth Southgate faces selection dilemmas for Euro 2020
It’s 200 days until England’s first Euro 2020 match and Gareth Southgate has some BIG decisions to make… Rashford has to earn a spot partnering Kane and Alexander-Arnold still has work to do but Pickford IS safe with the gloves
- With a busy club schedule in the winter, Gareth Southgate will be keeping a close eye on the fitness of his England stars with Euro 2020 plans stepping up
- Across the pitch, there are places up for grabs in the England manager’s squad
- Trent Alexander-Arnold and Marcus Rashford both still have points to prove
It is 200 days until England kick-off their delayed Euro 2020 campaign – and manager Gareth Southgate heads into the winter months praying his players stay injury free.
But if everyone is fit, who will start England’s tournament opener against Croatia on June 13?
Here, Sportsmail details the selection dilemmas Southgate is facing ahead of next summer.
Harry Kane’s place in the England fold is safe, but who needs to catch Gareth Southgate’s eye?
There appears little evidence to indicate that Jordan Pickford won’t start the Euros as England’s No 1. Despite the doubts, Southgate has made crystal clear the Everton goalkeeper is his first choice. There’s logic to the England manager’s stance – Pickford, in fairness, has played well for the national team.
But his club form has put his position under intense scrutiny. For now the high-profile errors for Everton haven’t effected Southgate’s faith. Any more, however, will merely place more unwanted scrutiny on the goalkeeper heading into the summer. Second in line is Nick Pope, but his chances of displacing Pickford suffered a blow recently when Southgate said neither of his back-up goalkeepers – including Dean Henderson – were applying serious pressure on the current No 1.
Pope has proved himself an excellent goalkeeper at Burnley, but there remain concerns over his distribution, a key facet Southgate is looking for in his keepers. Henderson had hoped to challenge but is currently second choice behind David De Gea at Manchester United. So, as it stands, Pickford has the gloves – and there seems little possibility of that changing.
Southgate is a big fan of Jordan Pickford and that hasn’t changed despite his recent dip in form
Southgate appears intent on deploying a three-at-the-back (or five depending on how you look at it) system. At centre-back, two of the three slots look to be resolved with Harry Maguire and Eric Dier shoo-ins to start next summer’s tournament. That leaves one more centre back slot to fill.
Joe Gomez would have been a leading contender to fill the role but the serious knee injury he suffered during the previous international break means he is set to miss the Euros. Conor Coady is a relative newcomer to the international stage, but his impact has been profound.
He has been hugely impressive in his three England caps so far, indeed Southgate has already included the Wolves captain in his leadership group. The 27-year-old looks to be the favourite to fill the final slot at centre back.
Conor Coady has impressed the England setup and has a big chance with Joe Gomez out
The emergence of Tyrone Mings as a fixture in the England squad also provides Southgate with a strong option, the fact the Villa man is left-footed brings the added value of balance to the defence.
Southgate’s idea to utilise Kyle Walker as a makeshift centre-back provides the England boss with another realistic option; the fact the Manchester City star played in that role during the euphoric run to the World Cup semi finals in 2018 will surely be a consideration for the head coach heading into the tournament.
An outside bet: if John Stones can play regularly, what chances a recall?
Manchester City defender John Stones could be an outside bet if he gets more minutes at City
You’d think Trent Alexander-Arnold would be a certainty to start at right-wing back at the European Championships. But his selection doesn’t seem to be so clear cut.
The Liverpool star’s position as one of the best young players in Europe is unquestionable. But his role in the England starting XI is far less certain. Kieran Trippier’s experience is viewed as a key component for Southgate, particularly during tournament football.
But there remains doubt over whether Trippier will even be available for the Euros as he awaits news of his betting trial. A long ban could yet rule him out of contention.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is a Liverpool star but still has to make his England spot secure
But for now Alexander-Arnold and Trippier are battling it out for a place on England’s right side.
On the opposite flank, Ben Chilwell is the leading contender to start the Euros. But Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka is now applying genuine pressure on the Chelsea left-back following a string of promising performances since breaking into the England squad in October. But Chilwell’s experience – and the fact he is playing Champions League football should act in his favour.
Southgate’s midfield conundrum is arguably his biggest, and most crucial, headache in need of remedy. He appears, at least against the bigger nations, keen to deploy two holding central midfielders; with Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice in possession of the shirts right now.
Yet there is a consensus of opinion, at least among some members of the squad, that one midfield defensive pivot would be suffice and that a more technical player should be deployed next to either Rice or Henderson. One of the leading contender for the role as a central midfield playmaker is Harry Winks.
Jordan Henderson’s place as one of England’s holding midfielders looks to be guaranteed
The Tottenham midfielder ran the show in the recent comprehensive win over Republic of Ireland, winning Sportsmail’s man of the match as he knit England’s game together with ease. And then four days later against Belgium, having started the game on the bench, Winks was introduced at half-time with England losing 2-0 and had a significant influence on the game during a hugely improved second half performance.
He finished the last international break with two direct assists. Indeed, Winks appears a prime candidate to play the role as England’s playmaker should Southgate decide to break up the Rice/Henderson axis. Tellingly, it is understood a number of his international team-mates feel similarly. Mason Mount would also be a contender for that role.
He produced a promising display in that position during Wednesday’s victory over Iceland and possesses the technical attributes to fill that role.
Phil Foden starred for England in their impressive win over Iceland earlier in November
Chelsea’s Mason Mount has always done well for England and Southgate is a fan of his ability
But Southgate appears to view Mount in more of an advanced midfield role, whereas Winks of a specialist in the role of deep-lying central midfielder.
Phil Foden, following his breathtaking performance in the win over Iceland, could also play centrally. But – like Mount – Southgate appears to view the Manchester City youngster in more of an advanced role.
The area of the pitch where there is significantly less uncertainty. Harry Kane: starts. Raheem Sterling: starts. That leaves one slot to fill.
The smart money to land the role would be on Marcus Rashford.
The Kane/Sterling/Rashford triumvirate is widely recognised as one of the most deadly attacking combinations on the global international scene. But the emergence of Jack Grealish has added a degree of doubt over who might join Kane and Sterling in England’s three-man attack. His performances for Aston Villa have been breathtaking, his displays for England have been just as eye-catching.
Grealish has surely given Southgate something to think about. Jadon Sancho will provide another option out wide, as will Foden and Mount – who have both been deployed in wide attacking roles by Southgate in recent weeks
Marcus Rashford looks likely to partner Kane and Raheem Sterling but he has big competition
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