On the plane or sofa? How England’s Euro 2024 squad is shaping up | Jacob Steinberg

On the plane

Jordan Pickford continues to fend off rivals for the No 1 spot and will be England’s goalkeeper at Euro 2024. Gareth Southgate has repeatedly shown he will back his regulars. Harry Maguire has his critics but the centre-back will go to Germany. A bigger question is whether Maguire starts. Marc Guéhi has emerged as a viable alternative and is pushing to start alongside England’s best defender, John Stones.

However there will not be much experimentation at the back. Kyle Walker, captain against North Macedonia, is established at right-back and Southgate continues to value Kieran Trippier’s experience. Trippier, ever dependable, is solid cover on the right and has been trusted to play on the left in the absence of Luke Shaw, a certain starter if fit.

Phi Foden, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka
Phil Foden, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka could the starting front three in Germany next year. Photograph: Michael Regan/FIFA/Getty Images

Some players do not have to panic. Declan Rice is undroppable in defensive midfield and Jude Bellingham could be the tournament’s star player. There is so much scintillating young talent. Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka offer goals, skill and creativity on the flanks and may well be Southgate’s favoured picks to start in the front three with England’s main main, Harry Kane.

In the departure lounge

Crystal Palace’s Sam Johnstone looks the strongest challenger to Pickford at the moment and started against Australia last month. Places are up for grabs. Southgate will hope to learn a lot when his side play friendlies against Belgium and Brazil in March. He has spoken about wanting versatility, so Levi Colwill’s ability to cover left-back and centre-back could make him a tempting pick.

A 23-man squad means that Southgate cannot carry passengers. He has stood by Kalvin Phillips, who blends well with Rice, but the midfielder is not playing for Manchester City and needs a move in January.

Kalvin Phillips
Kalvin Phillips is a favourite of Gareth Southgate but needs minutes at club level having fallen out of Manchester City’s first team. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Depth is an issue in midfield. There are not many alternatives to Jordan Henderson, who still valued for his experience despite his move to the Saudi Pro League. Conor Gallagher’s form for Chelsea has pushed him into contention but he struggled against Malta last week. The experiment with Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield needs fine-tuning, though Southgate clearly wants to work with the Liverpool player, who is also comfortable at right-back. In attack James Maddison, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford are vying for a spot on the left, and it would be a surprise if any of them missed out. However Grealish has been in and out at City and Rashford’s form for Manchester United has been underwhelming.

Hoping for a ticket

Aaron Ramsdale was in the latest squad and started against Scotland in September but the goalkeeper has lost his place at Arsenal and might be nervous about a late push from Newcastle’s Nick Pope. In defence Lewis Dunk has been solid on his recent outings and could squeeze out Colwill. Dunk is in front of Fikayo Tomori and Ezri Konsa, both of whom will be dependent on injuries. Then again much can change between now and the summer. What if the Chelsea right-back Reece James stays fit and has a strong second half of the season? James is an excellent player, though he has been a regular on the treatment table and his absence from the latest squad drew a pointed remark from Southgate.

Reliability will have a bearing on selection. Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell would have benefited from Shaw’s absence but is out with a hamstring injury. Southgate has been hunting for alternatives and handed a debut to City’s Rico Lewis against North Macedonia. The versatile 19-year-old is in with a shout after playing well. Lewis could even be an option in midfield, especially with Mason Mount out of favour after a slow start at Old Trafford.

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Eberechi Eze
The abundantly talented Crystal Palace midfielder Eberechi Eze is one of the young players on Gareth Southgate’s selectorial radar before Euro 2024. Photograph: Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images

Mount, who started the Euro 2020 final, will still hope to force himself back into Southgate’s plans. The door remains open. Raheem Sterling cannot be ruled out if he maintains his revival at Chelsea, even though he has been a high-profile outcast since the World Cup. If Grealish and Rashford are off form there will be openings in attacking midfield. Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen and Eberechi Eze merit discussion, and it is hard to know who will go as Kane’s understudy. Ollie Watkins disappointed after starting up front against North Macedonia, Eddie Nketiah is untested and Callum Wilson injury prone. Could there be a recall for Ivan Toney after his ban for breaching betting regulation ends in January? The Brentford striker will be hard to ignore, particularly with a big move on the cards during the upcoming transfer window.

On the sofa

The Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson is injured and will be behind Johnstone when he returns. The Aston Villa centre-back Tyrone Mings is out for the season, Liverpool’s Joe Gomez has drifted from view and Taylor Harwood-Bellis is yet to make the step up from the Under-21s. Ben White has not been used since leaving the World Cup early.

Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho has not played for the Three Lions since 2021 and is England’s forgotten man in attack. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

As for midfielders, Southgate has shown little inclination to use James Ward-Prowse, Sean Longstaff or Ruben Loftus-Cheek instead of Henderson or Phillips. Jadon Sancho is the forgotten man on the flanks and there are probably too many wide players in front of Anthony Gordon, even if he is on Southgate’s radar. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tammy Abraham have fallen away in attack. Two to watch could be the Liverpool midfielders Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones. They are important for the Under-21s but this will probably be a tournament too soon.

The Guardian

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