22 May 2024

Defensive issues and attacking headaches – big decisions for Gareth Southgate

22 May 2024

By naming a provisional 33-man squad on Tuesday, England manager Gareth Southgate has stepped up his preparations for Euro 2024.

A number of pressing decisions remain, however, ahead of this summer’s tournament.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the things Southgate now has to consider.

Who to cut next

Southgate must name his final 26-man squad by June 7.

It may be that he already knows who he wants to take to Germany, in which case keeping an extra seven players in full training mode – rather then letting them head off for their summer holidays – is merely precautionary in case of injuries.

Yet there would seem to be places to be won in defence and tough decisions over who to leave out in attack, meaning a lot could ride on upcoming friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iceland.

Defensive issues

There are 11 defenders in the initial squad and some of the most experienced – Harry Maguire, John Stones and Luke Shaw – have had injury problems this season.

Shaw may not make it at all, a particular concern given the shortage of other left-back options.

There is a strong chance Kieran Trippier, primarily a right-back but versatile enough to operate on the left, could be first choice in that position despite his own injury woes. Joe Gomez’s versatility could also help his cause.

Marc Guehi, Ezri Konsa and Lewis Dunk will eye back-up centre-back roles but Jarrad Branthwaite and Jarell Quansah have everything to gain in those friendlies.

Attacking headaches

The problems at the other end of the field are completely the opposite, where Southgate has too many exciting players vying for places.

Many international managers might love to have just one of Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Jack Grealish, Anthony Gordon and James Maddison, but the chances are Southgate is going to have to leave some of them out.

It is the sort of headache managers say they like to have, but those final decisions will be tough.

Backing up Kane

Harry Kane is the undisputed leader of the side but centre-forward cover will be required.

With other attacking options including Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Cole Palmer, only one extra out-and-out striker might be needed, but that would still leave a difficult choice between Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney.

Watkins’ outstanding season might give him the edge, but Toney’s brilliance from the penalty spot is hard to ignore.

Putting faith in youngsters

Southgate’s decision to leave out Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson has shorn the squad of a lot of experience.

Yet with the likes of Kane, Kyle Walker, Stones, Maguire and Trippier around, with Foden and Bellingham having now matured into players of some repute, there is still plenty of it about.

This could afford Southgate slack to stick with some of his younger players.

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