The pressure on Gareth Southgate and England has just gotten bigger. Recent developments in the ongoing battle against Covid-19 have meant that UEFA are re-evaluating their multi-host format for the upcoming European Championships. The likely result of this? A home tournament for England. The potential for fans returning to stadiums further heightens the expectation, so how can Gareth Southgate make the most of his home advantage? I’ll provide three possible examples for how England could line-up in the summer.
Option 1) 4-2-3-1 Formation
Gareth Southgate’s biggest dilemma will come from choosing his attackers. His depth of talent in that region of the pitch will even extend beyond the entire squad he chooses. The benefit of this formation is that it enables Southgate to add an extra attacker. I think that Sterling and Kane are almost guaranteed to start which leaves two spots for quite a few players to battle it out.
The attacking midfielder that I’ve opted for is Jack Grealish. He’s having a phenomenal season domestically and has already impressed at international level against Belgium. He has progressive characteristics that will enable this England team to drive forward and hurt defences. He also is incredibly creative in his playmaking, he can drop deep and carry the ball creating space for teammates or alternatively operate in the final third and play instinctive passes between defenders to set up teammates. He also has the ability to score goals on both feet from a variety of positions in and around the penalty box.
The other attacker that I’ve chosen is Phil Foden. This may be controversial over the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, but for me, it is incredibly importance to have balance in an attack and Foden’s left foot provides that. Foden and Sterling already have a developed relationship at club level and they could transfer this into the national team set up. Foden is technically gifted and incredibly versatile. In this set up, Harry Kane would have all the service that he lacked in Russia.
Having four attackers means a slight compromise to have two defensive minded midfielders. The likes of Mason Mount and James Maddison would miss out because of this but would still be valuable options off the bench. In the defence, I’ve opted for Luke Shaw over the out-of-form Ben Chilwell, and Alexander-Arnold gets in ahead of Kyle Walker on the other side. The centre-back pairing of John Stones and Harry Maguire boasts excellent ball-playing ability, good physicality and intelligent reading of the game.
Option 2) 3-5-2 Formation
Gareth Southgate is yet to make up his mind about a formation. He’s been trying different systems out in a variety of games and we’re likely to get a better idea in the upcoming international break. However, 3 at the back is certainly a system that he’s fond of. It enables him to fit both Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker into the team as well as add an extra central midfielder.
There are a few changes I’ve made from Option 1. Firstly, Saka comes in for Shaw. The Arsenal youngster has been phenomenal this season and has stood out in an underperforming side. He’s incredibly versatile which would enable in game switches to different systems but also has superior attacking qualities to Luke Shaw. Secondly, Walker comes in for Rice. The West Ham man falls victim to the change in formation as Liverpool’s skipper, Jordan Henderson keeps his place as one of Southgate’s favourites. Kyle Walker’s recovery speed enables Alexander-Arnold to get forward into more dangerous positions that he’d be able to do in a four at the back system.
Another change is Mason Mount for Phil Foden. Realistically, either of these two could play this position but I would assume that Southgate will try his best to fit Mount in his starting XI. The Chelsea man has greater defensive qualities to Foden while still possessing dangerous attacking qualities. At times he would be able to slot in besides Jordan Henderson to enable the wing-backs and Jack Grealish to get further forward. Lastly, Rashford comes in for Sterling. Similar to the previous one, this could be either of the two or one of the actual centre-forwards like Danny Ings, Patrick Bamford or Dominic Calvert-Lewin. I chose Rashford for his speed and athleticism. I feel that he would complement Kane well as the Spurs forward could pick up the ball deep and release Rashford in behind, replicating his partnership with Heung-Min Son at club level.
It is worth nothing that a lot of these players could be interchanged with players left on the bench, such is the depth of quality available to Southgate at the moment.
Option 3) 3-4-2-1 Formation
This final set-up is very unlikely but it would offer Southgate a very dynamic and versatile lineup which would encompass positional rotations and in-game formation changes. The main idea of this formation is to have solidity in the middle provided by two defensive-minded midfielders with three defenders staying back at all times. In attack, there is a great combination of pace, power and technical ability which could cause devastating effect.
Sancho comes in for Alexander-Arnold with the Dortmund forward operating in a similar role in which Callum Hudson-Odoi has been deployed in under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea. Sancho would have full freedom in attack with Kyle Walker and Henderson able to cover for him while he would be expected to provide support in defence. In midfield, Rice comes in for Mount to provide additional defensive solidity as a result of Sancho’s inclusion. This ensures there would be at least five players back for any defensive transitions. Lastly, Sterling comes in for Rashford. The only problem with this would be that he would be cutting in on his weaker left-foot. At Manchester City he excels on the left wing and would want to play there for England too.
Revised Squad Prediction:
I previously attempted to predict the England 23-man squad in an article earlier this year. As a result of some changes in form and fitness, I have updated my predicted squad to the one below (*indicates a change):
Pickford, Pope, Henderson;
Alexander-Arnold, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Keane, Dier, Shaw*, Chilwell, Saka;
Henderson, Rice, Mount, Maddison*, Grealish, Foden;
Kane, Sterling, Rashford, Sancho, Calvert-Lewin.
(*Shaw and Maddison replace R. James and Phillips)
England fans, what is your preferred line-up for this summer and how much are you looking forward to your potential return to football stadiums? Let us know by tweeting @AllOutFootball_ or commenting below.
featured image credit sky sports