Three months separates England and their kick off to the European Championships against Croatia. While current issues show that really anything could happen before then, the expectations will no doubt rise to unrealistic heights in the build up to the Euro’s following Gareth Southgate’s semi-final exploits in the World Cup two years ago. And with the games being played at Wembley now would be a great time for the nation to get it right on the pitch again but that won’t happen without complications as I look at some key points with time ticking before we get underway with the tournament.
A key talking point ahead of the tournament is that of the fitness of Harry Kane who potentially could be in line to play a part depending on his progress. This is in no way ideal though regardless as Kane will not be entering matches with a full season of goals behind him. Any player of Kane’s class will be missed and his injury news is a blow. Rashford’s injury issues also does not leave encouragement in the number nine spot and this could be decisive to England’s chances.
Club and Country
It’s well documented that club and country are different entities altogether. Taking form into a tournament always seems to be a big deal and England look very mixed in that regard. Alexander-Arnold, Gomez and Henderson have featured regularly as part of the best team in the world while Rashford, Chilwell and Sancho have showed promising signs throughout the campaign. On the flip side Jordan Pickford has come under large scrutiny for his poor performances for Everton and players like Maguire have been uninspiring for his world record price tag as a defender.
Regardless of this form slotting into the England system is a different puzzle entirely and one that will have to click. Despite Pickford’s disastrous club form he has always delivered for the national team. For me his place should be safe as he doesn’t have a truly top keeper behind him and a settled team with a keeper who’s got tournament experience could be healthy for the mental rigours of the matches . The negative energy around his game at the moment though does bring concerns that the pressure will be heaped on him and Southgate come the summer.
Meanwhile Alexander-Arnold’s defensive frailties could be tested more than ever. The full back spends most of his time operating in the opposition half where he is world-class but he is woeful defensively in my view and those small details could be the difference between progression or elimination.
Two years stronger (or Weaker)
England’s route to glory is highly unlikely to be as tame as their World Cup pathway. England fell short when it mattered against a higher class opposition and they meet Croatia again in the opening game. Czech Republic and the play-off winner are certain to offer more than Panama and Tunisia and we are likely to see how England have progressed over the two year period from the group stage alone.
Naturally the time period should have served England’s prospects well going into this tournament but that is the not the case. I always have a big frustration when it comes to stability in the line-up, very often England tinker with personnel in friendlies and don’t allow a side to become routine and reap the benefits as a result. We’ve seen the good and bad in the nations league in terms of results and performance but this is where we will find our tournament resolve when the pressure is really on.
My Starting XI
5-2-2-1 – Pickford, Alexander-Arnold, Wann-Bissaka(Walker), Maguire, Gomez, Chilwell, Rice, Henderson, Sancho, Sterling, Rashford (Kane).
England have a flexibility when it comes to operating with different formations. I believe this line up looks the strongest on paper but I’m sure a 4-3-3 will be deployed by Southgate. I think notably the lack of strength in central midfield stands out above all. England lack options and quality in this department and this means we have to find solutions in terms of being progressive in possession. Rice and Henderson are quite robust and are dependable players, while Henderson has excelled with his passing range this season it does leave concerns about a lack of natural creativity. Should England operate with three midfielders I’d like to see Jack Grealish be thrown into the mix. The Villa Captain has carried his side this campaign and is blessed with brilliant close control an and ability to keep the ball.
The Three Lions are well stacked for ability at right back and this is why I would like to see England operate with a back 5, importantly with Walker or Wann-Bissaka covering for Alexander-Arnold, a more safe bet than having TAA marauding from full back. Wann-Bissaka has already shown he is one of the finest out and out defenders in the league and this could obtain the perfect balance needed. Whatever formation Southgate operates with, he’ll certainly have enough options to win matches.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!
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