Euros Euphoria - Part 2 - Is it coming home?

Euros Euphoria Part 2 – Is it coming home?

And as promised, the blog where we give our predictions on the winner of Euro 2024. Part 2 is dedicated to England. What can we expect from the three lions this summer, what would we do if we were Gareth, and is it coming home?


YOUR ENGLAND STARTING XI:

Alex:

                Pickford

 

Walker Stones Guehi Shaw

 

         Rice Bellingham

 

        Saka Foden Palmer

 

                   Kane

The team I’ve selected is pretty offensive, as I feel that we need to utilise our attacking strengths. Foden was outstanding for City in a more central position, so I would have him as a 10 with Bellingham slightly deeper. This then allows the inclusion of Palmer, who I would grant a free role to. He consistently showed his ability to drift around the pitch for Chelsea and pop up in different areas where he assisted and scored from. The prospect of these attacking players linking up confirms my thinking that we should set up more offensively than previous tournaments and go for it.


Josh:

                           Pickford

 

Alexander Arnold Stones Guehi Gomez

 

                      Rice Mainoo

                      

                       Bellingham

 

                   Foden Kane Saka

For the group stages particularly, I think Trent should play. He creates too many opportunities to leave out of the team. Gomez should also get the nod. Trippier isn’t a left back, Gomez will not only provide balance but he’s also the only fit player in the squad that has consistently played left back this season.

 

Lowe-Down:

                            Pickford

Alexander Arnold Stones Guehi Gomez

 

                        Rice Wharton

 

Saka                  Bellingham            Foden

 

                               Kane

My obvious discussion points are the fullbacks. Trent, for me, offers too much going forwards not to play and leading up to the Euros has shone at right-back, more so than in midfield and more so than Kyle Walker. His passing range and creativity is unrivalled in this squad and against an Mbappe-less team, he’s my first choice. At left back, I would opt for Gomez to provide balance. Gomez has performed well at left-back for Liverpool this season and could slot into a back 3 in possession. He’s certainly in better form than Trippier. If and when we play France, I would put Walker at right back as he’s certainly the man I want defending against Mbappe!

Wharton in midfield offers England something that is unique, We don’t tend to produce footballers of his mould with his calmness on the ball and ability to dictate play. Wharton has said himself he loves to “wrap a pass into a forward” and his ability to play these progressive passes is rare in this country. He can break lines with a quick, simple pass and that puts him ahead of our other midfield options in my opinion. Rice has excelled for Arsenal when paired with a passer like Jorginho and I believe Wharton’s inclusion would best compliment Rice and provide England with balance in the middle of the park.

Rumours have it that Alexander-Arnold is set to be given the nod to start in midfield mind…

 

OUR KEY MAN

Alex: Phil Foden
Phil Foden - please play him centrally Gareth!

Josh: Harry Kane
Without a doubt, it is Harry Kane. The skipper is just so good and is raring to go after a fantastic season at Bayern! Honourable mention of course to Jude Bellingham.

Lowe-Down: Declan Rice
Declan Rice. We’ve got a lot of top players and whilst he doesn’t quite sit with Kane, Bellingham and Foden in terms of pure talent, he’s been immense for Arsenal this season and has added another element to his game going forwards. It’s his defensive capabilities that make me pick him as our key man though. Rice will be the protector of our weak back four. A midfield engine with and without the ball, Rice will provide the solid basis for our flair players to go on and play.


SHOULD SOUTHGATE STAY?

Alex: No
This is tough. However, I feel that if we don't win the Euros it would be a natural time for him to step aside. I've been adamant for a while that he'll end up at United and I think that, should we fail to win Euro 2024, he'll bow out and one day take the reigns at Old Trafford. Southgate looked fatigued after the World Cup exit in 2022 and I think it was a stretch for him to even stay on for this tournament, so I think this will be it for him.

Josh: No
Should Gareth stay or leave after the Euros? Leave. If we win, he should leave on that high, if we don’t he should move on. No matter what happens this summer he’s done an exceptional job. The national team was in a dire place when he took over, and he’s not only restored faith, but he’s moved the team forward to be consistently one of the best in the world for the first time in many peoples lifetimes.

Lowe-Down: No
I agree with the other lads to be honest. If he wins it, the temptation to stay on to try and win a World Cup with a brilliant crop of England players could be too much. If we don’t win it, I think he will leave. I’d assume the majority of England fans would want this anyway but who would they want to replace him? The much fancied Graham Potter is speaking with Leicester City. Would it be another appointment in the Southgate mould, someone like the current Under 21s manager Lee Carsley? However uninspiring that sounds, he did win the Euros last summer. Still not convinced? Maybe we go for the best around. Could Pep Guardiola be persuaded if he decides to leave City next summer? Perhaps a blog on that in July…

 

 

IS IT COMING HOME?

Alex: No
Unfortunately, I don't think it will. In previous tournaments there was a settled, cohesive feeling to Southgate's England. I don't get that same impression this time. Maguire - despite his critics - will be a big miss at the back and the rustiness of other defensive personnel is cause for concern. Other issues, such as Foden's position in the side and Rice's midfield partner, confirm my feeling that this is not a settled England side ready to win the tournament.

Josh: Yes
My heart says yes, always. Head says no. World class players going forwards, but dangerously unbalanced at the back. Every great international team has legendary Centre-backs (Bonucci and Chiellini, Puyol and Pique, Materazzi and Cannavaro etc), we certainly do not. Maybe Southgate has always known that and has set us up conservatively in the past for that reason? Either way, our performance against France in the last World Cup gives reason to believe.

Lowe-Down: No
It pains me to say it, but I don’t think it does and I think we lose to France in the Semi-Finals. There are just one too many injuries in that back line and unfortunately Southgate hasn’t used the qualifiers nor friendlies to bed someone like Jarrad Branthwaite into the starting XI. An abundance of right backs but a dearth of left backs also weakens the back four. Going forwards, I don’t have many doubts with the abundance of attacking options at Southgate’s disposal. How he best deploys these, will hold the key to any success. If that front four all click, who knows what can happen? But sadly, I don’t see it coming home this time.


EURO WINNERS:

Alex: France
I think they will feel incredibly motivated going into this tournament following their penalty shoot-out loss to Argentina in the World Cup Final two years ago. Their squad contains a blend of experience and youth that will see them over the line.

Josh: England
England, we have the best player in England, the best player in Spain and the best player in Germany… but we’re defensively so poor. Do I really believe it’s our time? Probably not. But I refuse to pick anyone else!

Lowe-Down: France
I’m going to have to side with Alex here and opt for France. Months ago, I really believed we were the favourites but the injuries have worsened and when you compare our squad with France, theirs is simply more complete. A strong centre-back partnership, an actual left back(!), youthful midfield options and, well, Mbappe up top. You could say they’re well l’equipped… Yeah? Yeah? Ok, no. They have pedigree from winning the World Cup in 2018 and came within a penalty shootout of repeating that feat in 2022. I sense that anguish in Qatar will have fired them up and I expect them to break their Euros hoodoo and win in Germany.

 

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