As much as we all enjoy watching the Premier League sides do well in Europe’s top competitions it could be to the nations detriment. English Dominance in Europe could cost Southgate and his men in Euro’s
Having managed to get through the warm up games there is one nagging issue to think about leading to the Three Lions opening game. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United players arriving late to the camp has caused major disruption to preparations. Meaning Southgate has had zero opportunity to play his preferred team.
Given what we have seen from Southgate over the last few years one would expect two holding midfielders to start. However a very strong place has been made by Jude Bellingham over the two warm ups matches.
The likes of Mason Mount, Phil Foden, John Stones, Ben Chilwell and Raheem Sterling have all missed out on both matches. Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw have only been available for the second game. Harry Maguires absence is also notable but he is out for a different reason.
Where Southgate is heading
What we have ended up with is no clearer an idea of where Southgate might be heading with this squad. In my view Grealish has made himself a certain starter for England and Foden has to be involved from the first whistle as well.
How Southgate looks to shoehorn all of Englands attacking talent into the starting lineup remains to be seen but I think we can expect him to stick with the tried and trusted to a certain extent.
Despite huge clamour from supporters, pundits and media professionals I imagine the likes of Mount, Sterling and Rashford could well start. It has never been Southgate’s style to bow to public pressure, he has his style and he tends to stick with it.
The problem this time is that he is now a man under pressure. He has a weight of expectation on his shoulders that was not there during the World Cup. Also with Croatia being the first opponents of the Euros this could be a real chance for Southgate to lay down a marker.
Southgate would have to go against all of his instincts but with Croatia expected to sit in he is going to need players that can unlock defenses. Although I would agree with Southgate that pace is a key weapon for us across the frontline. In my mind a 4-3-3 formation is the only way Southgate can go.
How important is Declan rice
One holding midfielder will be sufficient in that system and it has to be Rice. Henderson looks off the pace and in all honesty England don’t need to be that negative. Gareth has the opportunity to go along way in this tournament despite a potentially tricky last 16 tie. He could do it with an attacking mentality.
Give the fans what they want to see, if England go out in a blaze of glory playing attractive attacking football there would be no complaints. To go out with a whimper, using defensive tactics and with a negative mindset would take us back to 2016.
Rice, Mount and Foden in behind Sancho, Kane and Grealish would excite England fans and see a return to the atmosphere of 2018. With the talent to then come off the bench to make an impact, leaves even the most ardent of Southgate doubters salivating.
Now is the time to loosen the reigns. Now is the time to unleash the England DNA onto the world. The excitement has subsided for the moment but England can claw it all back with one positive team selection on Sunday.