The Clock is Ticking for Southgate and His England Squad
As Gareth Southgate prepares to unveil his latest England squad this Thursday, the footballing community is abuzz with speculation. With a Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine in Poland on the horizon (9 September), followed by a friendly against Scotland (12 September) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the fixture, the stakes are high. Southgate has only four more international camps to finalise his squad for next summer’s European Championship in Germany, which could be his swan song as England manager—his contract expires in December 2024.
The Tried and Trusted: Southgate’s Past Choices
Southgate’s previous selections have often leaned towards familiar faces, a strategy that led England to the Euro 2020 final and the World Cup quarter-final in Qatar. The progress in England’s playing style under his tenure has been widely acknowledged.
Midfield Matters: Henderson, Phillips, and Eze
The Henderson Question
Jordan Henderson, a stalwart in the England set-up, recently made headlines with his move to Saudi Pro League’s Al-Ettifaq. Southgate has always emphasised the importance of playing at top-flight clubs, and it remains to be seen how Henderson’s new chapter in Saudi Arabia will impact his England prospects.
The Phillips Predicament
Kalvin Phillips, despite declaring his intention to stay at Manchester City, has yet to clock any minutes this season. Southgate has hinted that a lack of club action could jeopardise a player’s national team spot, putting Phillips in a precarious position.
Eberechi Eze, who made his England debut in the last international camp, has been a standout performer for Crystal Palace. His current form could well secure him a spot as he aims for a place in next summer’s Euros.
Defensive Dilemmas: Maguire and Colwill
The Maguire Conundrum
Harry Maguire’s lack of game time at Manchester United raises questions about his place in the England squad. With John Stones injured, Maguire’s experience is invaluable, but his recent form could be a concern for Southgate.
Levi Colwill, who has been a regular starter for Chelsea, is another name to watch. His left-footed, left-sided centre-back skills could pose a new challenge for Maguire’s spot in the team.
The Under-21s: A Pipeline of Talent
Southgate, a former England U21s manager, has been closely monitoring the progress of the Young Lions. Players like Morgan Gibbs-White and Levi Colwill, who have been in scintillating form, could find themselves in the senior squad sooner rather than later.
The Forward Fringe: Sterling, March, and Maddison
Raheem Sterling’s recent form under Chelsea’s new manager Mauricio Pochettino makes him a likely inclusion. Solly March and James Maddison are also pushing for spots but may find it challenging given the competition and Southgate’s focus on consistency.
As Southgate readies his latest England squad, the choices he makes could set the tone for the Euro 2024 qualifiers and beyond. It’s a balancing act between experience and form, and only time will tell who makes the cut.