What should England’s Euro 2024 squad look like?

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With the final international break out of the way ahead of the 2024 European Championships, the discourse surrounding potential squad selection has grown to fever pitch. Whilst I believe far too much attention is given to Gareth Southgate’s selection, I will dutifully follow every football pundit’s path and propose my own 23-man squad for the summer. After all, mine is the only correct version – every else is wrong…

Goalkeepers

Put simply, Jordan Pickford plays. The Everton man is both England’s historically successful goalkeeper and the most in-form currently. His shot-stopping is world class and his distribution is good, even if Aaron Ramsdale potentially offers a greater passing range. ‘Rammers’ also makes my squad as he has a good relationship with most of the squad and has proven himself at an elite club. Clearly, he lacks game time this season, which is why I don’t believe he has any claim to the number one jersey.

The final pick is a more interesting one, though perhaps the least important pick of the entire 23 since it would require both Pickford and Ramsdale to pick up injuries. Nick Pope’s injury puts a question mark over his match-readiness, so it is yet to be seen whether he can make a late bid for the squad. Jack Butland’s name has been rammed down England fans’ throats by those who watch the Scottish league, and, quite frankly, I would love to see him play for us again.

As a third choice though, I think it’s important not to rock the boat. Keep the squad happy and pick someone who is already comfortable around the England camp. That man is Sam Johnstone. Crystal Palace’s number one is unremarkable but has England pedigree and is very rarely seen making a mistake.

The Barnsley Beckenbauer is one of the world’s leading ball-playing centre backs and he starts for the best team in the world

Defenders

Southgate’s largest pool of players to choose from is probably defenders. John Stones is the outstanding first choice at centre back. The Barnsley Beckenbauer is one of the world’s leading ball-playing centre backs and he starts for the best team in the world. Alongside him would ideally be a left-footed player. Jarrad Branthwaite looks like he could finally banish the Everton English centre back hoodoo that claimed the likes of Mason Holgate, Conor Coady, and Michael Keane. Despite his inclusion in the latest squad, this may be a tournament too soon.

Instead, I think versatility facilitiates a much more economical use of the remaining position. Levi Colwill has played left back for the majority of the season for Chelsea, but is equally adept as a left centre back. He’s a player who I have always felt has an elite ceiling, so if he is fit then he has to go to Germany. Chelsea look a more solid defensive unit when he starts and he is England’s future at left centre back.

For this summer though, Harry Maguire is my starting pick. Slabhead has an excellent record for England and has been in decent form for Manchester United, picking up November’s player of the month award. He and Stones know each other’s game inside out, but Maguire is a superb ball player and deceptively fluid dribbler too.

At left back, Luke Shaw would start in my team. He may have only played twelve league games so far this season, but he is a multi-faceted player used to the pressures of international knockout football. He’s also the only player ever to score in a Euros final for England. Ben Chilwell has played a similar number of games, but his dearth of England experience compared to Shaw means he falls behind him in the pecking order and out of my squad entirely.

Colwill offers cover, as does Joe Gomez. The latter’s ability to play anywhere across the back four makes him an invaluable squad player in tournament football, and his form is finally good enough for him to be in the England conversation again. I think having Gomez as a fourth centre back just about gives us enough cover there, especially with Kyle Walker able to play in that position, even if he’s only really played there in back threes. Marc Guehi, Fikayo Tomori, Lewis Dunk and Ezri Konsa are all players I rate, but simply fall victim to the small squad sizes major tournaments allow. Dunk would probably be my pick from those, should players become unavailable.

My final defender’s spot goes to Kieran Trippier, acting as back up to Kyle Walker at right back. His set pieces add an extra skillset to the squad and he’s a leader in the dressing room. And he can play left back if we get really desperate. Another name not too many people have mentioned is Rico Lewis. Whilst exceptionally talented and undoubtedly a future England player, he’s not yet good or consistent enough to get in the squad ahead of Shaw, Chilwell, or even Tyrick Mitchell yet.

He may have only played twelve league games so far this season, but Shaw is a multi-faceted player used to the pressures of international knockout football

Midfielders

But what about Trent Alexander-Arnold!? Well, for England, he’s a midfielder. It’s pretty clear Trent needs a specific system to thrive at right back, and it’s one that England don’t use, since Southgate deems it more beneficial to build his team around players further forward on the pitch. I agree with him. Nevertheless, leaving such a talent at home would be criminal, so Trent takes his place in the 23 as the backup number eight.

Declan Rice is a shoo-in for the starting number six, as is Jude Bellingham as number ten. Many fans want a double pivot of the two, but I’m simply not having the most talented English midfielder ever chained to his own half. Set Bellingham free and this season has shown the rewards he can produce at Real Madrid. Bellingham is my starting ten. So that begs the question – who starts with Bellingham and Rice?

Many fans see this as a problem position, but I think we already have the perfect player. A water carrier. Someone who will run themselves into the ground but let the forward players take the creative load. A quiet leader. That man is Conor Gallagher. He is the perfect third man for that midfield and already captains Chelsea – I can’t quite understand what’s taking England fans so long to get behind him. Whenever I have seen him this season he has impressed me and I think he has been a standout performer for Chelsea for a long time.

James Maddison is another supremely talented player who must make the cut, and is ideal for a backup number ten. Off the bench, his unique skillset of open play chance creation and set piece delivery may be the impetus we end up searching for deep into extra time. As mentioned before, Trent covers Gallagher. Curtis Jones and Ross Barkley are both deserving of a spot too, yet there is simply no room. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s performances aren’t reaching across the English Channel and Phillips and Mount are out of the picture.

As for Rice, his backup is a slightly more problematic. Kobbie Mainoo is brilliant, but I don’t know if I would want to put the poor lad in a single pivot against France should Rice get injured. The only other option is Jordan Henderson. I would trust few others to tie that midfield together in a big game. He has the experience, something which counts for a massive amount at these tournaments. Until the Belgium game, I would have had Henderson on the plane over Mainoo. Having seen Mainoo’s performance and serenity on the ball, I can no longer justify that, even though he was playing in a much more advanced role than Rice. Let’s all just hope Rice stays fit.

Devastating form last season raised expectations a little too high, but Rashford has underperformed this season whatever yardstick you measure him by

Forwards

England’s forward line has been touted as the greatest in the world recently, and a front three of Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, and Phil Foden is an enthralling prospect. Outside of these three, there are a lot of players who have a genuine claim to a spot in Southgate’s squad, especially as many forward players nowadays are used to playing in any of the three positions in a 4-3-3. Cole Palmer and Jarrod Bowen have both played as a number nine and winger and are in sparkling form in the Premier League. Palmer has an x factor which makes him a very valuable player off the bench, and he has proved his value at Chelsea when he’s allowed to roam between the lines. I like the idea of Bowen offering cover to Harry Kane and Ollie Watkins, meaning no third number nine is necessary.

Watkins is the Premier League’s leading goal contributor this season, meaning he simply has to go to Germany. His record is so much stronger than Ivan Toney, who is the only other striker seemingly in the mix in 2024. Even as a Peterborough fan, I do not rate Ivan Toney – his attitude (especially towards Brentford as a club) seems awful and his goalscoring feats pale in comparison to Watkins. One player who I think would offer something to England is Callum Wilson. But with Watkins is such sparkling form I can’t see a future where Wilson does enough in the ten games remaining to usurp him in the squad. That makes six forwards, and I just about found room in my squad to squeeze in another.

Anthony Gordon has proved me wrong since his move to Newcastle as I thought he was another overpriced Englishman who would fade into mediocrity. His humility and consistent performances have massively impressed me this season, which is why it pains me to say he just misses out on the squad. Jack Grealish is another who misses out. Injuries and lack of form mean he’s simply too far down the list. Eberechi Eze’s hamstrings are made of cheese.

Instead, the final name in my squad is Marcus Rashford. Devastating form last season raised expectations a little too high, but he has underperformed this season whatever yardstick you measure him by. Despite this, he has been around the squad for nearly a decade now and has many memorable moments in an England shirt. Nobody else in the squad hits a ball like him either. Unless befallen by an injury, I fully expect Southgate to pick Rashford, regardless of form.

I fully expect many readers to be apoplectic with my decision-making. Hindsight will prove me wrong, of that I have no doubt. But truthfully, I can’t wait for the Euros this summer, no matter who steps onto the field in that blue and white shirt.

My Euro 2024 Squad

Pickford, Ramsdale, Johnstone

Walker, Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Gomez, Colwill, Shaw

Rice, Bellingham, Gallagher, Alexander-Arnold, Maddison, Mainoo

Saka, Kane, Foden, Watkins, Palmer, Bowen, Rashford

Image: حسین ظهروند via Wikimedia Commons

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