England’s Euros winners and losers from Gareth Southgate’s new emphasis on attack
Gareth Southgate has already started preparing some of his England players for the possibility of missing out on his squad for the European Championships and is planning more talks over the coming weeks.
Rather than leaving his players in the dark over his plans, England manager Southgate is trying to prepare those likely to miss out for the worst and also give those on the fringes a clear idea of what they need to do between now and the end of the season.
Southgate has also suggested that his Euros squad will be more attacking than the squad he took to the World Cup, which should be good news for Jack Grealish, who is due to return from injury for Aston Villa this weekend.
Asked how hard it will be to leave players out of his Euros squad, Southgate said: “That, of course, is a difficult message, very difficult and nobody looks forward to it. But I’ve always got to remember that it’s worse for those receiving it than it is for those giving it, so you’ve got to have that empathy with how the players are feeling.
“I’ve spoken to quite a few already this week and I will do over the next couple of weeks, so that they know exactly where they sit because I think that’s helpful. You’ve got to manage expectations and have some reality about what they might need to do between now and the end of the season. But the reality is whenever you’re delivering that difficult news, it’s a horrible conversation to be having.”
Here, Telegraph Sport looks at the players who Southgate may have already spoken to or could be planning talks with and assesses where his big decisions lie.
ERIC DIER: The defender did not play a single minute of England’s three World Cup qualifiers and has lost his place at Tottenham. The fact Southgate admitted he does not need any more than eight defenders in the squad is ominous for Dier, who must, at least, quickly win his Spurs place back and produce a series of impressive performances to give himself some hope.
KIERAN TRIPPIER: One of the stars of England’s 2018 World Cup run, Trippier did not start any of the San Marino, Albania or Poland games and Kyle Walker’s ability to play as a right-back or on the right side of a back three, together with the emergence of Reece James, must put the Atletico Madrid player’s place in jeopardy.
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD: The surprise omission from Southgate’s latest squad, the Liverpool right-back now faces an uphill task to get back in for the Euros. His only chance will be to try to out-perform James and Trippier over the remaining weeks of the season, as it is hard to see him displacing Walker.
Two of the 10 players listed as defenders in England’s World Cup squad three years ago were Ashley Young and Fabian Delph, who could play in midfield, and explains why Southgate will not need more than eight defenders at the Euros,
He said: “In Russia, we played Kyle Walker in a back three and we have some players who can play in more than one position. Luke Shaw has played in a back three for Manchester United, Chilwell has as well. It’s not essential to have more than eight and the more defenders we take the less we have in other areas of the pitch.”
MIDFIELD AND ATTACK
Southgate faces some big decisions in his midfield and attack, and it may be that his desire to make space for as many of his creative talents as possible will prompt a tough decision over his out-and-out strikers.
“We’re a bit more fluid and adaptable now and we’d like to cover some different possibilities,” said Southgate.
“We have some exciting wide players and players who can come in off the line and play as an attacking eight or 10. We do have different options in those creative areas and we’ve got to find a way of getting them into the squad.”
So which players are likely to benefit from Southgate’s plan to find space for creative talents in his squad and who may be battling over one place?
JACK GREALISH: The Villa midfielder missed the World Cup qualifiers through injury, but it may well be that the England manager has already given him some words of encouragement and a good end to the season should see him go to the Euros.
KALVIN PHILLIPS v JAMES WARD-PROWSE: Both men could go to the Euros if Jordan Henderson cannot return to fitness in time, but if the Liverpool captain recovers then it may well be that there is only space for one of Phillips, who started against San Marino, Albania and Poland, and Ward-Prowse.
BUKAYO SAKA: The Arsenal teenager can play in a variety of positions, including left wing-back, and looks a very useful squad player for Southgate to have. But his inclusion would potentially mean going to the Euros with only seven dedicated defenders or dropping Jadon Sancho.
DOMINIC CALVERT-LEWIN v DANNY INGS: Calvert-Lewin scored twice against San Marino, but he will know that Ings will also feature heavily in Southgate’s thinking if the Southampton star can remain fit for the rest of the season. It could end up being a straight end-of-season shoot-out between the two strikers.
JAMES MADDISON: The midfielder has enjoyed a fine season for Leicester City, but, barring an injury crisis, it is hard to see how he can now force his way back into Southgate’s plans in time for the summer. It is looking increasingly like he can book his holidays.
Harvey Barnes may have suffered his Leicester City injury at just the wrong time and, while Jesse Lingard and Ollie Watkins are likely to know they will be relying on others dropping out to force their way into Southgate’s final squad, there is another Leicester man whose hopes look to have disappeared completely.
Of course, injuries will dictate some of Southgate’s final decisions but nobody will want to see the England manager’s name flash up on their phones over the next couple of weeks.
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