Rico Lewis epitomises the difficult decisions facing Gareth Southgate
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Gareth Southgate will probably be puzzled about his England squad after their last two qualifying matches for Euro 2024. In the first game, they played against Malta on Friday night, and then again against North Macedonia. Despite being more than 50 rankings ahead of their opponents, the Three Lions lacked the enthusiasm and spark to perform well.
When it comes to discussing England's recent performances, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Firstly, Gareth Southgate has had to deal with injuries to some of his most important players. Jude Bellingham's absence has been particularly difficult to manage, as it has left a gaping hole in the midfield. Additionally, there is no clear first choice left-back, which is also causing some issues. Furthermore, it's worth noting that England had already secured their spot in next year's tournament before this recent international break. As such, there was no real need for them to push themselves too hard or feel any sense of urgency. They were able to take it easy and relax a bit, which is exactly what they did for the most part.
As the manager of the English national football team considers his next steps for the upcoming European Championship, he may reflect on these two matches to identify the positive aspects.
Mostly concerned with the progress of young talent who are set to become the future stars of England.
Southgate has always shown a keenness to promote young and innovative talents alongside keeping faith in the team that has brought success for the nation under his leadership. During his time as head coach, he has given the opportunity to over 50 players to make their debut for the national team. The latest addition to this list is Manchester City's Rico Lewis, who played his first match for England against North Macedonia tonight.
After Euro 2020 was affected by the Covid pandemic, Euro 2024 has revealed that they will be reducing their squad numbers back down to 23-players. This will lead to a tough decision for Southgate as he decides who to leave out. Should he pick players who have performed well in the past but may not be fit or on top form, or take a risk on younger players who may not have as much experience but could thrive in high-pressure situations.
It seems that Southgate has his thoughts on the matter, and Rico Lewis definitely improved his chances of being selected for the tournament after his debut. He exhibited a great deal of stamina during his "Player of the Match" performance as he subbed in as a left-back when the team's options were limited. He went above and beyond by not only carrying out his responsibilities as a defender but also by participating in midfield and attacking, finding openings, shooting, defending, and appearing to be everywhere on the field. Despite a questionable penalty call going against him, he didn't show any signs of being disheartened after the game.
The adolescent delivered an outstanding performance during his first appearance on the senior team and was awarded Player of the Match.
The coach and team have been trying to figure out where to best utilize Phil Foden's skills. In one game, he played on the right side, while in another, he played in the center. However, Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham are likely to secure those positions for the tournament if they're both healthy. Nevertheless, Foden's ability to play in multiple positions is advantageous, and he performed excellently as a creator in the current game, even if England didn't score.
In recent football matches against North Macedonia and Malta, Trent Alexander-Arnold was the only constant midfielder. He is known for being skilled with the ball and it seems that England manager Gareth Southgate is considering him as a potential replacement for Kalvin Phillips. While Alexander-Arnold played well against Malta, he struggled in a more challenging and physical match against North Macedonia and was not able to fully control the game. On the other hand, Phillips has demonstrated his abilities as a partner to Declan Rice in midfield, despite not playing much for Manchester City. With limited spots available in the team, it remains to be seen whether Southgate will opt for a riskier choice or a more familiar one.
The possibility exists for Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool to bring a new aspect to England's midfield during the Euro 2024 tournament.
Here are some of the choices that will decide if England has a chance of winning the Euros in the upcoming year. The last two qualifying matches of 2023 were boring and unmemorable, but there were hints of a promising future exhibited.
Now it's up to Gareth Southgate to make it happen.