WHAT FORMATION SHOULD GARETH SOUTHGATE PLAY AT THE EUROS?
AMOGH PANSE | 10th June 2021
Pandemic pandemonium. That’s enough to summarize the enjoyment of football fans worldwide to see only 13 days separating Europe’s elite club and country-wide competitions in what has been a fixture-packed calendar year.
Nothing less than pure, unadulterated entertainment is expected from the rising stars across the continent and the local legends who push their nation into the limelight. I relish the beauty of a tournament where a force as great as a Goliath can be toppled by a victor in David.
With ‘God Save the Queen’ belted by the Three Lions across to the alcohol-soaked Beer Gardens by England fans across the nation, is it finally coming home?
Time will tell but what has come home already is incessant conversations about what formation Gareth Southgate needs to start with at the Euros. So, we decided, why not assess each and every system and see what works and maybe give big Gazza Southgate a tactical tip or two. Only joking.
Let’s jump right into it.
A 4-2-3-1 has arguably been the Premier League’s most commonly used formation throughout Premier League history, ever since the death of 4-4-2. For me, Jack Grealish as a No.10 is a no-brainer in this system as the fulcrum of England’s ammo going forward. Manchester United-bound Jadon Sancho on the right wing and and the Skinfade Gazza, Phil Foden on the left, coupled with the incredible Harry Kane form Manchester City’s frontline in an alternate universe
In my opinion, Kyle Walker has been stellar in a back 4 for Manchester City this season and with his bags of experience and athleticism, the former Spurs man is a shoe-in.
Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips provide the balance in the midfield that we’ve witnessed as and when we have seen them in an England strip. The importance of that insurance in the middle of the park can never be understated.
And do I even need to explain why Luke Shaw isn’t on the bench?
Tyrone Mings is prone to giving away the ball too easily if Harry Maguire isn’t on the team sheet. Although the tantalizing trio of schemers exuberate a creative calling, a saturation of such could always leave the risk of producing nothing but frustration. The absence of a more balanced alternative in Mason Mount doesn’t help this cause.
And as excellent as the double-pivot are on the ball, a ball carrier in the mould of a Jude Bellingham could make a great case for bridging the gap between the midfield and the forward line.
Gareth Southgate, unlike the archetypal England boss loves a 3-man defence. Connor Coady revels when partnered by 2 centre-halves and his natural leadership and wealth of experience is a bonus for England. The right centre-back is all but screaming for Ben White, considering the Brighton Player of the Year excels there for the Seagulls.
And while John Stones hasn’t played in a left of a back 3 all season, let’s remember how unreal of a campaign he has said. Harry Maguire’s name hasn’t been mentioned because while he is back in training, only time will tell when he can actually play 90 minutes.
A pacey winger in Raheem Sterling would fit perfectly in transition with the likes of Mount and Kane dropping deep for him to make runs in behind that are a nightmare for any backline to contend with.
Last but certainly not the least, you can never go wrong with Ben Chilwell and Reece James banging in crosses from the flanks and providing that natural width.
Ultimately, a hell of a lot of pressure is put on the Rice-Bellingham pairing to safeguard the midfield and cover the empty spaces when the wing-backs push higher up. While there’s no denying how exceptional these two young lads are, putting one foot wrong against a top side and you’re done for.
“Boring” football isn’t how I’d describe this but the priority of safety over sauce wouldn’t appease too many Three Lions fans, considering they arguably have the best talent pool of attackers at Euro 2020.
Who doesn’t love a good 4-3-3? No formation dominates world football like this one and it may just be Southgate’s go-to.
Mount is the obvious choice for such a formation, given his excellent movement and how he has evolved into the hybrid between a No.8 and No.10. Harry Kane, much like any elite No. 9 across Europe operates in this system and is accustomed to dropping deep and working wonders.
Grealish out on the left with Shaw bombing up and down just sounds like a long day for the opposition right-back. Also, with the Aston Villa captain being so fleet-footed, putting his back into defenders and using his strength, English football’s rockstar is excellent at winning set-pieces, something that was vital behind Southgate and Co.’s success at the 2018 World Cup.
After all, the Birmingham-bred sensation has won 32 fouls since his debut last September, 11 more than any other Three Lions player.
Bukayo Saka takes his place on the right after a supreme season and much like Jadon Sancho, the Hale End graduate offers that blend of being a creator while being brilliant on the break. And Jordon Henderson being the gladiator and yet another captain on the pitch is worth it’s weight in gold in that box-to-box role, given he’s fit.
Walker’s excellence reached a point where he took over the sublime Joao Cancelo’s berth in a 4-3-3 which makes him an automatic selection.
And if Harry Maguire is fit, he can play the Diasesque sweeper role to Stones rushing out of the defence to embroil himself in a 1 v 1 where he comes out on top, more often that most.
While I have experimented even here, a fit Harry Maguire as well as Jordan Henderson is the dream scenario. While there is cover in midfield for Hendo, you can’t say the same for the perfect partner for Stones in a 4-3-3.
A lot of this system depends on whose fit which is why you can’t blame Southgate for being cautious when needed.
If a formation screams England, it’s the classic 4-4-2. Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin would be a nuisance for any defence to deal with. With James and Shaw’s excellent delivery, DCL is in dream land. And with England’s biggest starboys in Mount and Foden out on the flanks, you have 2 workhorses (especially the former), as well as a pair blessed with playing centrally when the full-backs offer that natural width.
Direct, no-nonsense and fun- basically what every England fan is asking for in a nutshell.
As clutch as he has been this season, DCL lacks the mobility of a Harry Kane and seems to have an extremely aerially-oriented game. He has room to grow and even someone like a Marcus Rashford would be better suited in linking up with his strike partner and making those runs in behind that wreak havoc.
The 4-4-2, while excellent in deep blocks is slightly outdated as a system itself and with England’s shaky defence, it’s a risk that certainly isn’t worth taking.
There are so many gifted players at Southgate’s disposal that it seems as if he has all the tools to make history. The combinations are endless but ultimately, what the England gaffer must stick with is not succumbing to making everyone happy, something he has shown he isn’t afraid to do. Be pragmatic when required and flamboyant when it isn’t and use this unbelievable class of talent to make real inroads at the highest stage.
Is it coming home? One question that still hangs in the balance.