European Championship fever has taken over the footballing world as the international break commences and all national teams finalise their squads ahead of this summer’s tournament (link how all teams stack up in Euros piece). The one burning question that has stirred endless discussions online right now is what is England’s best XI and how should England line up at this years Euro’s. Gareth Southgate has stated he already knows his best XI but since that is always up for debate, here is how I would line-up England ahead of their first game against Croatia on the 13th of June.
As always, let us know your team in the comments below.
England have quite a few options in goal but no standout candidate to take the number one spot. Gareth Southgate remains loyal to Jordan Pickford but his erratic nature and penchant for mistakes can be costly. Dean Henderson has also not played much this season and hence my number one would be the best shot-stopper in the country, Nick Pope.
For me, the central defensive partnership picks itself with John Stones and Harry Maguire bossing it for their respective clubs in Manchester this season. They both are assured on the ball, comfortable in the air and have also largely eradicated all errors from their game. The other easy choice is at left-back, where Luke Shaw has become the player everyone thought he could be when he signed for Manchester United in 2015. Shaw has created the most chances amongst defenders in the league this season and edges out Ben Chilwell who has been relegated to a supporting cast role with Tomas Tuchel.
The selection dilemma in defence comes at the right back slot where England have a wealth of possible options. Trent Alexander-Arnold is arguably the best right back in Europe but Gareth Southgate has chosen Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James in his squad instead. Each candidate has their own benefits and shortcomings but the player with the most all-round capabilities is Reece James. James has a wonderful crossing technique and edges out Trent Alexander-Arnold because of his defensive solidity.
The formation I have opted for is a 4-3-3 instead of Southgate’s safe and cautious 3-4-3 approach. England have an embarrassment of riches in the attacking positions and should play to their strengths and look to out-gun teams with their arsenal. Also, who really wants to watch a midfield partnership of Rice and Henderson when you have the luxury of playing the likes of Grealish, Mount and Foden.
The three central midfielders include one player that is sitting in front of the defence and two number eights alongside him – think Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City midfield 3 in 2017/18 – that are tasked with progressing the ball, feeding the attackers and also supporting the defence. The sitting midfielder will be Declan Rice. While Rice hasn’t translated his West Ham form for the Three Lions, he is still one of the best young defensive midfielders in the game and will play an extremely crucial role in the middle of the park. The two free number eights either side of Rice will be Mason Mount and Phil Foden.
There is a wealth of options for the front three but my team would include Kane up front, flanked by Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish who narrowly edges out Jadon Sancho. In this front three, Grealish has the freedom to roam, Kane can drop deep while Sterling can make the surging runs in behind the defence along with Mount and Foden.
However, eventually when you look at all the players, it really shouldn’t matter if its Shaw or Chilwell playing at left back or Grealish or Sancho on the wing or Mount or Henderson in midfield. What matters is the system. Players should be replaced in and out the team without compromising on the system and world class talents shouldn’t be shoehorned into the team if they don’t fit the system, like England have done in the past (look up Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and so on). Look at France, they play Olivier Giroud up front instead of better players like Benzema, Lacazette or Martial. This is because Giroud fits the system and is a great foil to Mbappe and Griezmann which benefits France overall as a team.
Southgate’s job is to pick the best XI players that play together and not the best XI players in each position. England need to find that system and stick to it because eventually that is what will take them to the title.
[Image Credit: UEFA EURO 2020]