Assessing England's options for their final midfield spot ahead of Euro 2024


Assessing England's options for their final midfield spot ahead of Euro 2024

Mainoo could be heading to his first major international tournament
Mainoo could be heading to his first major international tournamentAFP
England's squad is shaping up nicely for the upcoming European Championships with most positions choosing themselves; although manager Gareth Southgate has a decision to make when it comes to his midfield.

The Three Lions' final Euro 2024 squad will be submitted on Friday, June 7th, with seven players from the provisional 33-man selection being cut.

Ahead of that, Southgate needs to decide who will complete his midfield unit as England hunt for their first major trophy in almost 60 years.

There are plenty of options, but it looks like Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham will make up two parts of a three-man midfield - with one remaining spot up for grabs.

Rice is capable of performing the necessary defensive duties to a high standard, while Bellingham has excelled in an advanced role for Real Madrid this season, leaving England needing someone to balance the two and link together phases of play with progressive passing.

Both Curtis Jones and James Maddison have already been cut from the side, opening the door for other options.

Here, Flashscore will take a look at all the possible suitors for that role in the 33-man provisional squad.

Kobbie Mainoo

Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo appears to be the favourite to step up and play alongside Rice at the base of England's midfield.

The 19-year-old broke into United's side at the end of 2023 and hasn't looked back since, featuring 28 times, including the FA Cup final, where he scored the winning goal.

Mainoo has also already made his England debut, featuring in the March international break first from the bench against Brazil and then from the off against Belgium - impressing on both occasions.

Despite his young age, the midfielder looks mature beyond his years and hasn't seemed out of place at all since adapting to senior football.

He has shone in a mostly awful United side, showing impressive mental strength on top of his obvious ability to maintain top performance levels for one of the country's biggest clubs.

That same mental strength will serve Mainoo well if he is given the starting berth in England's midfield at his first-ever major international tournament.

Mainoo celebrates winning the FA Cup
Mainoo celebrates winning the FA CupProfimedia

Adam Wharton

While Mainoo has proven he has the mentality and ability to play for England, Crystal Palace's Adam Wharton has also shown the skill set needed to complete the Three Lions' midfield.

At just 20 years old, the midfielder is of a similar mould to Mainoo. He also only moved into Premier League football around six months ago, although Wharton had established himself as an EFL star with Blackburn Rovers before his move to the top flight.

Wharton has impressed in his short time in the limelight and earned himself an England call-up.

The midfielder is capable of controlling a match with his clever touches and eye for a forward pass, which he highlighted in a second-half cameo during the Three Lions' 3-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Wharton's lack of big-game experience might hinder him ahead of Euro 2024 but he could be a valuable member of the squad if given the chance.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold divides opinion amongst supporters, with some confident he is the perfect fit for England's midfield while others question his defensive abilities against the 'stronger' nations.

Despite being primarily a right-back, there has been a clamour to move Alexander-Arnold to a midfield role for some time now, particularly following an impressive showing in a 7-0 win against North Macedonia.

There's no doubting his ability to pick a pass that very few others can find, but the biggest drawback for Alexander-Arnold is his defensive capabilities.

His inclusion in the side would almost certainly ask a lot more of Rice defensively, especially against nations like France or Germany, meaning the Scouser's involvement could depend on England's opponent.

Alexander-Arnold should get a spot on the plane because he possesses passing ability like few others in the squad. Still, perhaps he will be best served from his more natural right-back position or against 'weaker' opposition.

Conor Gallagher

Chelsea's Conor Gallagher differs from the other midfield names in England's squad.

The midfielder isn't as neat on the ball and won't pick out impressive, defence-splitting passes, but he does perform the 'dirty work' very well.

Gallagher's effort can never be questioned and his tenacity in the middle of the park could be useful for England when trying to see out results or even when needing fresh legs to chase a game.

What's most interesting, though, is that his inclusion could open up a new avenue for Rice.

While Rice excels at the defensive side of the game, he showed in the final months of the Premier League season with Arsenal that he is equally handy going forward and taking up that more balanced midfield role.

Having Gallagher in the side might allow his midfield counterpart more license to get forward, and link play further up the pitch - much like Mainoo would do.

Every side needs players like Gallagher, if not for his on-the-ball ability then for his impressive work rate.

Eberechi Eze

The next couple of players seem less likely to be included in the final 26-man squad, at least not as midfield options.

Crystal Palace's Eberechi Eze started as a more attack-minded player but has gradually been moulded into a central midfielder for his club, where he has excelled since returning from injury.

Eze bagged 11 goals and four assists in just 27 Premier League games last season, highlighting the offensive threat he brings.

Unfortunately, he doesn't appear to be favoured that way in the England set-up, with Southgate choosing to operate him on the wing rather than in the middle.

That being said, Eze impressed in his full debut against Bosnia and Herzegovina, so could still be included in the Three Lions' attacking unit.

Eze's stats over the last few years
Eze's stats over the last few yearsFlashscore

Other tactical options

Of course, Southgate might surprise everyone and opt for something completely different from a tactical perspective, although that seems unlikely.

However, Bellingham could be pushed back alongside Rice and Foden or Palmer coming into the attacking midfield role - a position both excelled in last season.

That would open up a spot on the left wing for someone like Anthony Gordon or perhaps even Eze.

A different option, a little bit outside the box, might be John Stones taking up a midfield spot as he so often did in Manchester City's treble-winning campaign.

That would give England a very balanced midfield unit but might leave them lacking defensively - probably a tactical idea best off trialled in friendly games rather than a major tournament.

Follow England's Euro 2024 campaign here with Flashscore.

Ali Pollock
Ali PollockFlashscore UK


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