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Assessing England’s wide options ahead of Euro 2024

England have confirmed their place at the 2024 European Championship and the build up to next summer’s tournament will centre around Gareth Southgate’s selections.

The Three Lions have one of the deepest pools of talent to choose from anywhere in Europe, and will start next summer among the favourites for success.

One of the most competitive areas in Southgate’s squad is the wide roles, with a whole host of names to choose from. From established favourites to emerging talent, we’ve looked at Southgate’s wide options ahead of Euro 2024.

 

Assessing England’s wide options ahead of Euro 2024:

Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka is one of the first names on the team sheet for Arsenal and England, having evolved into one of the most effective wide players in world football in north London.

Saka reached 10+ goals and 10+ assists in the Premier League last season and has continued that form this time around, with 12 goal involvements in 14 games across league and Champions League action in 2023/24.

He scored his first career hat-trick during England’s 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia over the summer and has an impressive goal record for the national team, with 11 in 30 caps for the Three Lions.

He ranks in the elite bracket of wingers in Europe’s top leagues for progressive passes received, progressive carries, attacking penalty area touches and tackles over the last 12 months. One of the best outlets around, he is a certainty for the squad barring injury misfortune.

James Maddison

James Maddison had to be patient for his chance with England but he has been a regular in recent squads. The 26-year-old has won four caps since returning to the squad from a three-year absence, starting in a left-sided role.

That position is in contrast to his role at Spurs, where Maddison has hit the ground running since arriving from Leicester last summer. In a central position he has flourished, scoring three goals and providing five assists in 11 games.

The midfielder’s underlying numbers are among the best in Europe, with Maddison leading the Premier League for passes into the penalty area, goal-creating actions and shot-creating actions per 90 minutes, while ranking second for progressive passes, key passes and fouls drawn.

If he can replicate that form in a wide role, he will be difficult to leave out. Jude Bellingham’s performances for club and country mean Maddison may need to start wide in Southgate’s XI.

Phil Foden

Phil Foden is another footballer whose best position is difficult to find consensus on. Foden has long been looked at as the heir to David Silva in the Manchester City midfield, but both Pep Guardiola and Gareth Southgate have more frequently used Foden in a wide role.

Foden has four goals and eight assists for England in 29 caps, but has failed to cement automatic status for club or country despite his clear ceiling. Questioned on Foden’s best position in September, Southgate hinted the 23-year-old has more to learn before being handed a central chance.

“He doesn’t for his club,” Southgate said on Foden playing in midfield.

“Presumably there is a reason for that. It depends on the level of the game. In the middle of the park, everyone wants to talk about the ‘with the ball’ but there is a lot of detail without the ball.

“You’d have to speak to Pep, who is the best coach in the world, who plays him from wide. He’s always got the freedom to drift if we play him wide and that’s important.”

Foden has five goals and four assists from 14 appearances for Manchester City this season.

Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish was honest in his assessment of his recent form this week, admitting he needs to produce more in the final third. The instant impact of Jeremy Doku has threatened Grealish’s place at club level, where he will need to maintain form to keep his place in the England squad.

“I need to start scoring more goals,” he told TNT Sports. “I know what I bring to the team aside from goals and assists, but every attacking player wants to score more goals.”

Grealish lacks the raw numbers of others on this list, but his drive in possession and ability to glide past challenges and win fouls is much appreciated in the England set-up. There were signs the winger was getting back to his best against Young Boys in midweek, with his seven chances created the most a player has recorded in a Champions League game this season.

He moved inside to a left-sided central midfield position after the introduction of Doku and impressed. It is an experiment Southgate might want to look at as he looks to best use his attacking talent.

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford appeared to be fulfilling his potential after an outstanding World Cup and post-Qatar run of form last season, but the Manchester United forward has been unable to replicate those levels this time around.

Rashford became the first Manchester United in a decade to score 30 goals in a season in 2022/23, a goal return which placed him firmly at the forefront of Southgate’s plans. However, the 26-year-old has struggled this season, with just one goal in 15 appearances in all competitions.

His disappointing campaign reached a new low after a costly red card in the Champions League in midweek, as the Red Devils surrendered a two-goal lead to lose at Copenhagen. A break with the England squad – playing without pressure with Euro 2024 qualification assured – could be what’s needed to reignite his form and fortunes.

Raheem Sterling

There was a point, not so long ago, where Raheem Sterling was irreplaceable to Gareth Southgate. When England reached the final of the European Championship in 2021, few had a bigger role in their progress than the winger.

Times have changed since then however, with Sterling having not featured in an England squad since the 2022 World Cup last winter. Poor form at Chelsea last season was a contributing factor, but a return to levels close to his best this season have not, yet, led to a recall.

Only Harry Kane had won more caps under Southgate than Sterling, from the time of the manager’s appointment to last winter’s World Cup. But Sterling opted out of the squad in June, citing a lack of match fitness, and has not been included since.

This season the 28-year-old has scored three goals and provided an assist in 10 Premier League starts, with flashes of the sharpness not seen since his Manchester City peak. He ranks second in the Premier League for progressive carries and carries into the penalty area, and fifth for successful take-ons. Time, however, is running out for Sterling to reclaim his role in Southgate’s plans.

Jarrod Bowen

Jarrod Bowen could hardly have done more to push himself back into England contention, with a blistering start to the season leading to a recall in October.

Bowen has become the first player in Premier League history to score in each of his side’s first six away games of a campaign, with the West Ham winger having netted seven goals in 11 games this season.

No English player has scored more goals in the Premier League this season, while Bowen ranks among the division’s leaders for shots on goal (4th), shots on target (5th) and combined goals and assists (5th).

Bowen has failed to record a goal involvement in five appearances for England to date, and struggled to get involved in a flat performance against Australia in October.

Anthony Gordon

Anthony Gordon is pushing for a first senior call up after an excellent summer with the u-21 side and superb start to the campaign at Newcastle. Just a matter of months ago, Gordon appeared a misfit at Newcastle as he struggled to make an impact after arriving from Everton in a £45m January deal.

His first six months with the club brought just four starts and one goal, but a memorable summer on international duty has reignited his belief. Gordon was named as the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Player of the Tournament as England were crowned champions, an award previously won by names including Luis Figo, Fabio Cannavaro and Andrea Pirlo. He shone in a false nine position for the Young Lions, before returning to Newcastle determined to make an impact.

The 22-year-old has since scored four goals and laid on two assists in nine Premier League starts, form which could earn Gordon a first senior call for November’s internationals.

Gordon’s tenacity had boiled over into petulance on occasion previously, but he has channelled that aggression into hunting down defenders this season. Gordon ranks in the 96th percentile of wingers in Europe’s top five leagues for tackles over the last 12 months and boasts a work-ethic Southgate will admire. With improving end product in the final third, he’s placed himself in the conversation for an England inclusion.

Read – Champions League Team of the Week – Matchday Four

See more – The best goal-per-game ratios in the Champions League era


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