With the 2 best players in world football playing for England, surely they are favourites to win the Euro 2024. Surely. Well, it’s not quite that simple for Southgate’s side as a defensive crisis could prove costly with the Euros right around the corner. 

Let’s start with England and their strengths. Frankly, England are strongest in attack. With Harry Kane, arguably the most in form player right now, in the no 9 role, there will be goals. On the flanks, England do have options; Saka looks set to start on the right while Rashford, Sterling and Grealish will all compete to start at left wing. England are yet to go a game without a goal this year and the last team to keep a clean sheet against the three lions was USA, over a year ago. England consistently find the back of the net and that is further proven as they have scored 39 goals in their 15 most recent games. 

So where do all these goals come from? The answer is very simple. Harry Kane is the most dangerous threat and Saka, Bellingham and Rashford all contribute their fair share to the goal tally. However, it is fair to say England are over reliant on Kane. Should he get injured, Southgate will probably have Ollie Watkins and Eddie Nketiah if Calumn Wilson is unavailable. Watkins has played a mere 268 minutes for the England first 11, Nketiah even worse at just 17 minutes of action. Wilson is the only experienced player of the 3 and he boasts as few as 9 England caps. England must hope Harry Kane is fit and firing otherwise they will have to play one of the players mentioned above. 

Out wide, Southgate does have more cover and options. Saka is most likely to start but after playing up until the final whistle in most games for Arsenal, there is a chance he is unavailable. In this situation, Southgate will turn to Foden as he is the strongest candidate that can play on the right wing. On the left, Sterling Rashford and Grealish will be competing but also players like Cole Palmer who continues his hot form should be in contention should he appear in the squad.

Alongside Saka who is England’s best winger, I think Sterling should play as his displays for Chelsea keep improving. If Rashford can find his form from last season, I think he’d definitely be the best option but right now he is in and out of the United team and clearly struggling.

In midfield, England have the most exciting player in the world; Jude Bellingham. Whether he is playing as an attacking, goalscoring player or in a deeper box to box position, one thing is for certain - he will have an impact on the game whether it is subtly winning the ball back and starting attacks or creating chances and taking shots. 

As the holding midfielder of the three, Declan Rice appears the strongest candidate as his impressive form for Arsenal continues, following his £105m move in the summer. As cover, England have Kalvin Phillips who has just 9 appearances and 306 minutes this season. 

That leaves just one vacancy in the final midfield spot. The options are: James Maddison, Jordan Henderson, James Ward Prowse and Conor Gallagher. While there are others such as Eberechi Eze and Mason Mount those are most likely to start. First, James Maddison. His strong start to the season was cut off when he obtained an injury which has him expected to be on the sideline until the new year. This still leaves him with plenty of time to pick up where he left off before the tournament. Jordan Henderson had been regarded as a solid player but his age might be starting to catch up to him. Now playing in Saudi Arabia, he is a regular starter for Al Ettifaq with 15 appearances in the league this season. However, he doesn’t possess the same creative flair as Maddison and can be instead viewed as a more defensively stable player. Next, James Ward Prowse, perhaps the most well- rounded of the 4. While his strength lies in set pieces, England already have dangerous free kick and corner takers - Trent Alexander Arnould and Kieran Trippier. Ward Prowse can also dictate the flow of the game, as he did in West Ham’s 3-0 against Wolves. Finally, Conor Gallagher, Chelsea’s captain in Reece James’s absence. His recent performances have been lacklustre and leave a lot to be desired, yet Gallagher will likely be in contention for a place. He made appearances against Malta in the most recent international break and also starred against Australia in October. While he looks the weakest of the 4 options, he still will be up for the spot. 

Lastly in midfield, Trent Alexander Arnould. Most commonly known as a right back, Trent Alexander Arnould made appearances in midfield against North Macedonia and Malta in the 2 most recent international games. It was a revolutionary switch for Southgate, given the strength England have at right back and quality they lack in midfield. Often criticised for defensive errors, Trent didn’t have to worry about that and could focus on attacking and taking England from one end of the pitch to the other.  

Out of all these options, I think Trent offers the most to an England side lacking quality in the final third. Maddison could be an effective player off the bench due to his attacking creativity. Henderson should also be on the bench for his leadership and experience among this young England side. 

Finally, England’s defence. England have an abundance of right backs and 2 solid left backs, but the same can’t be said about the centre backs. In their most recent game, Harry Maguire and Marc Guehi started and prior to that, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori and Lewis Dunk all made appearances. At right back, England have Trent Alexander Arnould, mentioned earlier, Kieran Trippier, Newcastle’s captain behind Jamaal Lascelles, Kyle Walker and Reece James. On the other side England have less cover but still have Luke Shaw and Ben Chillwell. 

While Southgate has grown fond of Harry Maguire, he remains unreliable and inconsistent. Marc Guehi remains a promising player and should become a regular England starter in the coming years. However, John Stones does remain the most composed and experienced of the 3 and is England’s best centre back but the only problem is club football. Recently, he has not been playing much but hopefully that can change soon. Fikayo Tomori also should be considered alongside Guehi to play alongside Stones. However, all of these players are right footed which is where Levi Colwill comes in. After an impressive loan spell at Brighton, he is starting to play for Chelsea. While he hasn’t been at his best, being left footed, he is a good option for Southgate to have to partner with Stones.

Next, right back, perhaps the hardest decision of all. Trent, Trippier, Walker and James. 4 of the best right backs in world football. With such strength here, Trent’s skills are best used in midfield as mentioned earlier. That leaves 3, each one with their own excellent individual skill set. Trippier is also a set piece specialist, as shown by his excellent free kick against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup. Kyle Walker is rapid and the hardest to beat in a 1v1 situation. He consistently starts for Manchester City and is the most reliable out of the 3. Last, Reece James - the most well rounded. On his day he is the best right back of these 3, hard to get past and an attacking threat as he provides goals and assists. His only worry should be staying fit as he is an injury prone player. Should he remain fit, Reece James is the standout option, especially as Trippier and Walker can play on the left if needed. If James is unavailable, I would turn to Walker as in such high stakes games, mistakes will not be tolerated and Trippier’s errors cost Newcastle the match against Nottingham Forest and recently, Chelsea.  

Perhaps the easiest decision in defence; the left back. Luke Shaw and Ben Chillwell are the standout options, but Trippier and Walker could slot in if necessary. With Chilwell injured, it must be Luke Shaw. Often the best player in a lacklustre United team, Shaw provides defensive stability and also scored in England’s defeat to Italy in the 2021 Euro’s, with a thumping volley. 

Luke Shaw, Marc Guehi, John Stones and Reece James. While this appears a strong defence, Southgate has shown in the past favour to players like Maguire and appears to not be especially fond of Reece James. His biggest issue is remaining loyal to players who are not the best in their position. This is further shown by his decision to keep Jordan Pickford between the sticks, rather than the now injured Nick Pope. Even though he isn’t starting for Arsenal, Aaron Ramsdale is a better goalkeeper than Pickford and if given a chance would most likely deliver for England.

With the squad increased to 26 this is who I would bring, providing no new injuries come up : Ramsdale, Pickford, Pope, Trippier, Walker, James, Shaw, Chilwell, Stones, Guehi, Colwill, Tomori, Trent, Lewis, Rice, Bellingham, Henderson, Maddison, Ward Prowse, Saka, Sterling, Foden, Grealish, Rashford, Kane, Watkins.

My final England team heading into the Euros would be:  Ramsdale, Shaw, Guehi, Stones, James, Rice, Bellingham, Trent, Sterling, Saka and Kane.