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Ben Gray: Predicting the England squad for Euro 2024


In just 89 days time, England will kick off their bid to be crowned European champions for the very first time, taking on Serbia on Saturday 16 June at Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen.

Between now and then, the Three Lions have just four warm-up friendlies to prepare for the Euros, hosting Bosnia and then Iceland in early-June but, before then, meeting both Brazil and Belgium at Wembley this week.

After both Euro 2020 and Qatar 2022 permitted 26-man squads, we are back down to the usual 23 for this tournament, meaning Gareth Southgate will face some very tough selection headaches between now and June.

Here, we will predict England’s European Championships squad, with many high-quality players set to miss out.

Goalkeepers

Since making his competitive international debut at the 2018 World Cup, Jordan Pickford has started 52 of England’s 63 competitive fixtures, including each of the last 13, so is the undisputed number one.

In terms of his understudies, Aaron Ramsdale and Sam Johnstone have been selected for this squad and, while there are other candidates who may deserve a chance, I just can’t get worked up about back-up goalkeepers.

Nick Pope has not featured since 2 December due to a shoulder injury, while there were rumours that Jack Butland, who’s been outstanding for Rangers, was going to be recalled for the first time in five years, but this ultimately did not come to pass.

Ramsdale has only made six appearances for Arsenal since 3 September, so probably shouldn’t be in on merit, but is a good dressing room presence, so will be included, partially for that reason.


Predicted goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale & Sam Johnstone.


Defenders

The headline defender news is that Luke Shaw is set to miss the Euros due to injury, while Reece James can never be relied upon to be fit, making only nine Chelsea appearances this season, his sole England outing since September 2022 a five minute cameo in Naples 12 months ago.

This has opened the door for others, with Joe Gomez called up for the first time since 2020, while uncapped duo Ezri Konsa and Jarrad Branthwaite will be dreaming of debuting during this international window.

Looking ahead to the summer, Southgate’s first-choice back four will feature Kyle Walker on the right with Harry Maguire partnering John Stones in the middle.

Left-back meanwhile remains up for grabs, largely due to the long-term injury issues that have hampered the careers of both Shaw and Ben Chilwell.

Assuming he can stay fit, Chilwell is in line to be first-choice, but don’t be surprised if we see Kieran Trippier deployed as the left-back at some point, either by choice or because he’s deputising.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, who’s injured right now, was deployed as a midfielder four times during qualifying, so that’s something we could see in Germany but, for now, we’re including him as a defender.

By my count, that’s six spots taken up leaving, probably, two available for centre-back depth options.

The aforementioned Branthwaite and Konza will get the chance to impress this week, as will Lewis Dunk, while Marc Guéhi, Fikayo Tomori and Levi Colwill were called up in November.

Whenever Stones or Maguire have been out have been unavailable of late, Southgate has turned to Guehi, featuring in five of the eight qualifiers, so, assuming he can get back fit, he seems likely to be on the plane.

We’re expecting Joe Gomez to fill the last spot, not just because he’s been outstanding for Liverpool, but his versatility, able to fill-in anywhere across the back-line, is invaluable in a tournament environment.


Predicted defenders: Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Marc Guéhi, Joe Gomez & Ben Chilwell.


Midfielders

Midfield is certainly the single most discussed section of the England squad, with the news that the wider public had been calling for coming through on Tuesday, with Kobbie Mainoo called up for the first time.

The 18-year-old has instantaneously become undroppable at Manchester United this season, starting their last 12 Premier League games, so was promoted from the U21s to the senior squad earlier today.

To date, just 14 men have made their England debuts prior to their 19th birthday, seven of which have played for Man United incidentally, with many hoping to see Mainoo add his name to this list at Wembley.

At the other end of the popularity scale, Jordan Henderson continues to not only get called up but see minutes in a Three Lions shirt, despite his short stop in Saudi, followed by his less than impressive displays for Ajax.

Most supporters do not want to see him included, but Gareth Southgate emphatically begs to differ.

In terms of picking a team for the Euros, the midfield trio will be Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and one other, and we totally see the logic in have two defensive players, providing a platform for Bellingham to do his thing.

Kalvin Phillips was in pole position to partner Rice in this role, starting October’s win over Italy, but has looked rusty to say the least since joining West Ham, so was surprisingly not called up for this camp.

As mentioned in the defenders segment, Alexander-Arnold could be a more wildcard option, while it is Conor Gallagher and the more attacking James Maddison who’ve been included this time.

Whilst a lot can change in the next two months, we think the midfield group is pretty set in stone, so can Mainoo do enough to force his way in, or will Phillips turn things around and get himself back in?


Predicted midfielders: Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson, Conor Gallagher, James Maddison & Jude Bellingham.


Forwards

So far, we’ve picked 16 players, leaving seven places for the wingers and strikers section.

As alluded too, we’re expecting Gareth Southgate to deploy a 4-3-3, featuring two holding midfielders and Jude Bellingham as a number 10, meaning any other creative players will have to do so from out-wide.

Lets first address centre-forward, because that’s much simpler, given that it’ll be Harry Kane and an understudy.

Kane actually sustained an ankle injury against Darmstadt on Saturday so, if he’s not able to feature in these friendlies, it’ll be both informative and an interesting experiment to see who starts instead.

Ollie Watkins is very much in pole position to be on that plane, scoring 22 times for Aston Villa already this season, starting and bagging the winner against Australia in October too.

Ivan Toney also features in this squad, having served his eight-month ban, and, in a 26-man squad, he’d definitely be included, for his aerial prowess and penalty taking ability if nothing else.

However, with Kane and Watkins shoe-ins, plus the fact Marcus Rashford can play through the middle if necessary, we think Toney could be one of the unfortunate players to miss out.

Out-wide, on current form, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden will be the starters, while Rashford and Jack Grealish are also likely to make the cut, even if the latter’s club form has been patchy at best.

This leaves just one more spot, which we’re expecting to be filled by Cole Palmer, despite the fact he only made his senior debut during November’s win over Malta.

Palmer has been outstanding for a bang-average Chelsea this season, the current front-runner to be named PFA Young Player of the Year, and his tally of 14 goals for the Blues is just too much to ignore.

This would mean Jarrod Bowen, who’s in the squad right now, and called up for the first time Anthony Gordon would be left at home but, as we warned at the very start, many top-class players will have to miss out.


Predicted forwards: Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Cole Palmer, Ollie Watkins & Harry Kane.


Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".