Home BETTING TIPS Southgate must explore every possible option at midfield

Southgate must explore every possible option at midfield



Gareth Southgate had some notable things to say after England’s underwhelming draw with Denmark at Euro 2024. He spoke about experimenting with Trent Alexander-Arnold in central midfield and his team’s inability to press from the front. It was Southgate’s mention of Kalvin Phillips, however, that stood out most of all.

“We know we don’t have a natural replacement for Kalvin Philips,” said Southgate. “We’re trying different things and at the moment we’re not flowing as we’d like.” Indeed, Phillips isn’t in England’s 26-man Euro 2024 squad, but why is Southgate hung up on the absence of a player who was a liability for West Ham in the second half of last season?

It’s true England’s central midfield is unsettled. Declan Rice is assured of his place in the centre of the pitch, but there is a place up for grabs alongside the 25-year-old. Southgate has used Alexander-Arnold in that role against Serbia and Denmark at Euro 2024 without any success. The right back simply doesn’t have the rhythm-building qualities to operate there.

Southgate does, however, have Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton as natural options for that position. Both players are young, and are fresh from a season which saw them make their Premier League breakthrough, but they clearly have the talent to make an impression at the elite level of the international game.

Wharton would be the best fit for what England need at the base of their midfield. The 20-year-old is comfortable with the ball at his feet. He is excellent in tight spaces and has good passing range. Alongside Rice, Wharton would give England security in the centre of the pitch and Southgate should have used the group stage to integrate him.

“If I was to describe my game I would just say: ‘It’s pretty simple but effective,’” said Wharton. “I’ve been playing a lot deeper in the midfield in the Premier League. If you’ve got great players in attack, the Bellinghams, the Fodens, then you have to get them in the pockets. All I want to do if you’ve got players like that is give them the ball because that’s when they come alive to produce bits of magic.”

There is a lot of overlap between the way Wharton plays and the style of Mainoo. He too is someone who can put his foot on the ball at the base of the midfield and wriggle out of tight spaces when under opposition pressure. The teenager has already proved himself for Manchester United and is ready to become a key member for England too.

Mainoo is more than just a number six. He can carry the ball forward and has even shown an eye for goal, finding the back of the net five times for Manchester United last season. Against opponents England will naturally dominate with the ball, it would make sense to have Mainoo as another player who can join the attack from deep.

Instead, it seems likely Southgate will favour Conor Gallagher from the start against Slovenia on Tuesday. The Chelsea midfielder is a useful squad member for the work ethic he brings and his ability to press from the front, but his ability on the ball is questionable. Will he help England break down a low defensive block?

In what could be Southgate’s last tournament as England manager, it’s important he explores every option to increase the Three Lions’ chance of ending their long 57-year wait for glory, even if that means taking a risk. It’s time for him to trust the best two young midfielders in the squad. England’s Euro 2024 could depend on it.