Euro 2024: How Can Gareth Southgate Improve England?

England have grinded out a 2-1 victory against Slovakia to make it to the UEFA Euro 2024 quarter finals. The Three Lions have topped their group and remain as one of the last eight standing, as expected. However, Gareth Southgate, the opinion-slicing English manager, has come under severe scrutiny for England’s performances in Germany.

Harry Kane and company rarely appeared to be a cohesive unit in this tournament so far. They were far from impressive in their first match win against Serbia, which in fact, remains their only regulation time vicory in the competition.

England fans deemed themselves lucky to see their team escape with a one-all victory against Denmark. The 2021 runner-ups were the second best team in the majority of the game. Then, they played out another lifeless draw against Sovenia. Angry England fans threw empty beer cups toward Gareth Southgate after the match to make their feelings known.

Slovakians nearly snatched a historic win against Southgate’s men, but Jude Bellingham had other plans. The Real Madrid produced a moment of magic to equalise in the 95th minute, before Harry Kane headed in the winner in extra time.

While England’s title ambition are still alive, albeit fading, Gareth Southgate must find a way to make England more fluid on the pitch. Here are some recommendations that could work:

How Can Gareth Southgate Improve England?

Fix The Left Wing Chemistry

England have had problems all over the pitch, but the left wing have been the most maligned. Pundits have often pointed out that the left side of the English attack have been blunt, to say the least, so far in Euro 2024.

Phil Foden has been playing as the left-winger for England. While the Manchester City star is more comfortable in a central attacking midfield role, Gareth Southgate prefers to deploy him as a winger. Why? Because he wants Jude Bellingham as the number 10, who comes off a prolific season for Real Madrid.

Foden has a tendency to drift inwards, which leaves acres of space in the left. Kieran Trippier has too much area to cover in the left wing. On top of that, he is not a natural left footer. For this reason, he often has to shift the ball to his right foot before making a cross.

Luke Shaw is a superior choice for playing the left-back role for England, but it seems unlikely that he will regain fitness before the tournament ends. Bukayo Saka could be an option as well, since he is a left-footer, and also used to play as a left-back in his early Arsenal years.

While Gareth Southgate did shift the 22-year-old to the left-back role late into the Slovakia, he might not consider this to be a permanent solution. Saka has excelled as a right-winger both for his club and country, so Southgate might bring him back to the right-wing in the quarterfinal as well.

Anthony Gordon will be a more natural pick as the left-winger here. The Newcastle man is comfortable with hugging the touchlines and making runs alongside the striker; these are traits Southgate would desperately want in the left-side of his attack.

A Shift to 4-3-3

Gareth Southgate has deployed a 4-2-3-1 in the last four games. He can consider shifting to a different system. Declan Rice hasn’t been able to replicate his Arsenal brilliance for England in this tournament yet. Perhaps a more stacked midfield would make it easier for him to tame the chaos in the middle of the park.

Jude Bellingham can play as an advanced number eight if England goes for a 4-3-3 in coming matches. This would help Southgate retain his attacking threat and add more depth in the midfield.

Trust Adam Wharton in the Midfield

Adam Wharton broke into the England Euro 2024 squad because of his impressive performances for Crystal Palace in the later stages of the 2023/24 Premier League season. The central midfielder is yet to get minutes in the competition, however.

Finding the right partner for Declan Rice in the midfield has been a genuine challenge for Gareth Southgate. He tried Trent Alexnder-Arnold, Connor Gallagher, and Kobbie Mainoo as Rice’s comrade, but none of his experiments yielded exciting results.

Kelvin Phillips and Declan Rice had been the a solid midfield combo for England in the past. Jordan Henderson was also an effective midfield operator for the 1966 World Cup champions during Southgate’s tenure. But, none of them could make it to the Germany-bound flight this time.

Wharton could be the answer to Southgate’s midfield woes. With his passing range, he has the potential to inject dynamism into the England midfield. Southgate should give him a chance to see how he fares against the challenge.