5 big questions facing Gareth Southgate after England’s Euro 2024 qualification

By Sports Desk October 18, 2023

England’s impressive victory over Italy at Wembley on Tuesday night confirmed their qualification for Euro 2024.

While there are still two qualifiers still to play in November, attention will already be shifting to how England end a 58-year wait for a major men’s trophy in Germany next summer.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key questions Gareth Southgate will need to answer between now and the start of the finals as he prepares to lead England into a fourth tournament as manager.

Faith no more?

Southgate has always remained loyal to players he feels he can trust and who have not let him down when they have turned out for England.

Among the current crop, former Manchester United captain Harry Maguire and Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips started the win over the Azzurri despite playing a combined total of 186 Premier League minutes so far this season.

Whether their places in Southgate’s plans are sustainable if such a dearth of club football remains is something only the England manager will know – likewise with Jordan Henderson plying his trade in the Saudi Pro League and whether the competition there is enough to keep the former Liverpool man competitive.

The last dance?

There was plenty of speculation that Southgate would leave his position after the World Cup in Qatar.

England were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by France but that did not deter Southgate’s belief that he could achieve something special with the players at his disposal.

His contract, however, expires next year and, having been at the helm since 2016, he may be tempted to seek a new challenge regardless of how England do in Germany and that may be something that will weigh on his mind leading into the finals.

Spring break opponents?

The March international break is expected to see England host two Wembley friendlies in what will be the last chance Southgate has to work with his players in the run-up to Euro 2024.

He will be keen to work closely with the Football Association to make sure the right opponents are found to aid that preparation – especially as, by that stage, England will know who they will face in the group stages.

While morale-boosting wins will be welcomed, Southgate and his coaching staff will also want to test the players against the highest-calibre rivals and striking a balance there could be key.

Who is most able to support Kane?

Captain Harry Kane moved onto an unmatched 61 England goals with his brace in the win over Italy.

The Bayern Munich striker shows no signs of slowing down and will no doubt lead from the front if he is fit and raring to go next summer.

The question remains who will fill the unenviable position as Kane’s deputy within Southgate’s 23-man squad and the boss will be taking a close look at the form of players such as Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson, Eddie Nketiah and Ivan Toney in the coming months.

Starting positions?

A number of players are seemingly all but assured of inclusion – fitness-permitting – in England’s starting XI for their opener next June, but Southgate does have a couple of issues at both left-back and in central midfield.

Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are natural left-backs but both are injured and have history of fitness concerns, meaning Kieran Trippier could be asked to deputise, while Levi Colwill made his debut there against Australia having risen up through the ranks as a central defender.

In midfield, Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice have been superb for club and country this year but the third berth is a more difficult conundrum. With Phillips not playing regularly and Henderson now in Saudi Arabia, the door could be open to someone like Conor Gallagher or Trent Alexander-Arnold, who the FA now lists as a midfielder, getting a chance to impress before the tournament.

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Houston Dynamo - Amine Bassi

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    MATCH PREDICTION: HOUSTON WIN

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    Draw - 29.3%
    Dallas - 28.5%

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    MATCH PREDICTION: NEWCASTLE UNITED

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    Newcastle United - 34.9%
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