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When England’s final Euro 2024 squad is announced and 5 questions for Southgate

After Gareth Southgate announced his 33-man provisional England squad ahead of Euro 2024 two weeks ago, he now needs to whittle that training group down to 26.

The Three Lions have an embarrassment of riches ahead of this summer’s tournament in Germany, with debates across the pitch about who will make the plane.

Southgate has already made some controversial decisions – not least leaving out Marcus Rashford – but he now has some more to make.

Here’s i‘s guide to England’s Euro 2024 squad announcement and the big questions facing Southgate.

When is England’s Euro 2024 squad announced?

England’s official 26-man squad will be formally announced on 8 June 2024.

It will have been confirmed the day before, ahead of the Uefa deadline of 7 June, but Southgate will not publicly reveal the final group until the following day.

Wharton, Jones or Mainoo?

England’s squad feels somewhat light in midfield, especially given the extensive attacking options.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is listed as a midfielder, and he will almost certainly make the final squad alongside Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher and Declan Rice.

This leaves three players remaining for one, or possibly two, central slots in the final squad.

Kobbie Mainoo, Adam Wharton and Curtis Jones are all 23 or under and have impressed for their club sides, but only Mainoo has previously been selected for an England squad – against Belgium and Brazil in March.

Jones has long been involved in the England set-up, including scoring the winning goal in the U21 Euros final last summer, but this is his first call-up to the senior squad.

Yet he has had a varied season with Liverpool and is probably the member of this trio least suited to Southgate’s style of football and without a clear place in his tactical framework. There is also an argument that one of Eberechi Eze and James Maddison could play a similar role if needed.

Wharton vs Mainoo is a trickier debate, and may well end up being moot if both earn call-ups to the final squad.

These are two exceptional young footballers, with Wharton having played nearly twice as many professional games, although Mainoo has clocked more Premier League minutes.

Mainoo’s FA Cup final goal has continued to raise his profile and popularity, although Wharton’s calm assuredness and relentlessly effective holding midfield work still make him the more reliable choice.

Effectively, they are two different solutions to the same problem – England’s lack of options in defensive midfield and coverage for Declan Rice.

Taking both may well be the best play, but Wharton is the player who provides most of what England need in that position if push comes to shove.

Eze, Maddison, both or neither?

Eze and Maddison are both fabulous talents, albeit the former finished last season in significantly better form.

But they both suffer from a positional disadvantage – neither have an obvious place in the starting XI, and if they did, Jude Bellingham would be head and shoulders above them in the race for it.

Despite being an important part of this England squad’s off-field chemistry for some time, Maddison has just six England caps to his name in five years, demonstrating how difficult it is to find him a place in the current side.

And the Spurs maestro is also disadvantaged by his poor end-of-season form having returned for injury, with only two of his 13 Premier League goal contributions coming in the final 11 games of the season.

Meanwhile Eze finished the season in the form of his life, with five goals and two assists in his last seven games, appearing a man reborn under Oliver Glasner.

Eze’s ability to play in central midfield if needed and plug gaps across the attack in other positions makes him a more versatile option than Maddison and one more obviously useful to Southgate this summer. He should be on the plane.

Toney or Watkins?

With Harry Kane seemingly back in training after his back injury and England only likely to use one striker at any point this summer, there is a debate as to whether both Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney should make the squad.

Like Maddison, Toney’s form in the latter part of the 2023-24 season was middling at best, not scoring in any of his last 12 games.

He is helped by his exceptional penalty record, but with so many strong attacking options available to England, you have to ask whether Toney is needed.

The same cannot be said for Ollie Watkins, who finished last season with the most assists in the English top flight and 19 goals on top of that.

While the 28-year-old has not shone for England yet, his three goals in 11 games is a perfectly solid return, and his ability to run the channels and drop deep makes him the ideally versatile choice for Kane’s back-up in Germany.

How many defenders do you need?

How many centre-backs is too many? Do they count as two if they can double up as a full-back? Where is recast midfielder Alexander-Arnold in all this?

Not including the Liverpool star, Southgate selected 11 defenders in his provisional squad, comfortably three more than he needs to take.

This includes Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, who have returned to training but are not yet fully fit.

While Shaw has not played since February, he is the only natural left-back selected and will almost certainly make the final squad if there is any chance of him being fit. The same goes for Maguire, one of Southgate’s long-term stalwarts.

Of those remaining, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, John Stones and Marc Guehi are all locked in the squad. This leaves Jarell Quansah, Joe Gomez, Lewis Dunk, Jarrad Branthwaite and Ezri Konsa as the quintet which need to become a trio.

Gomez is the most experienced international of these and the most versatile, having played all across the backline for Liverpool this season. Branthwaite has not yet played for England but has perhaps had the best season of this group, with his left-footedness also a useful asset if Southgate believes he’s mature enough to step up.

Dunk would have been a shoo-in a year ago but his poor club form may well mean England opt for a younger model. Quansah is simply not experienced enough, meaning the clearest debate is likely between Branthwaite and Konsa, with Gomez seemingly on the plane.

Konsa can play on the right, which may well be a plus, but with Alexander-Arnold, Walker, Gomez and Trippier all able to play there, England are well-stocked down that flank.

To Grealish or not to Grealish?

The final big decision centres on Jack Grealish, who has slipped out of the limelight and starting XI at Manchester City, far from guaranteed to make the provisional group.

Grealish joined up with the squad early in an attempt to impress Southgate, but with Phil Foden and Anthony Gordon both ahead of him in the left-wing depth chart, it may be that there simply isn’t the room to take the most expensive English player in history.

It’s hard to see what he adds other than the ability to slow down play and defend a lead later in a game, something Foden or Gordon are both also able to do.

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