England’s Best Starting 11


England Football Team Starting 11


At long last, the waiting is almost over, with Gareth Southgate’s England side set to kick off their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia on Sunday 16th June. Will that game be the start of a journey to long-overdue triumph? Or the first step to ultimate disappointment once again?

Hopes remain high amongst the majority of the England faithful - although an abject performance in a defeat to Iceland (who failed to qualify for the tournament) has poured a dose of reality onto the Three Lions status as pre-tournament favourites.

Barring last-minute standout performances on the training pitch, Southgate has seen all he is going to see from this squad of 26 players, and must now zero in on his first choice 11. But who will be in the side? Here, we select the eleven players we think Southgate will go with, pick out a couple of potential tweaks, and run the rule over the strengths and weaknesses of the squad.

Predicted Formation

Southgate rarely strays from a back four, with the two centreback, two full-back system serving as the foundation of the side for the majority of his tenure. However, he has shown some flexibility further up the pitch – predominantly setting up 4-2-3-1 but using a less rigid 4-3-3 at times during qualifying. Any formation besides those two would come as a significant surprise.

A 4-3-3 system enables England to get more attacking talent onto the field but is unlikely to be utilised versus Serbia, who tend to cram the midfield. As such, we anticipate that England will look to match the Serbs in terms of numbers in the centre of the park and stick with the 4-2-3-1 used in their final two friendly fixtures.

Predicted Starting 11

England Starting line up


Southgate has a wealth of options, but we expect the above to be the starting line-up for the opener. Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane can be considered automatic starters.

Elsewhere, the importance of John Stones has been magnified in the absence of Harry Kane, whilst Marc Guehi’s familiarity with playing the left-sided role for Palace should see him get the nod.

Hopefully, we will see Luke Shaw at some point, as the Manchester United man remains England’s best option at left-back. Kieran Trippier’s dependability and experience make him the obvious choice to deputise.

The question of who should partner Rice in the middle has proved problematic for some time, but Kobie Mainoo seems to have solved that issue with a series of eye-catching displays since stepping into the side. His presence allows Jude Bellingham to be deployed in forward central areas. That does come at a slight cost of shifting Phil Foden to the left (many believe he is most dangerous in a central/free role), but achieves the best overall balance. Bukayo Saka’s tournament experience should see him start on the right.

Alternative 11 vs Serbia?

It’s hard to argue too much with the above line-up, with the main positions for discussion coming on the left side of the defence and the wings. Whether this is ideal for the game against Serbia largely depends on how the Serbs approach the game. Whilst naturally inclined to play on the front foot, Serbia can retreat into their shells when tackling superior opposition – most strikingly displayed in their clash with Brazil at the last World Cup.

If faced with a back three and a busy midfield which sits deep, the guile of Saka, Foden, and Bellingham remain the best options to unpick the lock. However, if the standard version of Serbia shows up, i.e. attack first, defend second, England may be better served by introducing a little pace into the side to take maximum advantage of the inevitable chances on the break. As such, the following line-up could be worth considering:


England alternative line up


It remains tough to alter too much at the back, with the goal of this lineup being to squeeze England’s quickest attacking player onto the pitch. Fitting Anthony Gordon into his preferred left-wing role asks Bellingham to take a step back – no bad thing in this lineup, as his ability to progress the ball can serve as a springboard for England attacks. This set-up may also see Foden in a better light – granting the City man freedom to fully utilise his creativity and vision, with willing runners to either side.

Ollie Watkins' pace and ability to time his runs would also fit this system well, but with Kane as reliable as ever, there is simply no room for the Villa man. Similar comments apply to Trent Alexander-Arnold; the best long-range passer in the squad would likely thrive with so many targets, but playing him instead of Rice would affect the defensive solidity, whilst Bellingham is another player all but impossible to leave out.

Overall View of the Squad

Harry Maguire, Jack Grealish, and James Maddison were the standout names left out of the final squad. Not much could be done about Maguire, who didn’t recover from injury in time, but some believe Grealish and Maddison should be on the plane. However, we feel Southgate made the right moves in selecting Eberechi Eze, with the Palace star delivering an end product more consistently than Grealish, who also lacks game time having fallen down the City pecking order. Likewise, Palmer appears to be the direct replacement for Maddison and fully merits that place following a stellar campaign at Stamford Bridge.

When looking at the 26-man squad, it’s clear that England's strength lies in the attacking areas. Harry Kane remains an elite goal-getter, with Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney providing excellent backup. Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham are genuine world-class talents who would get into any side in the tournament, whilst Saka is a reliable source of goals and assists from the right.

As strong as England’s likely starting attack is, possibly the most impressive feature of the squad is the array of potential difference-makers on the bench. Jarrod Bowen brings direct running and an eye for goal; Eberechi Eze creates space for others with an uncanny ability to hold onto the ball, whilst Anthony Gordon possesses the pace to burn past most full-backs in the tournament. However, the most influential of all may be Cole Palmer. In games where England need to find something a little different, his ability to see passes which others don’t, and snapshot finishing around the area could prove worth its weight in gold.

Whilst not so impressive as in the forward positions, England’s deeper midfielders should hold up. We have no qualms with Rice – who has a decent backup in Connor Gallagher, but Mainoo and Adam Wharton are short on international experience, and Alexander-Arnold is effectively a converted full-back.

If there is a weakness in the England side, it comes at the back - specifically, on the left side of defence. Much derided over the years, Harry Maguire’s experience and aerial ability will be missed, with Guehi, Lewis Dunk, and Ezri Konsa all a little too error-prone for our liking. The return of Luke Shaw would fix the left-back spot, but as it is, England look set to begin with the right-footed Trippier – who himself has been worryingly and uncharacteristically fond of a mistake since his return from injury.

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