Bring in Shaw? Drop Foden? Southgate's semi-final decisions analysed

Luke Shaw to return? What to do with Phil Foden? How to get the best from Harry Kane? Gareth Southgate has decisions to make ahead of England’s semi-final at Euro 2024.

We pick out just some of the talking points to emerge from England’s quarter-final against Switzerland…

Guehi or Shaw in for Konsa?

The first matter for the England manager to consider is whether to restore Marc Guehi to the team after serving his suspension in the round-of-16 tie against Switzerland. Ezri Konsa did well as his replacement on the left side of defence with an assured display.

skysports ezri konsa england 6620342

But Guehi had been among England’s most encouraging performers throughout the first four matches, showing a composure that belied his international inexperience. Southgate was fulsome in his praise. His selection was a notable success.

If there is a complication that causes Southgate to hesitate in restoring him without thought, it is that Guehi’s appearances came as part of a back four. Konsa, a some-time full-back, might be the more comfortable in a back three. Shaw, having now made his return from injury, certainly would be. What will Southgate decide?

Is the back three here to stay?

When Southgate switched to a back three to beat Germany at the previous European Championship, he reverted to a back four for the subsequent win over Ukraine. This particular change of formation feels like it could be more permanent.

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Rob Dorsett wonders if England now have the momentum to reach the final

England had been so poor for much of their first four matches at Euro 2024 that it felt as if the players needed a change to help them believe. Was a penalty shoot-out victory over Switzerland enough to convince Southgate to stick with it against the Netherlands?

There was a little more balance, Bukayo Saka thriving in a wing-back role and Kyle Walker seemingly much happier on the right of a three. There is still the option to switch within the game but England will be more confident now that they have options.

Who will play left wing-back?

The change of system saw Kieran Trippier operating even higher on the left, arguably further out of position than before. It is the most obvious weakness on paper, even if the Newcastle player did his best in the role. But there are contenders to take his place.

Shaw made his comeback late in the game against Switzerland and his availability provides England with a natural left-footer on that flank, potentially opening up more opportunities to create. He would be Southgate’s first choice if fully fit but it is a big ask.

Kieran Trippier's positioning and passing for England against Switzerland at Euro 2024
Kieran Trippier’s played in an advanced role for England against Switzerland

It was Eberechi Eze deployed there as England sought to chase the game upon falling behind, an unusual position for the Crystal Palace playmaker. Whether Southgate would consider such a maverick move from the start is another matter entirely.

There would be more confidence in Saka impressing there, which would have the benefit of freeing up the slot on the right for Trent Alexander-Arnold or Trippier himself. But Saka’s display against Switzerland is a compelling case to keep him in position.

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Harry Kane praised Bukayo Saka’s mentality after stepping up to take a penalty

Palmer pushing for Foden’s place?

Regardless of the formation, Foden certainly has challengers for his position in the side. The Premier League player of the year was shunted out to the left for much of this tournament but that changed against Switzerland. Sadly, his form for England did not.

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Foden should be capable of moments of quality but there have not been enough of them in these five matches. No goals. No assists. Just two shots on target. Surprisingly, he has struggled to find a way to function outside of the Manchester City machine.

Southgate is committed to keeping his best players in the starting line-up and with both knockout games so far going the distance, perhaps that makes sense. Cole Palmer was on the pitch for the penalty shoot-out, after all. But he will be wanting a bigger role.

Can England get more from Kane?

If Foden is expected to retain his place, Kane is certain to stay in the team. But that does not mean that Southgate can settle for what we are seeing from the England captain. He has scored two important goals but this is not the Kane that we are used to.

Neville’s verdict on Kane’s form

“He is not going to drop Harry Kane,” Gary Neville told Sky Sports.

“He is one of his leaders, one of the greatest football players we have ever had. There is no doubt he has not been at his absolute best but neither have the team, the service into him has not been great.

“This Harry Kane dropping deep line – I do not see any difference in what he has been doing recently in football matches for his clubs. It is partly what I would expect him to do, to stay high between the centre backs then drop in a little bit to draw the centre backs in and allow the runs in behind. That is what he has been doing for years.

“In terms of his form, he does not look himself, he does not look as sharp when the ball is played into him in and around the box, he does not seem to get his touch and shot off like he would ordinarily do.

“Unless he is injured – he went off yesterday, before he fell into Southgate I thought I saw him limping before that, maybe cramp, so I think there was an issue with him. It would need an injury for him to be left out of the team.”

Harry Kane's heatmap and shot locations for England at Euro 2024 so far
Harry Kane’s heatmap and shot locations for England at Euro 2024 so far

Perhaps surprisingly, Kane is averaging more touches per 90 minutes at Euro 2024 than he has at previous tournaments for England. But being involved and being impactful are different things. He has struggled for space in this side and without wide forwards willing to run beyond him, Kane cannot showcase his range of passing.

His fitness is a concern and the tests only become more difficult with Virgil van Dijk awaiting Kane in Dortmund on Wednesday. How can Southgate improve the service to his striker? Inverted wing-backs do not aid the quality of crosses. England may look to limp on but unlocking Kane’s full game could be the difference.

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