England's Euro 2024 future depends on Gareth Southgate continuing to tinker in search of right formula


Fortitude and a little bit of good fortune saw England through to the semifinals of the Euros following a 5-3 penalty shootout victory over Switzerland Saturday after the match was level 1-1 in regulation. Bukayo Saka canceled out Breel Embolo’s goal but where the game really changed for the Three Lions was when Gareth Southgate went to his bench, something that he has been leaving until late and not getting right. He also brought forward a formation change, but it’s the player selection moving forward that will be key, as it was in this one. 

Luke Shaw, Eberechi Eze, and Cole Palmer entered following Embolo’s goal with Kobbi Mainoo, Kieran Trippier, and Ezri Konsa departing. Two minutes later, Saka had a moment of individual brilliance, lashing a shot into the net from outside the box before also nailing his penalty take in the shootout. 

The trio that came on was confident in possession, helping England force extra time, but the return of Shaw could be quite a boost in later rounds for England. Kieran Trippier started the match at left back due to Southgate having no natural left backs available. Shaw entering added a balance to the side, and if he’s fit enough, it would make sense for him to start the semifinal to help with creating chances from the left. England only mustered a 0.66 xG despite playing 120 minutes while Harry Kane and Phil Foden combined for three shots and a 0.16 xG between them. This won’t be good enough to win Euros which is why something has to give, and Saturday’s changes at least showed the capability of adapting. 

Foden has felt out of place in the England setup, and with plenty of attacking options available like Palmer and Anthony Gordon, there’s no reason not to look for changes ahead of a semifinal match with the Netherlands or Türkiye. 

Leaning on defense is okay but at some point, England’s attack needs to spring to life as matches get harder. The Three Lions are too predictable in their buildup and the addition of Shaw and Palmer into the XI could help shake things up. The subs changed the match on Saturday, also helping in the shootout, but in the future, Southgate will need to be more aggressive earlier and take control as true contenders typically do.

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