Henderson, Rashford

Henderson, Rashford, and other critical England issues before Euro 2024

Is the defense creaking?

Kyle Walker at right-back, Harry Maguire and John Stones in the middle, and Luke Shaw on the left are Gareth Southgate’s preferred back four. England is sweating before friendlies against Brazil and Belgium due to form and injury concerns.

Harry Maguire and John Stones

Maguire’s inclusion will be criticized. If Manchester United’s non-starting centre-back struggles against top opposition, expect charges of favoritism.

Southgate is used to the noise. He trusts Maguire and Stones and believes opponents are yet to emerge. Strongest pusher Marc Guéhi is injured. Levi Colwill vanished. At this level, Fikayo Tomori and Lewis Dunk are untested. Ucapped Jarrad Branthwaite and Ezri Konsa.

After four years away, Joe Gomez may be able to contribute. The Liverpool defender’s versatility appeals. With broad area issues, his flexibility to play across the back will help him make Euro 2024. Chelsea right-back Reece James has been out since December, Kieran Trippier is injured, and Shaw may not play again this season, exposing a left-back depth issue.

Ben Chilwell, who has also had injury issues, must prove he can replace Shaw. Southgate has doubted Chilwell’s defense.

Who plays third midfield?

Southgate has dropped Kalvin Phillips, who has failed since joining West Ham on loan, despite his dedication to his veterans. He probably wanted Phillips to play midfield with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.

Southgate will likely not put all defensive duties on Rice and go all out by pairing Phil Foden or James Maddison with Bellingham. Control and stability have always been his priorities.

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However, England’s perennial question is whether they can dominate possession against the best teams. Is Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield the solution? We won’t know your opinion during this squad. Knee ailment sidelines Alexander-Arnold.

It’s hard to prepare. Mason Mount has disappeared since the World Cup, and Liverpool’s Curtis Jones was injured. Conor Gallagher has been a fixture in previous squads but plays in an advanced role for Chelsea and has failed to establish himself internationally.

Ajax’s Jordan Henderson, returning in Europe after his dismal Saudi Arabia tour, is the experienced, slightly stale choice. Since Kobbie Mainoo joined the team, he has many people to win over. Will Southgate try United’s 18-year-old midfielder? Mainoo is technically gifted and fits as a No. 6.

Rashford to silence doubters?

Marcus Rashford returned to form during United’s win over Liverpool. The attacker has struggled this season but still has an opportunity with Southgate. Rashford has yet to follow Raheem Sterling, a former regular whose international career appears ended. Rashford must also realize Southgate’s patience is limited.

He must regain motivation and self-confidence. He scored a great goal against Italy last October and is hard to stop when on form. The 26-year-old has been sluggish this season, and Southgate saw his mistake in Northern Ireland. Time to buckle down.

Who gambles on wings?

Rashford plays best on the left, but England’s strongest front three may not include him. It is difficult to start him above Phil Foden, who has been great for Manchester City. Foden on the left and Bukayo Saka on the right seems likely.

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Who sits on the bench? Jack Grealish have had dismal seasons at the past two championships. He is another injured player, and Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen, and Anthony Gordon might replace him. Palmer, who helped England’s Under-21s win the European Championship last year, has been great since joining Chelsea, and Bowen, who can play on the right or in the middle, has scored 18 goals for West Ham this season. Uncapped Gordon is fast and energetic on the left.

Can Toney outjump Watkins?

It must be the most thankless job to substitute for Harry Kane. When healthy, the England captain starts and rarely stops. He has ankle injuries, though. If Kane, who has had a low-intensity week after injuring himself with Bayern Munich, is out, someone must step up.

Ollie Watkins, who has 22 goals this season, is in prime position to start a friendlies. However, Ivan Toney, who returned to the squad following his betting exile, will challenge the Aston Villa striker, who struggled against North Macedonia in November.

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