Gareth Southgate has named his provisional England squad for Euro 2024. The Opta Analyst team has had a think and put together some England Euro 2024 starting XIs for the opening game against Serbia. Who do you agree with?

The cat is out of the bag. We now know who won’t be on the plane to Germany as far as England are concerned as Gareth Southgate has named his provisional 33-man squad for Euro 2024.

There’s no room for Jordan Henderson, Marcus Rashford, Reece James or Ben Chilwell, while there are call-ups for the uncapped Adam Wharton, Jarell Quansah, Curtis Jones and James Trafford.

At Opta Analyst HQ, we’ve been debating the best England XI for weeks, so now seemed as good a time as any to put our selections where our brains are, or whatever the saying is.

So, pop on your waistcoat, get Three Lions cranked up to 11 and pour yourself a drink to spit all over your screen in dismay when you see some of these suggested XIs for England’s first group game against Serbia on 16 June.

Ryan Benson – Mainoo on a Mission

Ryan Benson England starting XI

Much of this team speaks for itself in that you could argue eight players are guaranteed starters, fitness permitting. The question marks pertain to three roles.

With the caveat of ‘only until Luke Shaw is fit’, Kieran Trippier should start at left-back. He gets the nod over Joe Gomez because of what he offers going forward and at set-pieces; Trippier was one of only two defenders to tally at least 25 chances created in open play and at set-plays in each of the past two Premier League seasons. Sure, the Liverpool man is probably the better defender, but Trippier has filled in at left-back before.

Next to Trippier should be Marc Guéhi at centre-back. While Harry Maguire has been largely dependable for England, it cannot be argued that he’s in undroppable form. Guéhi brings many of the same qualities but with one key difference: he’s quick, thus giving England the possibility to play a bit higher up, exerting greater control.

Then, Kobbie Mainoo should start in the deepest midfield role. The jury’s out on whether that will be his best position in future, but for now, he’s arguably the best fit for this role aside from Declan Rice, who you’d want playing slightly further forward. Mainoo has the poise and calmness to receive the ball under pressure in his own half, plus the technical ability and awareness to resist the press. 

Ali Tweedale – Trent to Unlock Rice

Right, before you all start shouting “Southgate apologist!” at me, let me explain.

Declan Rice was one of the Premier League’s best players this season and was at his best when he had a defensive midfielder behind him. He got seven goals and eight assists for an Arsenal side who deserved to win the Premier League title, and you lose his hugely effective late runs into the box if he’s the deepest midfielder, so I’ve got him ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold. With no other standout options at the base of midfield, it’s an opportunity to get the Liverpool man and his sensational set-piece ability into the team. Playing Jude Bellingham as the 10 means less defensive responsibility for another huge attacking threat.

Phil Foden starts on the left as he has done on more than a few occasions for City, but is free to drift into the middle and should swap positions with Bellingham semi-regularly. Joe Gomez gets the nod at left-back, but if Luke Shaw ends up fit enough to play, he might be a better option to attack the space that Foden vacates.

An only-recently-back-from-injury Marc Guéhi is the best option on the left side of central defence, but that part of the pitch looks like the biggest area of concern, whoever is picked.

Oliver Hopkins – Gallagher’s Graft Gains

OH England starting XI Euro 2024

Jordan Pickford is a lock for England’s number one spot. He has been a reliable option for Gareth Southgate ever since the 2018 World Cup. Pickford was part of an Everton defence that kept 13 clean sheets this season, joint second behind Arsenal’s 18, while only José Sá (9.6) and Emiliano Martínez (8.8) prevented more goals in the division than his 5.7, according to expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded data.

Kyle Walker and John Stones should also be in, but next to Stones is where things get dicey. It’s somewhat painful to say, but Maguire probably makes the most sense. He’s been there and done it with England before and has experience of playing alongside Stones. The Man Utd man is an asset in both boxes from set-pieces, too, which has added importance in international knockout football.

Left-back is another problem area for England. With Shaw’s injury concerns there’s a potential hole on the left. Gomez deputised admirably for Liverpool this season, and while he won’t be expansive going forwards, he does offer defensive solidity.

Rice and Bellingham pick themselves. The third midfielder is where things get interesting. I’ve opted for the presence of Conor Gallagher in the centre of the park as an all-action dynamo to allow Bellingham to push forwards and crash the box.

There’s simply no chance you can’t include Foden in the starting XI. He just scooped up the Premier League Player of the Season award for goodness’ sake. He’s operating on another level right now, it’s just a question of where you put him. His sheer talent means he can make it work coming in off the left.  

Jordan Collins – Brilliant Branthwaite to Partner Stones

England XI by Jordan Collins

Jarrad Branthwaite has played an entire season (35 league starts) for an Everton side that ended 2023-24 with the Premier League’s best defensive record outside the top three, conceding just 51 goals. He is a natural left-sided centre-back and this season will have faced bigger challenges with Everton than many of those he’ll come up against at the Euros. He is the best option to play alongside John Stones. Kieran Tripper provides set-piece delivery from left-back.

There is another hole in midfield that needs filling, and Mainoo is the most in-form of the options there. He might be young and inexperienced – like Branthwaite – but he has never looked overawed in any situation in his short career so far. There’s every reason to believe he could and would perform for England at an international tournament.

My team looks to the future while also fielding the best players right now in each position, as well as having plenty of experience. What’s not to like?

David Segar – Get Palmer in by Any Means Necessary

David Segar England XI

England’s options in the number 10 position are such that this team could’ve easily just been made up of 10s, with a very busy Pickford in goal. I think I’ve figured out a workaround, though.

Yes, Bellingham would be playing as an orthodox central midfielder rather than a 10, despite being so impressive for Real Madrid this season in a more advanced role. However, Bellingham built his reputation at Borussia Dortmund as a box-to-box midfielder. In the 2022-23 Bundesliga, he won possession more often than any other Dortmund player (198) and only Raphaël Guerreiro (36) made more than his 35 interceptions. Rice is an ideal partner too after a brilliant first campaign at Arsenal. It might hamper his ability to get forward, but look at who is ahead of him. Attacking shouldn’t be a problem for this team.

It would also be a crime not to include Cole Palmer, who had more goal involvements than anyone else in the Premier League this season (33 – 22 goals, 11 assists). Rice and Bellingham as a pair should work fine in earlier games especially, with the tricky trio of Saka, Foden and Palmer ahead of them, capable of scoring goals as well as providing for Harry Kane. The option to replace one with Gallagher or Mainoo later in the tournament for a bit more stability is also there.

The back five is a bit dull, yes, but it would be a big risk to bring untested partnerships straight into tournament football. Having said that, I would have liked to select Tyrick Mitchell at left-back, but Southgate didn’t, so there we are. With Shaw likely to miss out on the final squad, it’ll have to be Trippier. He hasn’t been at his best of late for Newcastle but his experience and set-piece delivery at least offers something in a problem area for Southgate.

Graham Bell – Remove the Shackles, Gareth

GB England starting XI Euro 2024

Much like when playing for England, there’s probably only one thing keeping Southgate awake at night; how do you fix the concerns at left-back? Usually, a pragmatic man will look for a fill-in solution to the injury crisis, like a Trippier.

But pragmatism has got Southgate so near, yet so far as England manager. With the tournament opener coming against their lowest-ranked group-stage opponent, maybe it’s time to throw caution to the wind by going with a ball-playing back three that will be able to exploit Serbia’s high press and allow the free-flowing attacking stars to shine the brightest.

Jarrod Bowen also gets the nod over Foden, who I see more as Southgate’s impact player from the bench, at least in the group stage. Remember, this is just for the opening game. The rest of the tournament we can be a bit more conservative… like my colleagues have been.

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