Gareth Southgate has some big decisions to make before next week's crunch clash at Wembley
Gareth Southgate will consider whether or not to revert to a back three and match up against Germany in England’s European Championship last-16 tie next week, which would leave Jack Grealish sweating on his starting place.
England manager Southgate stuck with a back four for the three group games in which his side did not concede a goal, but he has not ruled out switching formation during the tournament.
With Germany playing with a back three so far and using pace on the counter-attack as their main weapon, it is understood Southgate will look at his options in a back four and a back three in the build up to Tuesday’s game.
Switching to a back three would potentially allow Southgate to easily recall Kieran Trippier as a wing-back, with Kyle Walker moving to the right side of a three-man defence, where he played at the World Cup. Reece James, whose crossing is a particular strength, could also come into the equation.
As reported by Telegraph Sport, Southgate is working intensively on England’s set-piece delivery and Trippier is one of his best corner and free-kick takers.
Walker’s pace in the middle could also be a valuable weapon against the pace of Gnabry and Germany’s threat through left wing-back Robin Gosens, who has been one of their best players in the tournament so far.
But moving to a back three would make it impossible for Southgate to play with a No 10, the position in which Grealish started and set up the winning goal against Czech Republic.
With Raheem Sterling making himself undroppable by scoring England’s only two goals of the tournament so far, there would also be no place on the left of a front three for Grealish.
Southgate must weigh up the pros and cons, both in attacking and defensive areas, of sticking with a back four or matching Germany with a back three. He also faces a big decision over whether or not to bring Phil Foden back in, following the man-of-the-match performance of Bukayo Saka against the Czechs.
Foden had been due to start England’s final group game until Mason Mount’s enforced isolation meant Southgate decided to pull the Manchester City star out because of his yellow card and the threat of suspension.
Foden had been one of the designated set-piece takers and with his manager so aware of how important England’s delivery could be in the knockout stages, the 21-year-old could yet earn a recall.
Henderson ready to follow orders over penalties
Rashford may miss start of season if he has surgery on shoulder after tournament
By Jason Burt
Marcus Rashford has spoken about the prospect of needing a shoulder operation after the European Championship and suggested the problem was affecting his performances.
The England forward has been suffering since November, when he tore a muscle in his left shoulder, but has put off a decision on whether to undergo surgery until after the tournament.
“It’s either an operation or I don’t get an operation,” Rashford said. “I’m not 100 per cent sure if I need it yet, so I’ll just take it as it comes. I’ll finish strong here and I’ve got a few weeks off to just relax and decide what I’m going to do.”
If Rashford does have an operation, it may call into question whether he will be fit for the start of the season for Manchester United – but he said he had not even asked the question on what time frame it would involve.
When asked how long he could be out of action for, Rashford said: “The doctors have not said yet. The reason I don’t know is that when the season was going, and before I came here, I knew there was no chance I was going to be getting the operation, so I did not know how long the operation would put me out for. I never bothered to ask the question. I am fully concentrated on here. When the tournament is finished, then I will ask the question.”
Euros – Road to the final
Rashford has not started any of England’s three group games, although he has come on as a substitute each time, and the injury has previously affected his ability to complete matches.
“I am not performing at my best and what I know I can perform to,” the 23-year-old said. “Whatever that is down to, it doesn’t really matter because it has been going on since early in the season.
“I managed to get through the season with United. I think I had 36 goal involvements, so I can’t look back at the year and say, ‘Hmm, I should have taken time off to do this and do that’. I just want to be available for every game.”
Asked specifically whether he was being hampered physically, Rashford said: “I don’t think that’s a secret. I think it’s quite well known and to get to this stage where I am now, it was a massive aim at the beginning of the season. I’m prepared mentally and physically.”
Marcus Rashford may miss the start of the Premier League season if he goes ahead with an operation on his shoulder
The injury causes Rashford discomfort, with the shoulder becoming inflamed after matches and sometimes restricting his mobility while he is playing. But he has been determined to carry on through the pain and the Euros were always a target.
He also wanted to complete the season for United, helping them to qualify for the Champions League and reach the Europa League final.
The forward has been involved in 76 games in the past 12 months and as well as the damage to his shoulder, which occurred in a game against Arsenal, he has been suffering from a minor foot problem sustained when United played AC Milan in the Europa League.
Given Rashford’s relentless workload, it has naturally been harder for the shoulder to heal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United manager, has been reluctant to rest such a crucial player, while Gareth Southgate made it clear how important he was.
Nevertheless, Rashford has accepted that he will not be an automatic starter for England at present. “In tournament football, it is the reason why you need a good squad,” he said. “It is impossible for 11 players to play 90 minutes for seven games in such a short space of time. Everybody has to be ready.”
Losing Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell – who are having to self-isolate after being “close contacts” of Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for Covid – has also served a warning to the England players and showed why an enlarged squad of 26 was needed.
“It is a situation where somebody else has to be ready for the next game,” Rashford said, as the pair train on their own until Tuesday but take part in England team meetings via Zoom. “It has not shaken us, because we know what can happen, but it is a bit [of a reality check].”