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Euro 2024: How do you Solve a Problem like England’s Left-Back Spot?

ByDave Stopher

Jun 7, 2024

 

Euro 2024 is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the summer and England fans cannot wait to see the Three Lions take to the field at the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen on June 16th. Rarely has a major tournament passed by without the inevitable wave of optimism which tends to infiltrate supporters, journalists, TV pundits as well as patriotic punters, and once again, the 1966 World Cup winners are being spoken about in glowing terms. 

 

England always tend to be looked upon favourably by the bookmakers and they are rarely out of the top four when it comes to the pre-tournament outright markets. Nevertheless, this time around, each of the bookmakers appears to be unanimous in their verdict: England are the most likely side to lift The Henri Delaunay Cup on July 15th. 

 

Although there are hundreds of interesting and alternative markets priced up by the best football betting sites in the UK, the tournament winner market remains the most popular and most-talked about option, and England are currently shorter odds than 2022 World Cup finalists France, free-scoring Belgium and hosts Germany. 

 

Gareth Southgate has a hugely talented squad at his disposal including the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer, a UEFA Champions League and La Liga winner, as well as a player who registered 19 goals and 8 assists for Manchester City in the Premier League. However, despite this embarrassment of riches, there still appears to be one major weak spot in the XI: left-back. 

 

In Qatar, Southgate opted to field Luke Shaw in this position in every single match. The Manchester United man is easily the best option on the left-hand side and his ability to get forward is one of his biggest assets. However, the 28-year old hasn’t played a competitive game for three months having picked up an injury against Luton back in February. Although the England boss has suggested he may be fit enough to feature at some point this summer, he may take a while to get up to speed and he is unlikely to be rushed back. 

 

Although Shaw may be fit enough to start one of the later games in the tournament, England still require a steady presence in this spot to help them navigate their way seamlessly through the group stage. 

 

Newcastle’s Keiran Trippier is an option. The Bury-born defender has endured an injury-hit campaign in Tyneside, yet he insists that he’s raring to go this summer and having played for more than an hour at left-back against Bosnia and Herzegovina, he is probably the favourite to deputise. However, having only shaken off a calf injury in the final week of the season, he hasn’t played a huge amount of competitive football in 2024 and may not be able to commit to three matches in the space of nine days. 

Liverpool’s Joe Gomez is another alternative. The versatile defender regularly featured on the left for the Reds this season, and took up this position in five of the club’s last nine Premier League outings. He came on for the final 20 minutes against Bosnia and Herzegovina and looked assured throughout. He is a fairly safe pair of hands and although he is prone to the occasional error against high-profile opposition, he is likely to do a fairly professional job against Serbia, Slovenia and Denmark. 

 

Gomez replaced Ezri Konsa, who had slotted in following Trippier’s withdrawal against the Bosnians and the Aston Villa defender is another player whose versatile style gives him a decent chance of getting the nod. The 26-year old did an excellent job in three different positions and he comes off the back of a superb season with the Midlands club, who finished fourth in the top flight and reached the latter stages of the Europa League. 

 

Southgate does have a couple of alternative choices, yet he has opted not to include Ben Chilwell or Tyrick Mitchell in his 33-man squad. The former started against Belgium in March, yet he’s barely featured for a struggling Chelsea side this season and is another player who has been dogged by injuries this campaign. 

 

England’s squad is oozing with quality, however, if Shaw isn’t able to recover in time, the tournament favourites will have to make do with an unorthodox left-back. Trippier is likely to get the nod over Konsa or Gomez due to his vast experience and his ability to deliver pin-point crosses, however, he isn’t left-footed and often tends to favour cutting inside as opposed to heading for the byline which can take the sting out of an impending attack. 

 

The Three Lions have a significant dilemma and it looks as though their manager will gamble on the fitness of an injury-prone left-back. It’s an issue that is unlikely to be resolved ahead of the opening group game and more worryingly, if Luke Shaw hasn’t returned by the knock-out stages, this could make the tournament favourites exceptionally vulnerable in this troublesome area of the field.