Welcome to England at the Euros, a short mini-series where I, well, take England to the Euros. This will be a four part series; in today’s post I’ll talk a little about how I’ve decided to set the save up, and then dive into likely squad composition and identifying the ‘core’ of the squad.

Introduction

To ensure that the actual tournament will be realistic, I am using FM Scout’s Euro 2024 Real Group file. However, in order to have a season’s worth of data to take into consideration I am starting the save at the beginning of the 2023/24 season. This means that I’ll actually be managing half of the qualification fixtures, as well as any friendlies. I’m confident that I will be able to steer the ship home and qualify, but as a back-up I did run a test, and sides that fail to qualify do still end up at the tournament thanks to the file! 

In order to try and keep things as realistic as possible and have the most accurate data to work with, I am playing the save on Real World mode, and have loaded England to League Two level as playable. As well as this, I have also loaded the top divisions of Scotland, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, as there are some key players abroad (Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham to name but two) who I would also like to have data available for.

Anybody who has been reading my posts for a while now will know that my approach is pragmatic by nature, and that I have looked at Southgate’s approach to tournaments a couple of times, most recently in my post about taking Japan to the Asian Cup

This isn’t going to be a recreation of Southgate’s approach, it will be my approach to the tournament but building on the work done by Southgate during his spell as manager. 

Of course, I’ve tried to keep things as realistic as possible, but this is still a game, and some things are out of my control. The Real World mode will help with the majority of transfers, but players are of course still free to move, and could end up moving to leagues I don’t have loaded (cough Saudi cough). 

The other big variable that I’ll have no control over is injuries. The save starts with several of England’s stars out for a long time as per real life, but their recoveries may (hopefully) be a lot smoother and therefore players who are touch and go for the real life squad may be more simple inclusions in game. Of course, it also can’t be ruled out that any of our key players may miss the tournament altogether with injuries picked up in-game.

Squad Composition

As Gareth Southgate’s time as manager has progressed he has adapted his tactics over time, and with it the composition of the squads he has named has had to also adapt. 

In a 23 man squad at the 2018 World Cup, Southgate named ten defenders, only five central midfielders, and five strikers for his outfield units. This was due to the fact that he lined England up in a 3-5-2 shape, and so depth at the back was paramount. The midfield was fairly settled, but having five players to fill three spots allowed for any injuries, suspensions or massive loss of form. This also allowed Southgate to take five strikers, which in turn meant the likes of Sterling, Rashford and Welbeck could offer some flexibility and play out wide if a change of shape was required.

By Euro 2020 the squad limit was raised to 26 players, but it’s interesting to note that all three of the extra players were added in attacking areas. By this time Southgate was playing primarily with a 4-2-3-1, and this saw a greater flexibility in the attacking players taken, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin the only traditional number nine taken behind Harry Kane. This meant that the other forwards were all flexible and interchangeable, many of them being able to either play out wide or in behind the striker. The other big talking point of this squad was the inclusion of four right-backs, but with all of them offering different versatility. This showed that Southgate was thinking more of the profile of each player rather than just their primary position.

The approach was pretty similar at the 2022 World Cup, where the biggest differences were in personnel rather than composition. Callum Wilson became the third player to go as the back-up centre forward in three tournaments, after Jamie Vardy and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, while Luke Shaw was the only specialist left-back in the squad with Ben Chilwell left out. This meant that Kieran Trippier offered the depth on that side, while Alexander-Arnold, Walker and White could all play on the right side of defence if needed.

At the time of writing this post the final squad for Euro 2024 has not been announced, but a 33-man provisional squad has been named. It’s likely that once the squad has been trimmed down the composition will be similar again, with a focus on taking flexible defenders to cover multiple positions (especially left-back where Shaw is a major injury doubt), and a fluid attacking unit to offer options in behind Kane.

For the most part I will be looking for a similar approach, although I tend to prefer specialised full-backs, rather than natural central defenders filling in, and therefore a player like Joe Gomez may be less valuable to me than he may end up being to Southgate this summer. 

In forward areas my early thought is to follow the idea of having just one substitute centre-forward behind Kane and using the extra squad space to take along flexible, creative forwards, however this will also depend on whether anybody unexpected can stake a claim throughout the season.

Identifying the Core

The most successful national teams rely on a core of players that develop and go to multiple tournaments together, gaining a level of understanding and trust that allows them to succeed in tough moments. 

Southgate may not be the most universally liked manager that England have ever had, but there is no denying that he has massively improved the atmosphere and togetherness within the camp during his time, with stories of club loyalties segregating the group a thing of the past. Southgate has also been fearlessly loyal to players who many believe not to be worthy of their place, most notably Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire. There are calls for the duo to be dropped almost every time England play, but neither has ever let Southgate down and therefore he has never had the desire to pander to those calls. 

I would say that Southgate has ten players that constitute his ‘core’, players that have enough credit in the bank that even if they were in poor form at club level, I believe would only ever be left out of a squad due to unavailability.

GARETH SOUTHGATE’S CORE

Jude Bellingham – Phil Foden – Harry Kane – Harry Maguire
Jordan Pickford – Declan Rice – Bukayo Saka – Luke Shaw
John Stones – Kyle Walker

Of these ten, five were in Southgate’s first tournament squad for the 2018 World Cup, with the other five all being selected for Euro 2020, meaning the core has all had at least two major tournaments together and an understanding and unity has been built in that time.

In my mind it would be foolish for a new manager to come in and immediately start to replace these players. One or two may be phased out over time, depending on the level of competition they face for their spot and their club form, but in tournament football experience is everything, and despite being a fairly young side England have a lot of it. 

So injuries permitting, Southgate’s core will also be my core and will be in my squad for Euro 2024. Not only that, but they all start in possession of the starting berths, meaning that only the left-wing spot is truly up for grabs. I will be open to adjusting that based on in-game form, but as it stands the decisions to be made will almost all be about the substitutes and squad players. That means that sixteen spots remain to be filled, with the majority coming from strong performances in qualifiers, and a couple of potential wildcards that we’ll look at next time.. 

Until then, it’s coming home!

Author

  • adam_otbfm

    Adam, known in the Football Manager (FM) realm as @adam_otbfm, is a fervent gamer and content creator. With a penchant for football simulations, Adam delves into the intricacies of FM, sharing his findings on his blog "On the Break." His creative ventures include replicating football legends like Kaka in the virtual pitch, showcasing a blend of nostalgia and modern gameplay. Adam's musings extend to social platforms like Twitter, where he actively engages with the FM community, sharing his gaming journey with @SJK_Seinajoki. His insightful content and avid participation enrich the FM community, making him a valued member in this virtual football world.

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