DANNY MURPHY: Southgate should revert to a back four at the Euros

DANNY MURPHY: Gareth Southgate should revert to a back four with England at the Euros and we should take a leaf out of Manchester City’s book by fielding FIVE attacking players at Euro 2020

  • Gareth Southgate has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal for Euro 2020
  • Some of the class of 2018 have been welcomed back into the fold on merit 
  • Despite the success of three at the back, Southgate should abandon the plan
  • Declan Rice’s form means he can protect Harry Maguire and John Stones
  • Maguire and especially Stones’ form gives the full back licence to bomb on
  • A Manchester City-esque plan of five attacking threats would frighten teams 

I’ve never known a period where there has been more debate and different opinions over who should get into the England team. 

That’s a good thing. It means there is huge competition for places and a desire from all players to represent their country — possibly Gareth Southgate’s greatest achievement as manager.

Let’s be honest, nobody thinks we will miss out on the World Cup in 2022 — any qualifying group that includes both San Marino and Andorra isn’t over-taxing — so interest in these upcoming games against Albania and Poland will partly be seen in the context of who makes the Euros squad this summer.

Gareth Southgate has an unprecedented number of selection headaches ahead of Euro 2020

John Stones, Kieran Trippier and Jesse Lingard have all been recalled after strong club form

It’s interesting that a lot of Southgate’s heroes from the last World Cup are returning just in time for the next big one. 

John Stones, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Jesse Lingard disappeared from the England scene at different times but are all in great form again and knocking firmly at the door. Their experience gained from reaching the semi-finals in Russia is valuable and shouldn’t be discarded. 

But at the same time, it is important to recognise this England team has progressed since 2018 and only returning to the old tried and trusted formula isn’t the best way to lift the trophy on home soil in July.

I’m talking about developing formation as much as personnel. In Russia, Southgate had a concern over England’s defending and devised a plan of 3-5-2 plan which worked. Slotting Walker into the middle alongside Stones and Harry Maguire was a bold move and you’ve got to credit the manager for the result.

But that does not mean we should use a three-man defence again for the Euros. In fact, I think it would be a retrograde step.

Firstly, Stones and Maguire are better and far more experienced, both in terms of Premier League and Champions League, to cope with international football as a pair. In addition, the emergence of Declan Rice as a top holding midfielder means the full-backs would be able to get forward knowing they have cover — even in a back four.

Declan Rice’s strong displays in holding midfield should allow England to have a back four


Both play 4-3-3, but change players to fit the opposition…


Pope; James, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Foden, Rice, Mount; Sterling, Kane, Grealish 


Pope; James, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Henderson, Rice, Mount; Foden, Kane, Sterling.

As for the attack, any team needs balance and you can’t throw in every talented forward and expect it to work. But I do think with the current riches at Southgate’s disposal, try to play as many as you can.

You may need to tweak personnel dependent on how strong the opposition is but you don’t have to go from one system to another. 

The best Manchester City team had five attacking threats with Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva playing ahead of a holder like Fernandinho and linking with the front three. 

Imagine being a Scotland player, for example, walking out to see Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Mount ALL lining up.

The established player who is most under threat from England’s newer players is Rashford, and he’s still only 23. But the form and talent of Foden and Mount is making them undroppable in my book. I think both will start in Albania today and that could be a blueprint for the future.

Teams would be frightened of an England side at Wembley with five attacking threats

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