England’s supposed ‘weak link’ now their biggest miss after starring role at Euro 2024

Steven Chicken
John Stones shares a celebratory over-hand handshake with Marc Guehi at Euro 2024 as Jude Bellingham and Jordan Pickford also celebrate in the background
Marc Guehi (second from right) has been one of the few positives for England at Euro 2024

From day one of England’s tournament, Marc Guehi has been England’s best player. Who are you having second best? Exactly. It’s Guehi all the way, baby.

Even when we’ve all been left with not much of anything nice to say about England this summer (every game), Guehi has correctly been singled out for praise. His composure even when England have been under heavy pressure (every game) has been vital to Gareth Southgate.

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Even Guehi’s faltering efforts to deal with Ivan Schranz on the way to Slovakia’s opener could be excused by his already having picked up a yellow card early in the game and sensibly hesitating to risk it becoming a red – and if you were harsh enough to hold it against him, then he earned atonement by flicking on Kyle Walker’s long throw to tee up Jude Bellingham’s sensational equaliser.

Guehi has made a mockery of the pre-tournament predictions that finding another centre-back of sufficient quality to partner John Stones was going to be England’s biggest issue at Euro 2024…but now that is an unwanted talking point to add to the pile ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final against Switzerland.

The Crystal Palace defender’s yellow cards against the brothers Slov, Enia and Akia, added up to a suspension for that game, forcing Southgate to make one of the only changes that the increasingly vexed pundits out in Germany haven’t called on him to make.

Even after playing 480 minutes where most sides have only played 360 minutes, England still have the best defensive record at the Euros, at least going on expected goals: just 2.3 post-shot xG against. The next-best teams to have played at least four games, Spain and Switzerland, are a full expected goal worse off. (Georgia’s number, very lovably, is 12.)

Defending is always a team pursuit, but Guehi has been a vital component. Nobody else in the squad has blocked off more shots and passes combined (3 of each), while his positioning has been on-point enough that he has rarely had to make a tackle: Paolo Maldini would be smiling if only he were called Paul Miller instead. The player everyone most doubted has become their most important.

Southgate has already provided a spoiler as to which of his other options he is most likely to call upon as Guehi’s replacement: Lewis Dunk and Joe Gomez were left watching from the bench as Ezri Konsa was tasked with helping England see out their victory at the extra-time interval.

England now need another largely-untested international to step up just like Guehi. His are massive boots to fill.