England starting XI v Slovenia ranked on chances of being dropped by Gareth Southgate

Lewis Oldham
England Euro 2024
Could Gareth Southgate drop Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Conor Gallager?

The Clamour for Gareth Southgate to make changes to England’s starting XI are growing ahead of the Euro 2024 knockout stages with less than a handful of players currently justifying their place in the team.

Pre-tournament, Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham were expected to be two of the standout performers in Germany but are facing calls to be dropped after underwhelming massively during the group stagesTheir undroppable status is perhaps no longer intact, but their standing in Southgate’s mind makes them far, far more likely than others to remain in the side.

That being said, changes are required to breathe life into England and this sentiment was reinforced by the substitutes making a positive impact off the bench against Slovenia. So we’ve tried to get in Southgate’s mind and ranked his latest starting XI (based on his thinking) on their chances of being dropped for the knockout stages…


11) Jordan Pickford
Few England players are beloved by Southgate more than Everton’s number one.

The 30-year-old has always stepped up his performances when playing for The Three Lions, but he’s also become increasingly reliable at club level, with his 2023/24 form (and the struggles of others) reaffirming his place as Southgate’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Despite finishing top of Group C, England’s critics grew increasingly irate as Southgate’s misfiring players flattered to deceive in their first three games. But their defence has been a rare positive and Pickford’s position in the team is not in doubt as he is yet to be seriously tested.


10) John Stones
Without long-term centre-back partner Harry Maguire, the pressure was on Stones to have a leading role for England at Euro 2024 in the heart of their defence.

Like Maguire, Stones was an injury concern heading into the tournament but has overcome his difficulties to play in all three of England’s group matches.

He’s one of several victims of Southgate’s negativity as the freedom he’s given at Man City within Guardiola’s fluid system is not adopted by his national team boss, but his performances have done nothing to alter the view that he’s England’s best defender.


9) Marc Guehi
The Crystal Palace star was a concern heading into this tournament, but he’s been pretty magnificent as he’s slotted in seamlessly next to Stones to comfortably be England’s best player *so far*.

The unexpected star of Euro 2024 had a couple of nervy moments against Slovenia, but generally, he’s been imperious.

In other positions, Southgate is spoilt for choice with brilliant attacking players coming out of his ears. But this is not the case at centre-back and Guehi’s start to the tournament leaves him in a cushty position as one of Southgate’s few undroppable players.


8) Harry Kane
Had this list been based on player performance, Kane would be a few places lower. He’s off the mark for the tournament with one goal, but his centre-forward play has rightly been criticised as he is not providing enough threat in an area of the pitch where England has severely lacked substance.

Unlike previous tournaments, Kane has a capable deputy in the squad as Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins provides a genuine alternative that should have been exploited more during the group stages.

Kane has been subbed off once in three games and Southgate will stick by his captain unless his fitness concerns are more serious than he’s letting on and he requires a rest.


7) Jude Bellingham
The 20-year-old’s performances in England’s last two matches have been a far cry from his mouth-watering display in the tournament opener against Serbia.

The Real Madrid superstar has been ineffective in two straight games as 180 minutes of football have passed him by. That’s certainly not like him, but the youngster’s evident tiredness has exposed his – at times – poor in-match decision-making.

This will improve with time and he’d certainly benefit from being moved deeper to play as a No.8 alongside Declan Rice, but Southgate’s stubborn “strange” use of Bellingham and Phil Foden is likely to see the Brummie remain as a No.10. He remained on the pitch against Slovenia when he shouldn’t have, so he will be ‘rested’ rather than ‘dropped’ if he’s to slip out of Southgate’s XI.


6) Declan Rice
Much of the debate surrounding England’s best team centres on the midfield position. Oh how we miss the best player of our generation, Kalvin Phillips.

Yet Rice has escaped most of the Clamour discussion, with the conversation being about who should partner the £100m Arsenal star.

Like Stones, Rice is playing with shackles on due to Southgate’s infuriatingly negative tactics and has been a shadow of his best self at the tournament after three games. He’ll hopefully perform better alongside his third different staring centre-midfield partner next time out.

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5) Kyle Walker
Provided a vital contribution in England’s best moment of the tournament so far with Bellingham’s goal against Serbia, but it’s been downhill since for the Man City veteran.

His pace remains a cheat code that Southgate loves to exploit, but he offered nothing going forward against Slovenia en route to being shuffled over to left-back after Trent Alexander-Arnold came on at right-back, thus confirming that terrible midfield experiment has ended.

This change was interesting and could offer a hint at a possible switch Southgate is considering for the next game to help ease England’s issues on the left flank.


4) Phil Foden
The Premier League’s best player was one of England’s better performers against Slovenia
, but in reality, that isn’t saying very much.

Anthony Gordon’s briefest of cameos off the bench against Slovenia offered a much-needed spark that’s been missing on the left, as Foden remains insistent on drifting inside at any given opportunity.

The most popular England XI would see Foden made a No.10, while Bellingham partners Rice in a deeper role. But with Southgate refusing to see the light and the Real Madrid star preferred, the City standout is more likely to drop out of the XI if Gordon – as he should – is drafted in as the new left winger.


3) Bukayo Saka
The Arsenal star boy was electric at the start of the Serbia game, but he’s been unable to follow that with similarly exciting performances as he’s been alarmingly reserved on the right flank.

Saka was not alone in carrying an injury before the tournament started and this may still be impacting him.

He’s previously been brilliant for England and Southgate as he’s been a sure-fire starter on the right wing, but he’s not having a say in games and Cole Palmer’s eye-catching major tournament debut has strengthened calls for him to be picked over Saka.

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2) Kieran Trippier
The Newcastle United star is one of England’s glaring problems, but he’s really not to blame. He’s been pretty faultless from a defensive point of view, but his lack of a left foot (and the baffling use of Foden) is ensuring Southgate’s side has been ineffective on that side all tournament.

Luke Shaw (and Ben Chilwell, to a lesser extent) has been sorely missed as England’s world would immediately look a whole lot brighter if the Man Utd star magically returned to fitness.

The chances of Shaw returning have decreased after he could not manage a single minute in the group stages, but the potential use of Walker at left-back could still see Trippier taking a seat on the bench as a substitute in the round of 16.


1) Conor Gallagher
The 24-year-old is coming off a brilliant season for Chelsea and he absolutely warrants a place in the England squad. But one of the biggest issues facing Southgate’s side is the lack of control they have in midfield, so it was infuriating that the manager opted to call upon his one-dimensional runner to start in Alexander-Arnold’s place ahead of Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton.

In a very unsurprising development, Gallagher was as poor from the start against Slovenia as he was off the bench against Denmark. Southgate thankfully recognised his mistake and took the Chelsea academy product off at half-time.

His replacement – Mainoo – fared much better next to Rice and it’s now hard to imagine him not starting in England’s first knockout stage against Slovakia. But even if he doesn’t, it certainly should not be Gallagher in the XI as Wharton or Bellingham in a deeper role would fit better. Hell, at this point, get Alexander-Arnold back in there if it means the terrier won’t start.

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