Does Fran Kirby play at No. 10? We have five questions for England ahead of Euro 2022

Ali Rampling
Fran Kirby looks worried as England prepare for Euro 2022

It feels like only a matter of minutes since Millie Bright and Alexia Putellas were posing together with a golden boot in the cold at February’s Arnold Clark Cup, but suddenly it’s June, the sun’s out and Euro 2022 is hurtling towards us at a quite frankly alarming rate.

England have two final pre-tournament friendlies against the Netherlands and Switzerland before they kick off their Euro 2022 campaign against Austria on July 6.

Sarina Wiegman has been pretty consistent with her personnel and formation since taking the Lionesses hot seat in September. What’s left to still figure out prior to the tournament opener at Old Trafford in less than two weeks’ time?


What will England’s midfield shape be?
Wiegman has almost exclusively played a 4-3-3 formation throughout her tenure, occasionally experimenting with a back three. A 4-3-3 looks the likely formation that England will line up with throughout the tournament, with the only question mark about the shape of the midfield.

During World Cup qualifiers, the Lionesses have lined up with one sitting midfielder – usually Leah Williamson or Keira Walsh – at the base of the midfield triangle, plus two more advanced players. But against Canada and Germany in the Arnold Clark Cup, a double pivot of Walsh and Williamson was put in place at the base of the midfield, with one attacking midfielder sitting ahead of the pair – and this was very effective.

This was also how the Lionesses lined up against Belgium in their first pre-Euro 2022 qualifier, suggesting it could be the favoured formation against stronger opposition and during major tournament football, in comparison to the lower-ranked nations that England tend to rack up convincing victories over in World Cup qualifiers.

However, against Spain in the Arnold Clark Cup, England reverted back to one sitting midfielder in the shape of the traditionally more attack-minded Georgia Stanway. Stanway, alongside Jill Scott and Jordan Nobbs, utilised their energy to disrupt Spain’s usually fluid midfield, demonstrating how changeable Wiegman’s midfield could be at Euro 2022 depending on the opposition.


Who will get the nod in the number 10 role?
England have a few options in the number 10 role who can each offer something a little bit different.

Ella Toone has been used frequently by Wiegman throughout World Cup qualifying and has chalked up a quite ridiculous goal scoring record, netting nine times and providing four assists in just eight appearances. The 22-year-old comes off the back of another strong season with Manchester United, and Euro 2022 will be her maiden senior international tournament with England.

It was touch and go whether Fran Kirby would make the Euro 2022 squad, having not featured since February due to fatigue. The Chelsea forward worked her way back, and – as her 2020/21 form demonstrated – at her best she is one of the finest players in the country. The only question marks over Kirby are whether Wiegman can get the best out of her in this system, and how fit she is after spending the latter months of the season on the sidelines.

Having been given a long-awaited run of games in her preferred number 10 role towards the back end of the season, Georgia Stanway finished the campaign with eight WSL goals – the second best return of her career. Not afraid to try her luck from range, the 23-year-old’s tenacity and experience as a number 8 makes her arguably a slightly more defensive choice than Toone or Kirby.

England women ahead of Euro 2022


Who will start at left-back?
Demi Stokes has been England’s first-choice left-back since 2017. The Manchester City defender has consistently been sound, solid and dependable for both club and country, with her more reserved, defensive approach nicely balancing Lucy Bronze’s marauding, full throttle style on the opposite flank.

Stokes does provide going forward for England too, and links up well with Lauren Hemp – England’s first-choice left winger – having played their club football together at Manchester City for the past four seasons.

But Stokes could face competition for her spot from Jess Carter, who is coming off the back of an outstanding season with Chelsea. The defender has played in just about every position across the back four and back three for the Blues over the course of the campaign, but had her first shot at the England left-back spot cut short due to injury after being forced off in the first half against Germany in the Arnold Clark Cup.

A terrific one v one defender, Carter could be given another outing at left-back in the coming friendlies to stake her claim for a starting spot.


Who will lead the line?
Despite Millie Bright’s best efforts, Ellen White remains England’s first-choice striker. The Manchester City forward actually has the lowest WSL goal return of any of the Lionesses’ main three centre-forward options in the Euro 2022 squad, having hit four during the 2021/22 campaign, compared to Beth England’s eight and Alessia Russo’s nine. However, she has made a habit of peaking at major tournaments in recent years.

White finished as England’s top scorer at the 2019 World Cup with six goals, and carried Team GB through the Tokyo Olympics last summer, netting six times in four matches.

The 33-year-old could face competition from Russo and England, who are both different types of strikers who can offer Wiegman an alternative option to White. Russo is blessed with supreme athleticism and quick feet, and is a really sweet striker of the ball, while England is renowned for her work ethic, link-up play and ability to find the net from outside the box.


How big of a role will Chloe Kelly play?
Chloe Kelly did not make a competitive appearance during the 2021/22 campaign until April, but produced a remarkable surge of form following 11 months out with an ACL injury to force her way into England’s Euro 2022 squad.

The winger is yet another asset in an area where England are not short of depth; Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead were both player of the season at their respective clubs after outstanding individual campaigns, and the pair have enjoyed impressive goal returns for England during World Cup qualifying too. Hemp has six goals and eight assists in eight appearances, while Mead has chipped in with 12 goals and 10 assists.

With her mesmerising feet and wicked deliveries, Kelly can offer a bit of a wildcard option for England this summer. Her performances for City towards the back end of the season proved she is already up to speed and fit enough – it’s just a question of how much game time she will get.