Kane out? Time for Shaw? Back three? England XIs to face Netherlands


Sam Blitz: Shaw can fix England’s balance

Sam Blitz's XI

(4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Guehi, Shaw; Rice, Mainoo; Saka, Bellingham, Foden; Kane

England’s three-at-the-back experiment was tactically fascinating but for 80 minutes, the same issues remained. Back to an improved Plan A.

In the chaos of the Switzerland quarter-final, one underrated bonus was Luke Shaw getting 45 minutes. It’s time to start him from the off with the expectation he can play at least an hour against the Netherlands.

That would fix a major issue with England’s lopsided team. Phil Foden can be pushed into his more effective central role with Shaw being a natural high and wide option on the outside.

Ezri Konsa is unlucky to sit out given his calm, solid display against the Swiss, but remember how good Marc Guehi was before his suspension. And the rest of the team picks itself. England arguably have their strongest team available for the first time this tournament.

Ben Grounds: Konsa’s physicality could be crucial

England XI

(4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Konsa, Shaw; Mainoo, Rice, Bellingham; Foden, Saka, Kane.

Let’s be brutally honest. England have only played their best stuff when it’s been chaotic. It doesn’t really matter on paper how they line up because once the game starts, the plan has gone out the window.

The best football they’ve played and the most menacing they’ve looked is when they have thrown panic-ball at the situation. And I don’t mind that, because the structure isn’t really working.

For what it’s worth, I would attack them with Luke Shaw and Phil Foden finally starting down the left. This selection can morph into three at the back with Shaw and Bukayo Saka as wing-backs depending on game state.

Ezri Konsa‘s performance against Switzerland means he cannot be dropped despite Marc Guehi‘s return from suspension. His physicality and aerial dominance at set pieces could prove vital against the Dutch.

Zinny Boswell: Kane a shadow of his best

England XI

(3-4-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Guehi; Saka, Rice, Mainoo, Shaw; Bellingham, Watkins, Foden.

Harry Kane has looked a shadow of his best self at this tournament, perhaps due to injury or just the rigours of the season. Either way, England’s talisman needs a jolt to wake him up – and a rare start on the bench could provide that.

Ollie Watkins hasn’t had much of a look-in so far at Euro 2024, but it makes sense to get someone in that can stretch the Dutch backline and create more room for Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham, who have been cramped by Kane dropping deep so far.

Ivan Toney must be kept back as a closer and a penalty taker. He has carved out that role for himself over the last two games.

Three at the back brought some balance and got Foden in the areas where he can thrive. Hopefully the experience on Saturday can help England push on again on Wednesday. It also offers the chance to change the approach in-game.

Luke Shaw comes in for Kieran Trippier, who struggled offensively on the left. We need crosses in for Watkins and he can provide that on his natural side.

Ezri Konsa drops out for Marc Guehi due to no fault of his own. The Crystal Palace defender has been a stand-out performer for England at this tournament and deserves to return to the starting line-up after serving his suspension.

Peter Smith: Palmer can bring spark England have lacked

England XI

(4-2-3-1): Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Guehi, Shaw; Rice, Mainoo; Saka, Bellingham, Palmer; Kane.

So poor have England been in their general play at this Euros, the merest hint of improvement in the first half against Switzerland was seized upon as progress. But sticking with the back-three formation against the Netherlands – who play 4-2-3-1 – would be an error. Just look at how England lost momentum, dropped deep and allowed Switzerland to come onto them and score the opener in the second half. A similar approach cannot be taken against more dangerous Dutch side.

Instead, a return to a back four – but with important changes in the full-back positions. Trent Alexander-Arnold is in on the right side to give Liverpool clubmate Cody Gakpo something to think about going the other way, while Luke Shaw has shown he is fit to play and can bring some desperately needed threat on the left side. Ahead of him Cole Palmer brings the spark Phil Foden has failed to provide.

Dan Long: Three at the back stays

(3-4-2-1): Pickford; Konsa, Stones, Walker; Shaw, Rice, Mainoo, Saka; Bellingham, Foden; Kane.

England’s change in shape for the quarter-final against Switzerland didn’t, for the most part, quite herald the swashbuckling improvement many were hoping for – but things can only get better, can’t they?

Luke Shaw‘s second-half introduction, following his timely return to fitness, brought balance to the team and I’d start him there, even if he can’t go the full distance in Dortmund. Ezri Konsa was really impressive last time out and keeps his place at the back, unfortunately for Marc Guehi.

I can’t be the only one who really wants to see more attacking threat from Phil Foden, who has only created six chances throughout the tournament to date.

And as for Harry Kane, he looked tired and lethargic on Saturday – but I just can’t see Gareth Southgate leaving his talisman on the bench. In an ideal world, Ivan Toney would be in from the start, but I’d be content to see him utilised earlier, not only for his super-human penalty prowess, but for his aerial threat at both ends of the pitch.

David Richardson: Don’t change a winning team!

England XI

(3-4-2-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Konsa; Saka, Mainoo, Rice, Trippier; Foden, Bellingham; Kane.

England fundamentally improved against Switzerland from a desperately low place so Gareth Southgate must keep the faith with the same team.

Ezri Konsa deserves to start after a faultless performance which is tough on Marc Guehi, but continuity in the back three is needed.

Southgate must be brave with his substitutions to take the game to the Netherlands, making sure Luke Shaw plays a pivotal role in the second half, and shouldn’t be afraid to take off his big hitters like Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden.

England’s front three faltered in the quarter-final – Ivan Toney and Cole Palmer should expect to make a significant impact when called upon.

Oliver Yew: Watkins’ pace can stretch the game for England

England XI

(3-4-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Konsa; Saka, Mainoo, Rice, Shaw; Bellingham, Foden, Watkins.

Despite some improvements against Switzerland, many of the same issues remained for England, however, they showed plenty of resilience and character, and now they have another chance to raise their level again against the Netherlands in the last four.

The big question: what is up with Harry Kane? To me, he doesn’t look fully fit. He’s usually always in the right place at the right time in and around the penalty area, but during this tournament he has looked incredibly off the pace. His performance against Switzerland was reminiscent of the one Cristiano Ronaldo gave for Portugal against France. England, just like Portugal did, need more from their centre forward.

Starting the skipper and England’s talisman for so long on the bench is not an easy decision and one Gareth Southgate won’t take, but Ollie Watkins‘ pace and energy would really boost England, especially up against Virgil van Dijk and Stefan de Vrij. It would also stretch the game more and allow the likes of Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka more space to do their best work. Ivan Toney is unlucky to be overlooked as a starter but his talent from the penalty spot must be kept back in case of a shootout.

The only other change would be Luke Shaw for Kieran Trippier. England still need balance on the left and Shaw’s minutes against Switzerland were a real positive for England. Now is the time for him to start and it could be perfect timing for England. Ezri Konsa impressed against Switzerland and keeps his place ahead of the unfortunate Marc Guehi, despite his return from suspension.

Charlotte Marsh: Trent can dimension to England’s attack

England XI

(4-3-3): Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Guehi, Shaw; Mainoo, Rice, Bellingham; Palmer, Kane, Saka.

Although Gareth Southgate is likely to stick with a back three, like some of my colleagues, I’m switching back to a four.

Trent Alexander-Arnold must be playing on the right and can add to England’s attack. Kyle Walker has looked unconvincing at times, the same too for Kieran Trippier. If he is fit enough, Luke Shaw should line up on the left.

Marc Guehi will go straight back into the squad alongside John Stones, although it is somewhat unfair on an impressive Ezri Konsa.

It’s a travesty that Cole Palmer hasn’t started yet, given much of England’s forward play has lacked creativity and directness – the same too with Anthony Gordon. I’d like to see either line up in place of Phil Foden.

While Harry Kane is always expected to start, bringing on Ivan Toney or Ollie Watkins either in his place or alongside will only help England. The captain continues to struggle after a long season.

Joe Shread: Time has come to unleash Toney

England XI

(4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Guehi, Shaw; Mainoo, Rice, Bellingham; Saka, Toney, Foden.

Harry Kane has been a shadow of himself at Euro 2024. Usually so involved in the build-up, Kane has managed just 17 passes in his last 240 minutes. Usually so hungry for goals, he is conspicuous by his absence when crosses fly into the opposition penalty area.

The time has come to give Ivan Toney his first start in Germany. The striker has shown glimpses of his talent, while he appears to be in much better shape than Kane after resting for the first half of the season.

Elsewhere, Luke Shaw – who proved his fitness against Switzerland – should start against Netherlands. The left-back can provide the width Kieran Trippier is incapable of doing, therefore allowing Phil Foden to drift inside.

In turn, Jude Bellingham should move into midfield, removing the issue of he and Foden occupying each other’s space. It seems to have been forgotten that Bellingham spent most of his career – including the 2022 World Cup – playing as a No 8. The switch would allow him to carry the ball from deep – a particular strength of his – and help to plug the worrying holes in England’s midfield.



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