Destination Euro 2020: key questions for England, Scotland and Wales – The Guardian

England

What did the manager learn from these three games? The major take-away was the viability of a return to 4-3-3. Gareth Southgate also tried 4-2-3-1 at the outset against Albania, albeit with less success. He had seemed wedded to 3-4-3, feeling it best covered him in the event of losing key players in areas of weakness, namely left-back and defensive midfield. But the return of Luke Shaw and the continued progress of Kalvin Phillips have changed the dynamic. Ditto the comeback of John Stones in central defence, which gives Southgate further confidence to use a back four, albeit the Manchester City player was guilty of a dreadful lapse to give away a goal against Poland.

Southgate felt Phillips was comfortable in front of the defence or as a No 8, although the Leeds player could be behind James Ward-Prowse in the pecking order for the latter role. Kyle Walker has gone from being first choice on the right of a back three to first choice at right-back and his flexibility raises the prospect of Southgate choosing between Reece James and Kieran Trippier for the European Championship finals. Or maybe the either/or will be in central defence between Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings. Declan Rice, Mason Mount and Phil Foden burnished their reputations.

Which players not involved could still make the squad? Southgate missed a host of players through injury and, of them, Jordan Pickford, Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford are certain to return – assuming they are fit – while Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and possibly Harvey Barnes will do battle with each other, most likely for two places. Danny Ings or Tammy Abraham would be hopeful of inclusion if Southgate were to need cover up front for Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin but Rashford could provide that option, squeezing them out. Pickford’s status as the No 1 goalkeeper looks assured after Nick Pope had a few wobbly moments with his distribution, particularly against Poland. That said, it does feel harsh to judge Pope on the work he has done with his feet when he has done nothing wrong with his hands. Henderson is a worry, with Southgate saying the Liverpool captain faced a fitness race that would go “close to the end of the season” after groin surgery.

Jordan Henderson (left) and Marcus Rashford are certain to return to the England squad if fit.
Jordan Henderson (left) and Marcus Rashford are certain to return to the England squad if fit. Photograph: Ian Walton/Reuters

Fitness permitting, what will be the likely starting XI and tactical approach? 4-3-3: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell; J Henderson, Rice, Mount; Rashford, Kane, Sterling.

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Bankers Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Dean Henderson, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw, Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson (if fit), James Ward-Prowse, Kalvin Phillips, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Hopefuls Sam Johnstone, Kieran Trippier, Reece James, Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings, Eric Dier, Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka, Harvey Barnes, Jesse Lingard, Danny Ings, Tammy Abraham.

On the fringes Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Michael Keane, Harry Winks, Callum Hudson-Odoi, James Maddison, Mason Greenwood, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson.

Scotland

What did the manager learn from these three games?

The pursuit of Che Adams has clearly been worthwhile, with the Southampton striker offering more than any of those in same position available to Steve Clarke. Adams’s movement and link-up play were notable even before the goal threat endorsed by a strike against the Faroe Islands. Kieran Tierney was outstanding in all three matches, allaying any fears that a shift to left centre-back may be problematic to the Arsenal player. David Marshall’s lack of action at Derby is cause for concern should it continue; Craig Gordon’s outstanding first-half save against the Faroes served as a reminder that he is the Scots’ most naturally talented goalkeeper, even at 38.

Which players not involved could still make the squad? Clarke is fiercely loyal to those who deliver. Nonetheless, he is a known fan of Bologna’s Aaron Hickey and the Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour. Hickey and Gilmour have in common a necessity to play regular first-team football between now and May if seeking to afford Clarke food for thought. Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths has been minus fitness and form in recent times but ordinarily would be a natural Scotland scoring threat. Injuries notwithstanding, it would be a surprise if Clarke makes many changes to his squad. He is a coach of habit.

Ryan Fraser scores Scotland’s fourth goal against the Faroe Islands. He has been a success story for Steve Clarke.
Ryan Fraser scores Scotland’s fourth goal against the Faroe Islands. He has been a success story for Steve Clarke. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Fitness permitting, what will be the likely starting XI and tactical approach? Scotland have deployed three at the back as recent routine, partly as a means to accommodate both Tierney and Andrew Robertson. That pair, Scott McTominay, Adams and John McGinn are certain starters be the system 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. Still, the 4-2-3-1 deployed in the second half against Israel was perfectly fluid. Clarke is a huge fan of the centre-back Grant Hanley. Ryan Fraser has been a Clarke success story after international football earlier threatened to pass the Newcastle winger by.

Clarke is pragmatic in approach, which may be necessary in the finals against superior teams. Yet Scotland’s players offer routine indications that they lack belief in their own not inconsiderable ability. Clarke has to balance managing that talent with his own inherent tactical senses.

3-5-1-1: Marshall; Hanley, Cooper, Tierney; O’Donnell, McGregor, McTominay, McGinn, Robertson; Fraser; Adams.

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Bankers David Marshall, Craig Gordon, Jon McLaughlin, Declan Gallagher, Grant Hanley, Scott McKenna, Liam Cooper, Stephen O’Donnell, Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie, John Fleck, Kenny McLean, Scott McTominay, Ryan Jack, John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Ryan Fraser, Oli McBurnie, Che Adams, Lyndon Dykes.

Hopefuls James Forrest, Liam Palmer, Jack Hendry, Greg Taylor, Andrew Considine, Kevin Nisbet, Lawrence Shankland.

On the fringes Leigh Griffiths, Callum Paterson, Oli Burke, Ryan Porteous, Steven Naismith, Billy Gilmour, Nathan Patterson.

Wales

What did the manager learn from these three games? Robert Page and Albert Stuivenberg led the team on the touchline but remained in dialogue with Ryan Giggs throughout, as they did in November. Giggs, who observed the games remotely, will have been encouraged by his side’s spirited displays.

There were celebrations – namely Chris Gunter racking up a century of caps – but also headaches for Page to contend with: three players were sent home for breaching protocols and the Football Association of Wales had to plead with the German authorities to release the St Pauli centre-back James Lawrence for the win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Inevitably, Lawrence was among the standout performers as Wales defended heroically to eke out victory, and Joe Rodon seems to grow in stature with every game.

If Giggs’s situation is not cleared up by next month, at least Wales look good to go – with the match-winner on Tuesday, Daniel James, giving a ringing endorsement of Page’s managerial credentials. “Him and Albert have been unbelievable in getting things across to us,” James said. “That shows in the games.”

Which players not involved could still make the squad? This is where Wales have cause for optimism. They overcame Mexico, ranked ninth in the world, with an experimental side and got their World Cup qualifying campaign up and running without Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Joe Allen, who have 176 caps between them, or the winger David Brooks, also absent through injury.

Davies is expected to slot into left-wing back but fitness concerns continue over Allen and Ramsey, who is back in training at Juventus but has started two of Wales’s past 21 matches. If fit, all three will surely play big parts this summer having memorably reached the semi-finals in 2016.

A wildcard seems unlikely at this stage but Page has kept an eye on the Plymouth striker Luke Jephcott, who has 16 goals in League One this season. Wales are not blessed with strikers and a prolific finish to the campaign may be hard to ignore.

Aaron Ramsey has started only two of Wales’s past 21 matches.
Aaron Ramsey has started only two of Wales’s past 21 matches. Photograph: Rebecca Naden/Reuters

Fitness permitting, what will be the likely starting XI and tactical approach? Wales have had plenty of joy in a 4-2-3-1 but look set to stick with the three-man defence that has served them well since November. A 3-4-3 looks favoured, with boundless energy from wing-back providing width and Gareth Bale on the right of a front three. A key decision will be whether they persist with the false nine trialled across March – playing Harry Wilson there yielded mixed results – or opt for a bona fide striker in the towering Kieffer Moore.

3-4-3: Ward; Ampadu, Rodon, J Lawrence; C Roberts, Morrell, Ramsey, B Davies; Bale, Moore, James.

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How is the squad shaping up?

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Bankers Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Joe Allen (if fit), David Brooks, Chris Gunter, Daniel James, Danny Ward, Joe Rodon, James Lawrence, Connor Roberts, Joe Morrell, Kieffer Moore, Ethan Ampadu, Harry Wilson, Chris Mepham, Wayne Hennessey, Neco Williams.

Hopefuls Ben Cabango, Jonny Williams, Tyler Roberts, Adam Davies, Matt Smith, Rhys Norrington-Davies, Tom Lawrence, Rabbi Matondo.

On the fringes Dylan Levitt, Josh Sheehan, Will Vaulks, Tom Lockyer, Brennan Johnson, Tom King, Hal Robson-Kanu, Brandon Cooper, Luke Jephcott.