England: Marc Guehi must act quickly to offset Harry Maguire’s blow at Euro 2024

The omissions of Jack Grealish and James Maddison from Gareth Southgate’s final 26-man squad for the European Championship were the most controversial in a fraught 24 hours that the manager described as his most difficult on the job, but the absence of Harry Maguire was certainly the largest. most consistent.

Grealish and Maddison, for all their charisma and talent, would have been only impact substitutes in Germany, but when fit Maguire was a guaranteed starter.

Without one of his favorite sons, Southgate is short of top-class defensive options and tournament experience in an exciting but top-heavy squad.

Maguire was sacked after the manager learned he would not recover from a calf injury until England’s three group games in the ‘best-case scenario’, and it was difficult for Southgate to ax a player who always delivered for England when it came to mattered. and remained a foundation of his back four.

Who could replace Harry Maguire?

The contenders

Marc Guehi

Looks to be the frontrunner, having started Monday’s match against Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as four of England’s eight qualifiers.

A natural fit on the left, but to Gareth Southgate’s frustration he was unable to play in the March friendlies against Brazil and Belgium due to injury.

It was not until the last day of the season that he returned to the Crystal Palace line-up and subsequently played in midfield.

Admittedly this week he is still rediscovering his rhythm.

Lewis Dunk

The Brighton defender was brought back into the team last autumn, almost five years after what had been his only cap.

Good on the ball, but made worrying mistakes against Brazil and Belgium, with the latter, when bullied by Romelu Lukaku, making similar moves against Roma in the Europa League.

You suspect he wouldn’t win the popular vote among the fans, but Southgate clearly likes him.

Ezri Konsa

The Aston Villa man has impressed Southgate in the last two matches, with the manager making a point of name-checking him in several press conferences.

On his debut against Brazil, he was given a difficult task when he was brought on as an early injury replacement for Kyle Walker in an attempt to defeat Vinicius Jr. control, but he did well.

Has mainly been deployed as a full-back in his three caps, but is versatile, although the combination to the left of the centre-back may not be ideal.

Joe Gomes

With 14 caps, he is technically the most internationally experienced of the quartet of contenders, although he was only recalled in March after almost four years in the wilderness.

The ability to play in any position along the backline has always been seen by the Liverpool man as a useful selection option, but it means he has played very little football at centre-back this season.

It seems more likely that action is seen as a full back.

“[Kieran] Trippier hasn’t had 90 minutes yet, [Luke] Shaw is still a gamble,” said Southgate, explaining the decision. “That would have meant an extra defender as well as Maguire.

“In the end there are ten [defenders] and we are selling ourselves short elsewhere because a higher risk player isn’t going to get there anyway. And by the time he’s fit, he will [has been] seven weeks out.”

Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi is now the main contender alongside John Stones at centre-back in the European Championship, and is expected to get more minutes in the second and final friendly against Iceland at Wembley on Friday.

Guehi, who was sidelined for three months until early May following knee surgery, has gradually emerged as the first substitute for Maguire or Stones since his debut in March 2022, but he has just 10 caps – and no previous experience at a major tournament.

Marc Guehi has become a mainstay of the England team under Gareth Southgate (the FA via Getty Images)

Marc Guehi has become a mainstay of the England team under Gareth Southgate (the FA via Getty Images)

Southgate’s other options at centre-back are Ezri Konsa, who won his third cap against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday, Joe Gomez and Lewis Dunk.

Brighton defender Dunk, who was sidelined on Friday, has six caps to his name and struggled against Belgium in March, while Gomez returned to that camp for the first time in four years after his career was seriously disrupted by a cruciate ligament injury.

Southgate has insisted that all his centre-backs are ‘ready’ to step up, but they are an inexperienced bunch at international level and England could do with a breakout tournament like Guehi or perhaps Konsa, as Maguire did in 2018.

Arsenal defender Ben White may have struggled to get minutes at right-back, where Kyle Walker is still a shoo-in, but he could have been a real contender to start in the middle if he was willing to are called up.

Eric Dier, meanwhile, has fluctuated in form but ended the season well in the Champions League semi-final for Bayern Munich.

Southgate is now likely to pay the price for his loyalty to Maguire, having retained the 31-year-old for a number of years in defiance of the form book, rather than attempting to embed an alternative such as Guehi or the Everton youngster. Jarrad Branthwaite, who was also circumcised.

Maguire started all eight of England’s Euro 2024 qualifiers, including the relative walkovers at home to North Macedonia and Malta, with Guehi watching from the bench.

Now Shaw is not expected to be fit until England’s second group match against Denmark on June 20, after being sidelined with a hamstring problem since February, England will have to start the tournament with a back four of Walker, Stones, Guehi and Trippier; no less experienced, but not particularly convincing either.

However, they are blessed with world-class options further forward, making it difficult to really quibble over axing Grealish or Maddison.

Southgate’s critics have long wanted the manager to prioritize form over reputation, and by selecting Eberechi Eze, Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen and Anthony Gordon after excellent domestic seasons, he has done just that.

Southgate acknowledged that England will be “different” without Maguire; certainly faster and more agile, but less comfortable defending set pieces.

England will undoubtedly miss Harry Maguire at Euro 2024 (The FA via Getty Images)England will undoubtedly miss Harry Maguire at Euro 2024 (The FA via Getty Images)

England will undoubtedly miss Harry Maguire at Euro 2024 (The FA via Getty Images)

Konsa shone in Aston Villa’s ultra-high line but was often unsettled in the air, while Guehi briefly showed his quality on the ball by stepping into Palace’s midfield late in the season, but he has nothing like the towering presence of Maguire in both boxes. .

“We’ll miss Harry’s presence in the air, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s more speed in those boys,” said Southgate.

Stones and his new partner won’t have to wait for the knockouts to be tested, with Serbia’s Aleksandr Mitrovic, Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund and Slovenia’s exciting young forward Benjamin Sesko all waiting in the group stages, which should be positive for the embedding in a new center half.

Whoever steps up – most likely Guehi – will have to adapt quickly, with the likes of France certainly lurking in the knockouts.

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