Monday 2 September 2019 11:26 am

Gareth Southgate has tactical decisions to make after picking young England squad

It will come as no surprise to see that Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad contains some fresh and exciting faces and the emphasis firmly fixed on youth.

During his tenure in charge of the Three Lions he has never shied away from selecting youngsters and in his latest squad a number of the country’s best and brightest talents have been rewarded for starting the new season well. 

But while that has been part of the England DNA under Southgate’s regime, so has the constant evolution of personnel and tactics.

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With Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo this weekend, and the tournament itself less than 10 months away, now is the time for Southgate to establish the winning formula that will take England the distance next summer – such are the expectations he has set for this side and himself.

For these two qualifiers, Southgate has called up Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrone Mings for the first time and retained Mason Mount, 20, and James Maddison, 22, from the summer following their flying starts to the new season.

There are also recalls for Harry Winks, Kieran Trippier, Nick Pope and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Kyle Walker was the shock omission, with Southgate calling it “an opportunity to have a look at two young players” in Wan-Bissaka and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Trent Alexander-Arnold could be England’s first choice right-back after Kyle Walker was omitted from squad

The average age of this squad is 25.6 years old, with just four outfield players over 26 and none older than 30.

But it will also be interesting to see how Southgate elects to line up his side on Saturday when they host Bulgaria, having seemingly left behind the 5-3-2 formation that served England so well at last year’s World Cup.

Southgate initially continued in the same vein at the start of the Nations League campaign, but a defeat to Spain and draw in Croatia presented him with the need to freshen it up.

He decided to adopt variations on the popular 4-3-3 allowing the team to capitalise on the speed of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, while also having two holding midfielders – typically any two of Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Fabian Delph and Winks.

Earlier this year Declan Rice also entered the fray and Southgate toyed with using more attacking options in one team, introducing the currently injured Callum Hudson-Odoi and trialling a system with just one deep-lying midfielder, before transitioning back to a more defensive 4-3-3 for the Nations League finals.

The emergence of Declan Rice has given Southgate another option in central midfield

It is possible that, following England’s disappointing semi-final defeat to Holland in June, Southgate could revert to a back five or alternatively come up with a new approach altogether.

If he is to stick with the 4-3-3 that he has used over the past 12 months, then it seems likely he will continue with Sterling and Sancho either side of Kane or Rashford up front.

But it is the make-up of the midfield trio behind them that will indicate the manner in which he wants this England side to play. 

Having previously preferred deeper-lying midfielders such as Henderson, Winks and Rice, the form of creative midfielders Mount and Maddison will have given him something to think about. 

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There will also be opportunity for Alexander-Arnold, Wan-Bissaka and Michael Keane to impress in the absence of Walker and John Stones.

On the one hand, with England on top of Euro 2020 qualifying Group A, these two matches present an opportunity for Southgate to try new ideas. 

But on the other, with limited fixtures between now and next summer, England may decide it is more prudent to settle on a formation and style that the team can perfect heading into Euro 2020.