Concerns Raised at Full-Back in England's 3-0 Victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina: Evaluating Eze and Palmer - A Brief Analysis

The start of a potentially successful summer for Gareth Southgate’ began at St James’ Park on Monday evening, as his team, England, faced off against Bosnia & Herzegovina in the first of two friendly matches before the Euro 2024 tournament.

Ahead of the weekend, the 33-man squad of England was reduced to 26 players, providing an opportunity for the lesser-known members of the team to prove their worth. Some of these players include Jarrod Bowen, Cole Palmer, Eberechi Eze, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who were all selected to start in the match.

However, like in many friendly matches, England’s performance lacked sharpness. They had difficulty penetrating the strong and practical defense of the opposing team in the first half, even though Eze and Palmer showed moments of creativity.

On the hour mark, it was Palmer who put England in the lead by scoring from the penalty spot. This was after VAR noticed a foul on Ezri Konsa. Jarrad Branthwaite and Adam Wharton made their international debuts as substitutes, replacing Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harry Kane. This helped improve the scoreline, although the overall performance may not have been as impressive.

Which players from England stood out positively?

By the end of the week, Southgate will have to select seven players from the initial group of 33 for the Euros. In England’s second-to-last friendly game before the tournament, he evaluated the potential substitutes, contenders and uncertain players.

In general, it was the type of match that is often described by international coaches as a “beneficial training session” or a “productive drill.” In simpler terms, it made one contemplate the complete hopelessness of the human existence.

Are there any exceptions to the usual pattern? Enter Cole Palmer and Eberechi Eze, both receiving their first opportunities to start for their nation and both showcasing a fearless attitude on a night where England had to gradually pick up momentum before showing any sense of urgency.

Palmer, who is known for his impressive performance of scoring 22 goals and providing 11 assists in his first season with Chelsea, strongly dislikes the idea of uncertainty. In his debut season, he played an essential role as a No 10 player supporting Ollie Watkins and constantly strived to create opportunities for his team. In the 60th minute, the 22-year-old confidently converted England’s penalty, displaying his natural talent for the job.

Eze was just as forward-thinking, being open to advancing the ball while others were satisfied with playing it cautiously.

Is there a need to discuss the current state of England’s full-backs?

During one match, there were three different players who were deployed as left-backs, but none of them were natural left-backs and all of them were right-footed.

Trippier, Ezri Konsa and Joe Gomez, who can all operate on that side, have to adapt their playing style in order to do so. For instance, Trippier, who likes to make forward runs and provide early crosses from the right, had to adjust and cut inside instead.

In the meantime, Konsa was deployed as a right-back, left-back and ultimately, as a centre-half, his favoured role. This demonstrates his adaptability, but also implies that Southgate is uncertain about the most suitable way to utilise the defender from Aston Villa.

Luke Shaw, a football player for Manchester United, may not be fit in time for the tournament’s start. Even if he is cleared to play, Shaw has not been on the field since February. While Southgate has other options at left-back, none of them are left-footed or an ideal replacement.

The challenges did not end there for Alexander-Arnold. He was utilized in a dual midfield role, tasked with distributing long passes from a deeper position. Although he performed well in that role, he ultimately scored England’s second goal from his usual position at right-back, executing a spectacular curved volley that evaded the goalkeeper.

The English team consists of several highly skilled players. However, there are still uncertainties surrounding the selection of the left-back and the second deep-midfield position as they prepare for the upcoming tournament.

It took 19 years for Newcastle to finally have the opportunity to host an England match. However, in terms of on-pitch entertainment, it could be argued that this delay was not justified.

A packed audience of 50,061 gathered at St James’ Park for the match against Bosnia, making it a remarkable event beyond the actual game. Wor Flags, a fan community of Newcastle United, put on yet another impressive pre-game show, featuring a prominent St George’s Flag in the East Stand and a display of the lyrics from “It’s Coming Home” on the Gallowgate End with the words “I know that was then, but it could be again” written in bold letters.

Kieran Trippier, the leader of Newcastle, took on the role of captain for his team during the match and received enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. Jordan Pickford, who has ties to Sunderland, was met with a mixed reaction, mostly light-hearted, and was even playfully serenaded with chants of “England’s top goalkeeper.”

Despite the added goals towards the end, the game was not considered a traditional one. However, the Football Association should not delay their return to Tyneside for almost twenty years. The north-east region deserves more opportunities to host international matches and the audience that paid to attend certainly deserves a more enjoyable experience to look forward to in the future.

What were Southgate’s words?

The manager of England was content with the match. He stated to Channel 4 that the opposing team was persistent and resolute.

In terms of physical exertion, it was a satisfying exercise and ultimately a commendable display. The final score accurately portrayed our performance. We had a considerable number of new players to incorporate. Once we overcame that initial resistance, things began to fall into place. Many of the players who were included in the starting line-up had limited experience, making it a challenging start.

Southgate expressed satisfaction with the performances of Eberechi Eze and Cole Palmer, stating that they both played with a sense of liberation. He praised Ebere for his graceful movements and ability to outmaneuver opponents, highlighting his strength. However, Southgate noted that Cole’s hesitation in shooting may have cost him a few opportunities to score.

The positive news is that we have successfully navigated the past few days without encountering any new issues. This is of utmost significance. It was crucial for us to make it through these initial matches in order to gain a better understanding, and the individuals undergoing rehabilitation have performed admirably.

What’s Next for England?

Friday, 7th of June: Iceland (Home), Friendly Match, 7:45pm British Summer Time, 2:45pm Eastern Time

The final match before the initial game. Following this goodbye match at Wembley against their arch-rival from the 2016 European Championship, the next occasion that England will grace the field will be for their opening match of the Euro 2024 group stage against Serbia on Sunday, June 16th.

Click HERE and learn to ‘Win a trip to EURO 2024!

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