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England may base Euro 2024 selection on players’ reactions to being subbed off

Kieran Trippier is substituted off by England manager Gareth Southgate during their recent friendly with Bosnia and Herzegovina

Gareth Southgate has been profiling the England players to see how they react to being substituted or being a substitute during a game.

The England manager intends to fully utilise the five replacements that are permitted during the forthcoming European Championship believing this could be the squad’s “super strength”.

Southgate will stress the point that the array of talent, especially in the attacking areas, must be used to the maximum to be successful during the tournament in Germany.

It means players will have to understand they may not appear for the full 90 minutes, or have to accept a role off the bench.

As part of that Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland have been paying particular attention to player behaviour for their clubs and for their country.

Southgate does not have the players every week, as clubs do, so must work harder to find out about their personalities and characters. It makes the profiling even more important to gain added insight.

England build not just a tactical and technical report of every player who is scouted but a mental profile also which goes back to the old adage that not everyone wears the Three Lions shirt lightly.

That profiling extends to how a player responds to being asked to perform in a slightly different position.

England are particularly blessed in the forward areas with the manager believing that there are several players who are almost interchangeable.

It means he can freshen his team up with replacements who will not weaken his side. Given the demands of the season Southgate reasons this can improve England’s chances.

Manager does not expect starting players to finish the game

A theme of the preparations for Euro 2024 has been fitness and also the ‘load’ – with players having played varying numbers of minutes on the pitch. Southgate is acutely aware that he needs to manage that carefully and has done so in the two warm-up games before flying to Germany.

Southgate made six substitutions – allowed because it was a friendly – during the 3-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park on Monday. Five of those were made just after the hour and were pre-planned.

“Some had had enough minutes, some we want to go again…Various things we wanted to see but also changes that were planned,” Southgate later said.

He then made another six in the 1-0 loss to Iceland – with four of those, again, coming just after the hour. Southgate will probably not make such wholesale changes at one time at the Euros but wants to use his bench to the full.

The manager is excited by the choices available to him in the attacking areas and he intends to be bold. In team meetings he will hammer home the message that the team that starts a game cannot expect to finish a game.

That is the way of modern football, anyway, but the squad needs to fully buy into the power of the collective and Southgate wants that to be evident during the tournament.

The manager will reiterate that football, unlike golf or tennis, is a team game and that team extends beyond the 11 on the pitch. It is also seen as a way of maintaining morale and competition. The fact the players are familiar with a large number of subs being used with their clubs will help.

Southgate has talked about this in the past having adopted the England rugby union team use of “finishers” instead of substitutes under Eddie Jones. The former coach coined the term for replacements rather than seeing his non-starting team as “the bench”.

Gareth Southgate (left) the England manager brings on 4 substitutes in the 2nd half England v Iceland, International Friendly, Wembley Stadium, London
Southgate has borrowed some of Eddie Jones' theory about the importance of second-half substitutes - Shutterstock/Matt Impey

Three windows to make five substitutions

Last month Uefa not just confirmed that coaches were allowed to select up to 26 players for their squads but that five substitutions would be permitted during the tournament’s matches.

This, of course, is in line with what is now allowed in all major leagues and was also the case at the 2022 World Cup and the last European Championship when it was regarded as a temporary measure.

Once again managers will only have three windows to make all five changes during the 90 minutes. A sixth substitution will be allowed should a game go into extra-time in the knock-out stages.

Southgate used his subs during the last World Cup with all five coming on against Iran in the opening group game, then three against the United States and five again against Wales. In the last-16 tie against Senegal Southgate once more used all five and then four in the quarter-final exit to France.

However the key to Euro 2024 is Southgate’s belief that he has an even stronger squad this time round, with far more options going forward, and England’s chances can be vastly improved if he makes the right substitutions and uses the quota that is available to him. Those who react in a positive manner are therefore most likely to be turned to.

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