HomeFootballGareth Southgate's Bold Move: Starting Kobbie Mainoo vs Belgium

Gareth Southgate’s Bold Move: Starting Kobbie Mainoo vs Belgium


Gareth Southgate’s Bold Move: Starting Kobbie Mainoo vs Belgium

After England’s defeat by Brazil, Gareth Southgate has the opportunity to make a bold move by starting 18-year-old Manchester United starlet Kobbie Mainoo alongside Declan Rice in midfield against Belgium. Although it is more likely that Southgate will opt for Jordan Henderson or Conor Gallagher, Southgate is certain about nine out of the eleven starting places for the Euros opener against Serbia on June 16. However, there is still a gap in central midfield alongside Rice.

Southgate is skeptical about Mainoo filling the void and has previously favored Henderson and Kalvin Phillips for that role. Phillips is currently out of form on loan at West Ham, while Henderson, who turns 34 during the tournament, semi-retired last summer but then decided to play in Amsterdam. Southgate’s Plan A was to start Trent Alexander-Arnold alongside Rice in midfield, but Alexander-Arnold was ruled out due to a knee injury.

Mainoo made his debut as a substitute for Gallagher in Saturday’s loss to Brazil and impressed Southgate with his composed moments on the field. However, Southgate does not seem willing to start him against Belgium. Southgate referred to Mainoo “dipping his toe” and suggested that he would not have featured at all against Brazil if he didn’t need to keep Gallagher fresh for a possible start against Belgium.

Mainoo has been a regular starter for Manchester United for the past four months and possesses the defensive abilities to operate as the ‘number six’, allowing Rice to get forward more. However, Southgate still needs to consider Mainoo’s positional play and other attributes that need further development. An audition against Belgium would provide a good opportunity to assess Mainoo’s readiness for the summer tournament.

Although Southgate has been bold in trusting talented teenagers like Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho before, there seems to be greater reluctance with Mainoo, especially given the need for experience and wisdom in a defensive midfield role. There may be groans if Henderson or Gallagher start against Belgium, but Southgate is not concerned about public opinion as these Euros will likely be his last as England boss.

In addition to the midfield dilemma, Southgate also needs to find an alternative for Luke Shaw at left-back. Shaw is unlikely to prove his full fitness before Germany, and Ben Chilwell’s performance as his understudy was unimpressive. Kieran Trippier, a right-back who has often filled in on the left, is the most likely candidate to start at left-back against Serbia.

Overall, Southgate’s decision on whether to start Mainoo against Belgium will reveal his willingness to take risks and trust emerging talents. With the Euros approaching, it is crucial for Southgate to find the right balance between experience and potential in his squad selection.

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