Football News

Danny Mills: England playing Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield at Euro 2024 would be a gamble

By Harry Edwards

Published: 10:30, 14 June 2024

Former England defender Danny Mills has spoken about the Three Lions’ chances at Euro 2024 this summer.

Mills discussed the midfield conundrum, including Trent Alexander-Arnold, how far he expects England to go and which player would get into every Three Lions team in history.

There was also room to preview England’s Euro 2024 opener against Serbia and Gareth Southgate’s future.

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We’re now just a few days away from England’s first game of Euro 2024. Which Serbia player should make us most nervous?

I think obviously you’ve got to look at (Aleksandar) Mitrovic, I think, you know, don’t really know what sort of standard of football that he’s been playing, but he’s dangerous. He’s aggressive in several ways. He can cause problems, he can score goals, set pieces will be very, very dangerous. I think Serbia have changed, I think they like to play on the front foot, unlike they used to. You might have expected them to sit back and be more defensive.

So I think he could be a real danger, he’s a goalscorer. And obviously, as we know, our defence is fragile.

What’s your predicted finish for England at this summer’s tournament?

I hope [England win]. But I fear that it could be the semi-finals, I think that would be realistic. And everyone talks about how we’ve got the best squad in the world. We haven’t. We’ve got a fantastic seven or eight players. As I said, our defence isn’t amazing, so that doesn’t help. So I think semi-finals would be it, and I still think that’s relatively successful.

England’s defence is seen by some as the weakest part of their Euro 2024 squad. What are your thoughts on the defence? Could it cause England problems?

Without a doubt. To win the Premier League, to win the Champions League, to win any tournament, you have to have a very, very strong defence. Look at what Real Madrid did to Man City. For all their attacking, they’re strong defensively.

When Manchester City didn’t have Vincent Kompany that season, they struggled defensively, they didn’t win the title. Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool scored more goals than anybody else, they didn’t have a great defence. So yes, you’ve got to score goals, that’s not a problem for England. We’ve got fantastic attacking players. But as you get into the latter stages of the tournaments, and, generally, tournaments throughout, they’re not high-scoring games. It’s not 4-2, it’s not three each, and those types of results. It’s by the odd goal.

Even in the Champions League, it’s tight until the very, very end when one team gets hit on the break and it ends up 2-0. But 1-0 is probably a fair result in that these games are a lot tighter. So if you can keep a clean sheet and you can keep it right, you’ve always got players at the other end of the pitch that are likely to nick you a goal.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is favourite with some bookmakers to start alongside Rice in England’s midfield duo. Do you think it’s a risk or potential masterstroke?

I think it’s a gamble. It’s alright in the group games where you are better than the opposition, you will dominate the ball. And that might be the case when you come up against better teams, you’ve got to have defensive solidity. He gets caught out too often, and I think in the latter stages, especially when you’re playing against better teams, you only need to get caught out once.

You go 1-0 down, you go one behind and you’re struggling, it’s as simple as that. I’d drop (Jude) Bellingham back into a half and half position if you like, between the eight and the 10, or between the six and the eight. And then play (Phil)_ Foden as an eight or eight-slash-10, a little bit lopsided. Declan Rice as the holder. Although Declan Rice has done great going forward a little bit more, we don’t have many options and it’s about finding the balance. But I think as good as Trent is, one of the best players on the ball, with the defence we have I think it’s a bit of a risk and a bit of a gamble.

Gareth Southgate said “If we don’t win, I probably won’t be here anymore.” Who would you be most excited to see replace him as England manager if he does go?

I think it’s a difficult one. I think the FA will want to put somebody in place that has been in the system, probably English. Although I know, obviously, Lee Carsley isn’t English, but he almost is if that makes sense, he’s not too far from it having coached the under-21s and everybody else.

It’s difficult. You look at who is available, who’s going to come in and do that job? It’s not an easy job as we know. It’s very, very difficult. The pressures, if you don’t win you’re a failure, simple as that. We’ve seen that with Gareth. Although he’s been one of the most successful English managers, he’s had an awful lot of stick for what he’s done.

I think it’s difficult. People talk about big names, but are those big names realistically going to want to take the job? I don’t think they are. So I think it is a difficult one and I know he said if they don’t win he probably isn’t in a job anymore. He’s a good friend of mine, I’m close to him. If they don’t get out of the group, even I want him sacked! That’s the reality of football, that’s how it is. But I think, again, if they get to a semi-final, get to a final and lose on penalties or by one goal, you have to be realistic. The players that he’s got, the team that he’s building, do we have a better chance with somebody else? I’m not convinced we do.

Now that it seems Manchester United will keep Erik ten Hag on, where can you see Southgate managing next?

I hope he has a rest, and I hope he steps away from it and has some time to himself for a year. He’s been an England manager that has been 100% invested from start to finish, that’s not been in question. Everything he’s done, he’s incredibly diligent, incredibly hard-working in what he does. The criticism, the media intrusion is tough.

For the sake of himself, take a year out Gareth and then assess it after that. That would be my advice to him. There’s no need to jump straight back in, there’s no point in that. He’s at a stage in life now where his kids have left home, he needs to enjoy life. He’s had eight years of being up against it, if you like. And everything that he’s had to deal with in that time, through covid, through championships and everything else. So if he does decide to walk away, go and have a decent holiday Gareth.

Who are the best right-backs going to Euro 2024?

Kyle Walker’s still up there, he has to be. He’s one of the best players if he plays to form. He’s one of the best England right-backs we’ve ever seen, simple as that. When people talk about the great teams of 2004-2005 and the incredible defence and squad of players you had at that time, Kyle is one of the only players that gets into those teams. There aren’t too many.

There’s an argument for Foden, there’s an argument for Bellingham. But are they better than (Frank) Lampard, (Steven) Gerrard and (Paul) Scholes? It’s difficult. There’s a debate to be had but it’s not clear and obvious. Kyle Walker, over the course of history, walks into pretty much every single England team on form. So Kyle Walker is still the standout right back at the tournament.

Did England’s results in the warm-up games change any of your thoughts about the capabilities of this England team?

No, not at all. I think we always knew the defence would be an issue. Warm up games are warm up games, they’re irrelevant. You even have to look at group games, sometimes. Portugal won the Euros, they didn’t even win a game in their group. Spain, when they won the World Cup, lost their opening game. It’s not a reflection.

It’s not about how you start, it’s about where you finish. I actually think it might do them a little bit of good, having lost to Iceland. Because it gives you a little bit of a kick up the backside to say, ‘look, you cannot be complacent, you cannot rest on your laurels’. You have to go there and perform, simple as that. So in a strange sort of way, I actually think it might be a good thing that it wasn’t just an easy victory with an average performance.

Danny Mills was speaking to Squawka on behalf of BetVictor.