The Curious Case of Ivan Toney: Stick or Twist for Gareth Southgate?
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The Curious Case of Ivan Toney: Stick or Twist for Gareth Southgate?

15/05/24 09:50

The Curious Case of Ivan Toney: Stick or Twist for Gareth Southgate?

Euro 2024 is on the horizon, with less than a week until Gareth Southgate announces his squad who will fly to Germany in June. With UEFA confirming that coaches would be able to select three more players to add to their rosters this summer, it gives Southgate one hell of a headache.

While we are all pondering the inevitable inclusion of an ageing Jordan Henderson, it remains to be seen who will play second fiddle to Harry Kane in Germany.

The obvious option would be Ollie Watkins, but his performances for England have seemed unparalleled to his striking form at club level. Dominic Solanke is also becoming a right pain in the backside of the England manager scoring almost 20 goals for Bournemouth in the Premier League this season. Alternative options include Callum Wilson, who was involved for England at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

But the most puzzling case of them all regards Ivan Toney. Just months ago, the Brentord frontman put on a dazzling display in a 2-2 draw with Belgium in the absence of Harry Kane, scoring his first international goal in the process. Toney had football Twitter in meltdown with his impressive hold up play and ability to drop deep when receiving the ball. An impeccable almost replicating the abilities of the England captain.

Meanwhile, Ollie Watkins failed to grasp his opportunity with a poor performance against Brazil. It seemed that Toney would be the ideal back-up option ahead of the European Championships.

Moreover, Watkins prefers to play on the shoulders of his opposition defenders, latching onto balls that drop behind the defensive line. He plays this role superbly under Unai Emery’s system at Aston Villa but Southgate offers a conflicting approach to football.

His strengths are not enhanced in an England shirt and Southgate could prefer a profile similar to his Captain’s.

However, Toney is without a Premier League goal since mid February after returning from an eight month ban when he was found guilty of breaching FA betting rules.

The former Peterborough striker burst right back onto the scene after his ban expired scoring 4 goals in his first 5 appearances back in the Brentford side. But has not managed to find the net of late.

Toney had been dropped by manager Thomas Frank following his baron spell in front of goal but has since found himself back in the team.

With injuries on other positions, Southgate could prioritise depth in weaker positions.

Harry Kane has only missed 5 games of competitive football since 2021 and is therefore unlikely to miss any of the action unless he is rested. A second striker would of course play a bit-part role in the European Championships and England boast a plethora of wide players who are capable of playing down the middle. Both Bowen and Rashford could be deployed centrally allowing Southgate to call up some extra defensive cover.

With Callum Wilson playing just 65 minutes at Qatar 2022, the obligation for a second striker is not a necessity.

But recency bias can sometimes be blinding, there’s no doubting that Toney would be an asset if Southgate can squeeze him in the 26 man squad. Ivan has scored an impressive 121 goals in English football since 2018 and is subject to interest from several top teams including Arsenal and Liverpool.

The Northampton born centre-forward finished third in the Premier League golden boot race last season, pipped by only Harry Kane and Erling Haaland.

Furthermore, England have an unfortunate tendency to lose on penalties, and with Toney boasting a 93% successful penalty record, his importance from the spot would be immeasurable.

If Gareth Southgate can reignite the Bees’ talisman, he could become a secret weapon from the England bench. But will Ivan Toney get a chance to impress at the Euros, will Ollie Watkins’ impressive league form give him the edge? Or will they both be called up?

Find out on Tuesday the 21st of May.

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