Ezri Konsa ready to step up as England's defensive saviour in Guehi's absence

England v Slovakia: Round of 16 - UEFA EURO 2024
England v Slovakia: Round of 16 - UEFA EURO 2024 / Carl Recine/GettyImages

Ezri Konsa is poised to step into the spotlight as England prepares for their Euro 2024 quarter-final clash against Switzerland. With Marc Guehi suspended, manager Gareth Southgate faces a crucial decision in filling the defensive void, and Konsa appears to be the frontrunner for the role. Konsa's readiness to take on this responsibility is evident. He asserts,

"I'm always ready, it's not my decision, it's down to the gaffer. If I'm in, I'll always be ready to do my job."

His impressive club form, which played a significant role in Aston Villa's qualification for the Champions League, secured his place in Southgate's squad for the tournament.

Despite being on the periphery of the England side in Germany, Konsa acknowledges the magnitude of potentially playing in the quarter-final, describing it as a special moment in his career. Reports suggest that Southgate is considering a tactical shift to a back three against Switzerland, and Konsa's recent performance and versatility make him a strong candidate for this role.

Konsa's adaptability has been a hallmark of his career, having played across various defensive positions, including right-back and left wing-back. His recovery pace, precise tackling, and intelligent positioning have established him as a modern-day defender capable of thriving in high-pressure situations.

The influence of former England captain John Terry, who mentored Konsa during his time at Aston Villa, cannot be overstated. Terry's guidance has been instrumental in shaping Konsa into a confident and reliable defender.

Additionally, the meticulous coaching of Aston Villa manager Unai Emery has further refined Konsa's skills, focussing on body shape, triggers to step up, and playing out from the back.

Konsa's inclusion in the England squad mirrors the impact he has steadily made at Aston Villa. His emerging reputation has garnered attention from national broadcasters, who recently visited his old school, Cumberland College, to interview teachers and pupils. Working closely with Southgate over the past month has highlighted Konsa's finer nuances, athleticism, and reading of the game.

Konsa's knack for drawing fouls near the right corner flag has become a hallmark of Villa's matches, highlighting his composure and quick thinking under immense pressure. Former manager Dean Smith likened him to a "Rolls-Royce" for his smooth and elegant style of play, and current boss Unai Emery has been equally lavish in his praise of the young defender's abilities.

Southgate's decision to trial Konsa at left-back in training, as cover for Kieran Trippier, demonstrates a belief in the defender's malleability. Emery's choice to deputise Konsa at right-back, often ahead of Matty Cash, was influenced by Konsa's aptitude in one-on-one situations. Last season, Konsa ranked in the top two percent among centre-backs in Europe's top five leagues for the fewest challenges lost against dribblers.

Konsa's recovery pace is arguably his greatest asset, a key component of Emery's high offside trap. This contrasts with England's approach in their first four games, where Southgate's defence has sat deep, resulting in large gaps between the lines and a malfunctioning press.

All eyes will be on Southgate's decision and Konsa's potential impact on the game. His versatility, tactical awareness, and confidence could be the key to bolstering England's defence and propelling them further in Euro 2024.