Gabby Agbonlahor slams Southgate's Euro 2024 tactics, demands more playtime for Ollie Watkins

England v Slovakia: Round of 16 - UEFA EURO 2024
England v Slovakia: Round of 16 - UEFA EURO 2024 / Inaki Esnaola/GettyImages

Aston Villa legend Gabby Agbonlahor has expressed his frustration with Gareth Southgate's management of the England squad during Euro 2024, particularly the limited playing time given to Ollie Watkins. Despite England's progression to the quarter-finals, Agbonlahor believes Southgate's decisions have been questionable.

England's journey in the tournament has been challenging, with the Three Lions securing a spot in the quarter-finals after a hard-fought extra-time victory against Slovakia. The match was notable for Ezri Konsa, who made his tournament debut. However, it was another night of disappointment for Ollie Watkins, who remained on the bench.

Agbonlahor has been vocal about his displeasure with Southgate's decisions, especially regarding the treatment of Watkins. In England's four games at Euro 2024, the Aston Villa striker has only played 20 minutes, coming on as a substitute during the group stage draw with Denmark. Agbonlahor believes that Watkins deserves more playing time, given the lacklustre performances of some of England's key players. Agbonlahor said,

"It just doesn't make sense, everyone watching the game can see the fact that Harry Kane is doing nothing. Foden is not working on the left, Saka wasn't at his best. Make the changes, it's not rocket science, Watkins is hungry, look when he came on earlier in the tournament, he's there making runs in behind. That's what we needed yesterday [v Slovakia] but because Harry Kane scored now, that's why you keep him on, he's a goalscorer, no, Watkins would have scored that goal, Toney would have scored that goal, make the right changes. Anyone is droppable."

Gabby Agbonlahor via talkSPORT

Agbonlahor's call for more minutes for Watkins is backed by the striker's impressive form for Aston Villa. Watkins contributed to 32 goals in the 2023/24 Premier League season, showcasing his playmaking and scoring abilities. Despite this, he has seemingly fallen down Southgate's pecking order, with Ivan Toney being preferred as a substitute in the Slovakia match.

Ollie Watkins
Denmark v England: Group C - UEFA EURO 2024 / Franco Arland/GettyImages

The former Aston Villa player argues that Watkins' dynamic playing style could offer a much-needed alternative to Harry Kane's more static approach. He insisted that anyone could have scored the goal that Kane did, emphasising the need for fresh legs and new strategies.

Agbonlahor's criticism extends beyond just Watkins' playing time. He believes that Southgate's reluctance to make timely substitutions and tactical adjustments is holding the team back. He explained that midfielders love a striker who can run in behind, creating space for other players.

He also suggested changes in other positions, advocating for Phil Foden to be moved to the middle and for Eberechi Eze or Anthony Gordon to start on the left. Agbonlahor added that Foden is not working on the left and has not been used to playing there for Manchester City.

As England prepares for their quarter-final clash with Switzerland, the pressure is on Gareth Southgate to make the right tactical decisions. With Ivan Toney making an impression off the bench and Ollie Watkins eager to contribute, Southgate faces a crucial decision on how to best utilise his attacking options.

Agbonlahor's passionate plea for change reflects a broader sentiment among fans and pundits who believe that England's current approach is not maximising the team's potential. The Three Lions have the talent and depth to go far in the tournament, but many feel that Southgate's management style is holding them back.

The pressure is mounting on Southgate to deliver success for England at Euro 2024. With the quarter-finals looming, he will need to make some tough decisions if he wants to lead his team to glory.