What is England's Foden problem?
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What is England's Foden problem?

17/06/24 13:01

Phil Foden - Gareth’s big conundrum

In Phil Foden, England have the current PFA Player of the Year so why was he so anonymous against Serbia? And what can Gareth Southgate do to get the best out of one of Europe’s elite players.

Fresh from his stellar debut season at Real Madrid, Jude Bellingham has moved into a more traditional number 10 position, shifting Foden to the left of England’s attacking quartet and Trent Alexander-Arnold slotting in as a number 8, a position unfamiliar to the Liverpool right-back. Against Serbia, there seemed to be a real quandary for the team – Harry Kane had just 2 touches in the first half! England struggled to get Foden into the game, despite him trying to drift all over the pitch to get involved. This then meant England had no width down the left-hand side despite Kieran Trippier’s best endeavours.

England looked boring, painfully slow and out of ideas, and this invited Serbia onto them for most of the second half. Foden, Bellingham and even Kane, who loves to drop deep, all occupied the same position and Southgate needs to change this for the next game, against Denmark on Thursday.

One option would be to drop Bellingham back into his traditional midfield position as a number 8, giving him the freedom to use his energy to be a threat in both boxes. This would result in Trent being dropped to the bench, and Anthony Gordon coming into the side on the left-hand side to provide a lot more width. Gordon would also link up with Trippier, his Newcastle team-mate, and offer England a lot of pace, something which was lacking against Serbia. Foden could then slot into the number 10 role, and with England set to dominate the ball once again, his touches in and around the area is going to be crucial.

Another possible option for Southgate would be to drop Phil Foden. Whilst this may seem a strange decision – how can you currently drop the supposed best player in the Premier League. Foden’s record for England (4 goals in 34 appearances) isn’t anything special and it has been one of the question marks of Gareth’s management style – he has never been able to get the best out of Foden. By dropping Foden, Southgate then has numerous options who could replace him – Anthony Gordon, Eberechi Eze and Cole Palmer will all be eyeing up the opportunity to showcase what they can do, especially as they all sat on the bench for the game against Serbia.

Foden is best when he controls the game and so could Foden replace Trent in the midfield 2 and enable him to get on the ball a lot more. Whilst many believe that Trent has the capabilities to unlock defences, especially those with a low block, there Is no doubting Foden’s ability to find space, and to find crucial passes through the opposition. He would benefit from having runners and movement around him, and players he can play intricate balls with. Foden would be able to utilise Gordon’s pace down the left, Bellingham’s runs into the box and Kane’s finishing prowess to finally showcase to the England fans what he is made of. Declan Rice showed against Serbia that he is able to do the dirty work alone, and so with England coming up against the back 3 of Christensen, Andersen and Vestergaard, playing between the lines is going to be crucial to pull the defenders out of their natural position.

Whatever Gareth decides, and it might well be he names an unchanged XI, he needs to find a way to get the best out of Phil Foden and Harry Kane, as it could be the difference in Football Finally Returning Home!

Benji Kosartiyer
Journalist
Andrew Boughton

Football Writer

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