England manager Gareth Southgate has dismissed calls from fans to use Manchester City’s Phil Foden in a central role to address the Three Lions’ lack of creativity.
It was Jordan Henderson who started alongside Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice in England’s recent 1-1 draw with Ukraine, but the Al Ettifaq man failed to offer any real source of creativity and supporters were quick to call for Southgate to bring Foden in against Scotland on Tuesday.
Foden, who spends most of his time for club and country playing as a winger, is keen to play centrally, and confessed in March: “I’ve always seen myself playing there. Hopefully, I can adapt and become a midfielder – that’s my aim.”
Asked whether using Foden as a midfielder was under consideration, Southgate pointed to Pep Guardiola’s use of the Englishman as a winger as evidence that it may not be the best plan moving forward.
“He doesn’t [play in the middle] for his club,” Southgate told the assembled media. “So presumably there is a reason for that. It depends on the level of the game, really.
“In the middle of the park, everyone wants to talk about the [team] with the ball, but there is a lot of detail without the ball and in games, like at the weekend [against Ukraine]. You are playing opponents who are so clever with their passing and movement that you have to be spot on with pressing angles, your responsibilities and if you don’t, you don’t get the flow of the game.
“You’d have to speak to Pep, who is the best coach in the world, who plays him from wide. He’s always got the freedom to drift if we play him wide and that’s important.”
Pushed on Foden’s desire to play in midfield, Southgate replied: “But he doesn’t play there!”
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Southgate, who also admitted to having spoken with Guardiola about Foden’s best position, then insisted that he remains delighted with the City star’s role in the team, referencing his continued improvement as the years go on.
“We are very happy with Phil,” he continued. “He’s played in the Euros, came on in the semi-final of the Euros and had a big impact, he’s played in World Cups for us, he’s only 23 years old, he’s got amazing experiences. He is still progressing and learning but he is a super player for us to have.
“We have expectations of every player and he’s a player who has been with us from a young age and was on the team that won the junior [Under-17] World Cup, but he’s battling against Bukayo [Saka] and Marcus [Rashford], and all of the other players we have in that area of the pitch for us – and at his club, with an incredibly high level of players.
“Again we are not involved in his day-to-day development, but I’m sure that Pep would feel the same. He has played in really important matches for them, in a team that has won so much, so we are happy with his progress.”
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