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Euro 2024: Southgate faces Foden dilemma ahead of England’s clash with Danes

Gareth Southgate faces a dilemma with Phil Foden as the England midfielder struggles to replicate his exceptional performances for Manchester City on the international stage.

Despite England having the opportunity to secure a spot in the Euro 2024 knockout phase by defeating Denmark in Frankfurt, Foden’s recent underwhelming displays for his national team have sparked discussions about Southgate’s utilization of his considerable talent.

In England’s tense 1-0 victory over Serbia in their Group C opener in Gelsenkirchen, the 24-year-old failed to make a significant impact. Despite being named the Premier League’s Player of the Year after playing a pivotal role in Manchester City’s fourth consecutive title triumph with 19 goals and eight assists, Foden has consistently struggled to find his form when wearing the Three Lions jersey.

During England’s journey to the Euro 2020 final, Foden made subdued starts in the initial two matches and only played for an additional 25 minutes before missing the final against Italy due to injury. His performance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was similarly inconsistent, contributing just one goal in his last 13 international appearances.

Southgate’s decision to deploy Jude Bellingham as the number 10 and utilize Bukayo Saka on the right flank pushed Foden to the left wing against Serbia. However, this positioning has often left Foden looking out of place among the three attacking midfield roles supporting England striker Harry Kane.

At Manchester City, manager Pep Guardiola seamlessly integrates Foden as a central attacking midfielder or occasionally on the right wing. Guardiola trusts Foden to control the team’s tempo, and this season, Foden has flourished even more in the absence of the injured Kevin De Bruyne.

However, against Serbia, Foden struggled to showcase the skills, precise passing, and clinical finishing that have earned him comparisons to former Barcelona and Spain legend Andres Iniesta, a favorite among City fans.

Former Manchester City and England defender Micah Richards questioned whether Southgate’s deployment of Foden is optimal, suggesting that Foden’s best performances come when he operates centrally rather than on the left flank, where dribbling past opponents is less his forte.

One potential solution could involve moving Bellingham back into central midfield alongside Declan Rice, replacing Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose transition from right-back did not prove effective against Serbia. This adjustment would allow Foden to play a more central role as the number 10, possibly with Chelsea’s Cole Palmer or Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon taking up the left-wing position.

Rio Ferdinand, former Manchester United and England center-back, expressed concern that Bellingham’s assertive presence on the pitch might be overshadowing Foden’s impact, as Foden’s quieter demeanor contrasts with Bellingham’s more demanding approach to receiving the ball.

Cesc Fabregas, former Spain midfielder, emphasized the importance of Foden taking responsibility for his performances with the national team. Fabregas suggested that Foden needs to demonstrate a greater willingness to receive the ball under pressure and make decisive plays, particularly in critical moments of matches.

Ultimately, as England prepares to face Denmark, the challenge for Southgate lies in unlocking Foden’s full potential at the international level, harnessing the qualities that have made him a standout performer in club football.

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