OPINION: England's left-hand side needs changing for EURO 2024 success

Phil Foden has struggled at Euro 2024
Phil Foden has struggled at Euro 2024AFP
England have struggled to create chances so far at EURO 2024 and rarely look like breaking their opponents down, which must change if they are to seriously challenge for major silverware.

One of the Three Lions' biggest issues from the opening two games - a 1-0 win over Serbia and a 1-1 draw with Denmark - is their lopsided shape created by an unbalanced left-hand side.

Gareth Southgate's side has been lacklustre going forward so far at the tournament, struggling in games they should be comfortably winning, only managing seven shots on goal across two matches.

Both Kieran Trippier and Phil Foden have started the last two games at left-back and left-wing respectively and neither has had any real impact on England's attacking play.

The reality is that both players want to come inside to influence the game and neither offers any width, causing the Three Lions to become a lop-sided unit that relies far more on Bukayo Saka on the other side of the pitch as the only real attacking outlet.

England's latest form
England's latest formFlashscore

With Trippier and Foden both coming inside as well as Harry Kane dropping deep, Declan Rice pushing forward and Jude Bellingham occupying the 'number 10' position, England end up with a mass of bodies in the middle of the pitch that slows down play and is easily contained by opposition defences.

That leaves Saka out wide on his own and it's unrealistic to expect him to carry every attack on his back - although both of the goals scored so far have come down his side of the pitch be it through him or the onrushing Kyle Walker.

England's left-hand side has thus far been entirely ineffective - so what needs to change?

No options at left-back

Luke Shaw would be England's first-choice left-back but has been nursing injuries all season and still isn't fit enough to feature for the Three Lions.

It was an understandable decision to bring him to the tournament as, when fit, there aren't many better in his position.

Unfortunately, there's no time frame for his return and in hindsight, a different option should have been included for a more balanced squad.

Manager Southgate didn't go down that route though which leaves England with their next best option in Trippier - who has played plenty of football on the left but is far better on his natural right side with his stronger right foot.

He has shown a reluctance to use his left foot so far and often cuts back to his stronger side, delaying attacks and disrupting momentum when going forward.

That could be fixed if Southgate had brought another natural left-back, but there simply isn't another option in the team that wouldn't be doing the same things Trippier already is.

England have been hampered by a poor oversight in selecting their squad and are now paying the price elsewhere on the pitch too.

Moving Foden central

As discussed, Trippier naturally comes onto his right foot and there isn't a realistic way around that, which leaves changes needed further up the pitch.

Foden is a mercurial talent and won the Premier League Player of the Season award for his superb performances with Manchester City last term.

Clearly, there is a talented player there who can change the course of a game - and maybe even the entire tournament - if he is used appropriately.

Unfortunately for England, that use isn't out of the left like Southgate seems to think.

Foden's best football comes from attacking midfield in the centre of the pitch and if the Three Lions want to go far at Euro 2024, that is where he must be played.

Foden's 2023/24 season
Foden's 2023/24 seasonOpta by Stats Perform / AFP

Bellingham currently occupies that area of the team and has been one of the best players in the world over the last year, but it's easy to forget he spent the rest of his career further back in midfield rather than as a 'number 10'.

The solution seems to be staring Southgate in the face - which is another source of frustration altogether for fans - and that would be putting Bellingham next to Rice and having Foden roam free ahead of them.

Of course, that would mean taking Trent Alexander-Arnold out of midfield but that has so far proven to be an experiment with minimal reward.

Whether he takes Walker's spot in defence or has to settle for a place on the bench is an issue for another day, but for the good of the team, it seems like the best fix.

That leaves a spot on the left wing vacated by Foden, a position the Three Lions have plenty of choices for.

Who takes the left-wing spot?

Of those in the squad, there are three clear options to come in on the left-hand side.

Crystal Palace's Eberechi Eze has excelled both out wide and centrally for his club in 2024 and looked promising in England's warm-up fixtures.

Likewise one of the best players in the Premier League last season - Cole Palmer - has proven he is more than capable on either the wing or centrally.

The issue with both is that they inevitably will also want to come inside from the left, creating the whole issue of width all over again.

That leaves Anthony Gordon, who is the most natural left-winger in the squad and would offer England a different sort of option on the left-hand side.

With Foden and Bellingham central as well as Kane dropping deep, the Three Lions don't need another player to drift inside.

What they do need, similar to Saka, is a player to stretch the pitch and give opposition defences something else to think about out on the left.

The ideal candidate to do just that is Gordon, who has shone for Newcastle over the last year and is the most natural winger in England's squad, certainly for playing out on the left.

While he is naturally right-footed, he does operate as more of a winger rather than a forward to come inside and is far more direct with his play as opposed to trying to dictate the game from out wide.

He registered 11 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League last season - offering both a goal threat and a creative spark.

Gordon also averaged 1.5 successful dribbles and won 5.3 duels per game.

Gordon's 2023/24 stats
Gordon's 2023/24 statsFlashscore

Surely no harm can be done in experimenting with him out on the left and seeing if it could help fix England's struggles in building attacks.

For what it's worth, the Three Lions have a plethora of attacking options, so even if Gordon isn't the solution there are plenty of other choices too.

Whether Southgate opts to change his left-hand side or something different elsewhere, it's clear England need a new approach to achieve success at Euro 2024.

The Three Lions are next in action against Slovenia on Tuesday, June 25th - follow it here with Flashscore.

Ali Pollock
Ali PollockFlashscore UK


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