Southgate faces Foden dilemma ahead of England's Euro clash with Danes

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Gareth Southgate must solve his Phil Foden conundrum as the England playmaker struggles to reproduce his brilliant Manchester City form at international level.

1 month ago
While England can book their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 by beating Denmark in Frankfurt on Thursday, Foden's latest underwhelming display for his country has sparked a debate about Southgate's use of such a sublime talent. Foden laboured to make any impact on England's nervy 1-0 win against Serbia in their Group C opener in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.
The 24-year-old was voted the Premier League's Player of the Year after playing a key role in City's fourth successive title triumph with 19 goals and eight assists. Yet, in stark contrast to his excellence in a City shirt, Foden has never looked comfortable with England's Three Lions on his chest.
He struggled during England's run to the Euro 2020 final, making subdued starts in the first two games and playing for only a further 25 minutes before missing the final defeat against Italy due to injury. Following another inconsistent contribution at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Foden has scored only once in his last 13 internationals.
Southgate's decision to play Jude Bellingham as England's number 10 and use Bukayo Saka on the right flank shunted Foden out to the left wing against Serbia. Not for the first time, Foden seemed lost on that side of the three attacking midfield spots behind England striker Harry Kane. At City, Pep Guardiola is completely comfortable with using Foden as the number 10, while he also operates on the right wing at times.
Guardiola has allowed Foden to dictate the champions' tempo and he has thrived more than ever this season after taking on an influential role in the absence of the injured Kevin De Bruyne. But against Serbia there were few signs of the skill, deft passing and clinical finishing makes the 'Stockport Iniesta' - named after former Barcelona and Spain legend Andres Iniesta - such a favourite of City fans.

Former Manchester City and England defender Micah Richards questioned whether Southgate is deploying Foden in the correct role. "When you have an extreme talent like Phil Foden, his best work has been in the middle of the pitch," Richards said. "Sometimes when he is on the left-hand side, you put him in a position where he needs to dribble past his opponent, that's not his game."
One solution would be to switch Bellingham back into central midfield alongside Declan Rice in place of Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose move from right-back was hardly a resounding success in the Serbia game. That would give Foden a chance to take centre stage as the number 10, with either Chelsea's Cole Palmer or Newcastle's Anthony Gordon featuring on the left.
Rio Ferdinand, the ex-Manchester United and England centre-back, is concerned Bellingham - fresh from a superb first season with Real Madrid - might be demanding the ball too often, therefore diminishing Foden's chances of impacting the game. "Jude Bellingham has come into this team and his body language has said to everyone 'give me the ball or I will go nuts'," Ferdinand told the BBC.
"Phil Foden has seen that and his personality is not like that, and he is allowing someone else to come in and be the dominant figure in this team." Foden has only four goals in 35 games for England and former Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas urged him to take responsibility for his international malaise. "It's about if you want the ball enough to make the difference. Do you enjoy getting the ball under pressure?" Fabregas said.
"In the second half when they started to get pressed a little bit more, we started to see Foden hitting the ball 40 yards without looking. You will never see Xavi or Andres Iniesta do that. "You need to take responsibility. I think players like Foden need to step up."