England Need to Solve the Phil Foden Conundrum

England beat Serbia 1-0 in their Group C encounter in Gelsenkirchen to earn three points in their first match of Euro 2024. Jude Bellingham scored the only goal of the match in the 13th minute.

It is a win that must have satisfied Gareth Southgate, but the manner in which it came was not very convincing. Serbia actually had more attempts on goal than England and went toe-to-toe with them after having conceded the goal.

England Lop-Sided in its Attacks

England started the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation that often became a 3-4-3 with Trent Alexander-Arnold shuffling between playing as a defensive midfielder and the right wing-back. However, Bukayo Saka was undoubtedly England’s prime attacking threat, tormenting the Serbian defence with runs through the right flank.

It was quite befitting that the goal came from Saka’s cross from the right. With Alexander-Arnold joining him at times, England managed to threaten Serbia often through the right side. However, the same thrust in their attacks was not visible through the left.

Phil Foden, the Player of the Year in England last season, could not impress much playing as the left winger. It was evident that he shifted to the central areas often and wanted to influence the game with his stronger left foot. However, surging through the inside-left channel is not something he enjoys much.

The 24-year-old Manchester City midfielder has primarily played as a right winger or a central attacking midfielder for his club this season. He is primarily a left-footed player and hence, playing him on the left flank forces him to use his weaker right foot to move inside with the ball. In addition to that, the likes of Bellingham and Declan Rice are more direct in their approach, and it does not allow Foden to exchange multiple short passes with them to break open defences, just as he does with his Manchester City teammates Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.

With Kieran Trippier not overlapping much through the left wing, England’s attacks were mostly lop-sided. This is an issue that Southgate will have to address soon. Otherwise, his team runs the risk of being too one-dimensional and predictable.

England’s Midfielders Contributed With Interceptions

The Three Lions’ midfielders exerted their influence on the game by stopping Serbian attacks in the middle third repeatedly with their timely interceptions. Bellingham, Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice foiled a number of Serbian moves by shielding their defense well.

Bellingham, who plays for Real Madrid as the No. 10, showed his ability to fall back and win the ball. As a result, the pressure was never too intense on the English defenders. This bodes well for their chances in the tournament and Southgate should be happy to see that.

England’s Next Opponents Could Prove to be Tricky

England will face Denmark and Slovenia in their final two matches of the group stage. Both of them could prove to be quite tricky as opponents. The two teams, meanwhile, played out a 1-1 draw in their opening group match. Although the three points earned against Serbia will help their cause, the Three Lions cannot afford any slip-ups in their next couple of matches.

Should they fail to beat both Denmark and Slovenia, it might become difficult for them to qualify from their group. However, the English seems to be having too much pedigree to be unable to reach the next round. However, topping the group should also be a priority for them.

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