Former England international Chris Waddle has told us that he has been “surprised” by Phil Foden’s lack of minutes at the World Cup and finds Gareth Southgate’s decision to keep him on the bench “bizarre”.
“Phil Foden is widely regarded as one of the best players England have got and he’s been in form with the way he’s been playing for Manchester City – the lad’s been on fire,” Waddle said. “You’ve got to say his omission has been surprising as he was first choice before the tournament.
“We all thought it was him, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane that would be the front three to start this tournament for England. But Gareth Southgate’s gone for Bukayo Saka, who has played well for Arsenal. Has he played as well as Phil Foden? You could argue both ways.
“But for Foden to not even come on as a sub against USA was very bizarre. I don’t know if he’s carrying an injury? I don’t know if he’s not training very well or he hasn’t caught the eye? Is he off the pace? Is he tired? There’s something bizarre going on when Jack Grealish was well down the pecking order and he’s come on ahead of Foden against USA.
“Marcus Rashford was a late choice to go the World Cup really and he’s come on ahead of him too. I don’t know what Phil Foden has been like in training, or whether he has an injury, but I was very surprised Foden didn’t come on at least as a sub in the last game.”
Like many players, Waddle feels Saka had a poor game against USA, though he believes he will start ahead of Foden against Wales, though there is still plenty of time for England’s starting line-up to change if the Three Lions progress further in the tournament.
“Saka was disappointing against USA, I don’t think he showed a lot,” he said. “I think the left-back who plays for Fulham, Antonee Robinson, knew him and sussed him out and this is where he’s got to add a little more to his game. You can’t keep doing the same thing. But he’s been a bright spark and has done well. His confidence will be high and I’m sure he’ll be starting the next game against Wales.
“But there’s a lot of competition for places and you tend to find in tournaments that the starting XI that starts in tournaments can easily change over two or three games because of the form of players, and the one that comes into the team and is given a chance usually grabs it. That’s always going to happen and will happen to every team in this tournament.
“There’s probably a few more things that can happen with England in training which could impress Gareth Southgate and change his mind but Saka is definitely still in the starting XI.”
‘Unpredictable’ England need to be more adventurous
Waddle was disappointed with England’s display against USA and believes they need to be more adventurous in the final third if they are to have a successful tournament.
“In the Iran game, nearly every player impressed me with their performances, but in the second game there wasn’t a lot that I looked at and thought actually did well,” he said. “The players I was raving about in the first game didn’t really turn up in the second game against USA so I would say currently we’ve had a great performance and a very disappointing performance.
“When we came into the tournament that’s where I thought England were – unpredictable – and I still see that. That’s why when a lot of people said they fancied England to win it – they’ve got a chance with the players they’ve got, definitely – but at the minute you don’t know what England team is going to turn up. So it’s very hard to say they are going to win it.
“They need to be more consistent, take more of a risk and be more ambitious in that final third if they want to go on and win the tournament.”
Waddle also believes the England players are already looking tired from their domestic duties, especially captain Harry Kane.
“You’ve got to look at the England players,” he said. “A lot of them look tired already, they’ve had a hard season so far. They’ve been playing football basically for 18 months solid so certain players do look like they’re off the pace.
“I’m a big fan of Harry Kane but he had a little bit of an ankle scare. First game he looked OK, second game he looked tired in my eyes. He’s played so much football over the last two years and doesn’t look as sharp as you’d like, but with goalscorers he can get one and then he can get three, that’s Harry Kane. But he’s had a very quiet start to this tournament.”