England boss Gareth Southgate has tried his best to explain and at the same time justify his controversial decision of not playing Phil Foden in their 0-0 draw against the USA at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Manchester City was named on the bench for the second successive game at the tournament and has only got 19 minutes of football so far which came against Iran. However, it was this game against the USA where Foden was needed more than ever.
Chelsea’s Mason Mount has got the nod ahead of Foden in that attacking position, despite the latter boasting a far superior club form than his teammate. Southgate has often kept it that way, picking Mount over Foden, and this was an instance where this habit cost the Three Lions.
England would have become the first team to qualify for the knockouts with a win here, which was quite possible as well. However, the lack of enough creativity denied them the chance, which once again comes down to Foden’s absence.
Not a game for Phil Foden – Southgate on his decision of keeping the attacker benched
Ever since taking over the England job, Gareth Southgate has been known for making some unorthodox, bizarre decisions, which have often been accused of being devoid of any logic. Similarly against the USA, who were rather dominating England, the game was screaming for Phil Foden. Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, and even Harry Kane, all looked off-pace and far from their form which was on display in during their 6-2 thrashing of Iran.
With the game approaching its closing stages, Southgate finally looked at his bench which had Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, and Trent Alexander-Arnold in attacking options. But to the little surprise of the fans, the England boss once again decided to perform some rocket science and brought on Grealish, Rashford, and Jordan Henderson for Bellingham, Sterling, and Saka.
The trio was unable to inspire their team to a victory as Southgate got all the bashing for not throwing Foden into action. Explaining his decision, the England boss said:
“Whichever one of our forwards we didn’t put on and we didn’t win the game, I was going to be sitting here answering the question as to why I didn’t put them on. We wanted to change the wide areas. We didn’t think it was a game for Phil [Foden] in the middle because he doesn’t play there for his club.
“It was a game for experience in that middle area, so then it was a decision on the wide players and we thought Marcus [Rashford]’s speed would be important and give us something different, and we put Jack [Grealish] on just before that at a time when we weren’t getting hold of the ball and we felt he could carry it up the pitch to relieve some pressure on our middle third. Without a doubt, we could have gone with Phil as he’s a super player and we love him. Maybe, things could’ve been different, but that was the choice we went with on the night.”
Again, it is quite difficult to understand and accept the justification Southgate has come up with to defend his bizarre decision. Nonetheless, some poor tactics coupled with such decisions cost England a win which definitely was on the players’ minds.
Moreover, qualification to the Round of 16 with a win here would have helped the England manager rotate his team heavily for the penultimate group stage fixture against Wales, which they now need to win at any cost for progression to the knockout stage.