‘We have to be careful because we are putting a lot of pressure on him’: England boss Gareth Southgate urges caution over Phil Foden as clamour grows for Man City star to start against Wales in Battle of Britain clash
- Gareth Southgate faces a huge dilemma ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup clash
- The England manager must decide whether to hand a start to Phil Foden
- The Manchester City star is yet to start a World Cup match for the Three Lions
- Calls have grown for his involvement against Wales and Southgate must herald
The manager came under fire following Friday’s 0-0 draw with the USA for keeping Foden on the bench when his team needed a goal.
The 22-year-old has started only three of England’s 10 games this year.
Former England strikers Michael Owen and Gary Lineker could not hide their dismay that Foden was overlooked at Al Bayt Stadium and the clamour for him to start against Wales on Tuesday is huge. But Southgate argued that such hype could be counterproductive.
England boss Gareth Southgate faces a selection crisis ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Wales
Calls have grown in recent days for Man City’s Phil Foden to start in the World Cup encounter
‘We have to be careful because we are putting a lot of pressure on him,’ said Southgate. ‘We are a team and we need all of the players. They can all play a part but no one of them is the reason we will win or lose.
‘We need to make sure we are not building Phil into a situation where if he steps on the pitch this is becoming really difficult for him, because the level of expectation is beyond a young guy who is still establishing himself internationally, in a different environment from his club.’
Foden started only one of Manchester City’s four Premier League games – the 2-1 defeat by Brentford – before the World Cup break, but Southgate stressed he did not have any concerns about his form or fitness ahead of the Wales clash.
Southgate (right) has so far been reluctant to make changes to his starting side in Qatar
Foden (right) faces even more competition in those attacking roles as Leicester playmaker James Maddison (left) returned to England training on Monday ahead of the Wales clash
The England boss has plenty of options, particularly as James Maddison took part in Monday’s session at the Al Wakrah Sports Complex.
He is mulling over whether to start Jack Grealish alongside Harry Kane who, Southgate says, is fit despite hurting a foot against Iran.
Southgate added of Foden: ‘We are happy with how he is and how he is training. He is bright, he is ready and he is a good player. We are blessed with some exciting players.
‘Sometimes the discussion around just plopping him in as a No 10 in every game isn’t realistic.’
Foden is recognised as one of England’s brightest attacking prospects after seasons of title-winning success with Man City
Southgate must make brave tactical decisions in Tuesday’s Battle of Britain in the Middle East
This is the first time two Home Nations have met at a World Cup.
The only way England can fail to qualify for the last-16 is if they are beaten by a four-goal margin and there is a positive result in the USA-Iran match.
Wales manager Rob Page is considering a dramatic switch to a back four for his side’s do-or-die clash.
The Welsh have played with a back five in their first two World Cup matches but are yet to score from open play.
Wales manager Rob Page is expected to make a formation challenge against England
Wales must beat England to have any chance of qualifying for the World Cup’s last-16
There are several players in the Wales squad who want to go with a conventional four-man defence against England on Tuesday, with a view to getting an extra attacker on the pitch.
And following talks with key members of his squad, Page is contemplating a change.
Interestingly, Southgate anticipated Wales making a tactical switch on Monday.
‘We are not sure what system they will play,’ he said. ‘There is a good chance they could change.
‘Every team we have played have defended slightly differently against us to normal, because they recognise some of the threat we have got. We have to be prepared for all of that.’