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Rashford or Saka, and what about Foden? The big England decisions Southgate must make against Senegal

11:00 EAT 01/12/2022
Rashford Saka Foden Southgate England GFX
The Three Lions continue their World Cup campaign with a last-16 meeting with the African champions on Sunday, but their line up is far from clear

Gareth Southgate could not have asked for much more when England took on Wales on Tuesday.

The England manager was under pressure following a disappointing 0-0 draw with the United States, with many pointing the finger at his tactics and team selection.

So he needed a good performance and that’s exactly what he got, with England cruising to a 3-0 win which saw them top their group and set up a last-16 clash with Senegal on Sunday.

Southgate shuffled his pack slightly and his changes worked perfectly, with Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden - who were both handed their first starts of the tournament - sharing the goals between them.

But that leaves the England manager facing some difficult decisions when it comes to selecting his side to face Senegal.

GOAL, takes a look at some of the issues Southgate must decide on...

  • Marcus Rashford Bukayo Saka England GFX

    Rashford or Saka?

    How can you leave Marcus Rashford out after his superb second half display against Wales?

    It’s difficult to see Gareth Southgate doing that, especially when you consider the Manchester United attacker also scored in the win against Iran.

    Rashford is clearly brimming with confidence, as you would expect from a man who already has three goals to his name during the tournament.

    But then what do you do with Bukayo Saka?

    Southgate is a big fan of the Arsenal forward, who it must be noted opened the World Cup with two goals of his own in the Iran victory.

    The 21-year-old was given a rest against Wales with the knockout rounds in mind, so does Southgate now rip up his original plan and leave Saka on the bench against Senegal?

    There is of course the option of playing both, as Rashford is more comfortable on the left. But that would mean leaving someone else out to accommodate both wingers.

    It’s a difficult decision for Southgate, although it’s one every other manager involved in the tournament would love to have.

  • Phil Foden England 2022

    What to do with Foden?

    Just like Rashford, Phil Foden seized his opportunity to impress when he was handed a start against Wales.

    The Manchester City star started out on the right of the front three, but switched over to the left-hand side for the second half following a tactical tweak by Southgate.

    And he looked far more comfortable over there, creating the first goal with an excellent driving run into a central position which resulted in the free-kick from which Rashford scored.

    And he added the second himself, arriving late at the far post to turn in Harry Kane’s brilliant ball across the penalty area.

    The clamour for Foden to start will be huge, but if he does, then Southgate will have to leave out one of his favourites.

    Raheem Sterling started on the left against Iran in the opening game and performed well, scoring the third goal.

    Southgate usually always starts with Sterling, who he trusts implicitly. So even with Foden’s performance on Tuesday, the England manager will be massively tempted to revert to type when it comes to Sunday’s knockout fixture.

    He does of course have the option to move Foden into one of the central midfield positions, which would allow him to play the 22-year-old and a more natural winger. But that does not seem to be an option Southgate is considering.

  • Mason Mount England USMNT 2022

    Does Mount come back in?

    Chelsea midfielder Mount was given the night off against Wales after starting both of England’s opening group-stage games.

    Southgate went with the experienced Jordan Henderson on Tuesday, with Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice taking up the other two central midfield spots.

    That did perhaps give England more control than they had against the United States, although that was more than likely a result of Wales’ inept display rather than Henderson’s involvement.

    If Southgate sticks with the four at the back system he has utilised so far, then he will have a big call to make in the midfield.

    He is a huge fan of Mount and what he offers, but bringing him back into the side could leave England a little short when it comes to protecting the back four.

    It’s a choice between going with a slightly more attacking approach, or one that could give them a little bit more stability defensively. 

    When it comes to Southgate, he usually prefers the latter option, especially when it comes to knockout football.

  • Harry Maguire

    Stick or twist with the system?

    Southgate has stuck with the same 4-3-3 system throughout the tournament so far, but the expectation has always been that at some point he would return to his favoured back-three when the opposition have more potent attackers.

    The thought is that using three centre-backs would tighten things up defensively against the top teams, and it is of course a system that has served England well in the past.

    It is not always popular amongst fans, however, who view it as too negative - with Southgate often coming in for criticism when he uses it, especially if it leads to a disappointing performance.

    And as dangerous as Senegal are, they are not a Brazil or a France, and England supporters will expect their team to be on the front foot during Sunday’s contest.

    So as tempting as it might be for Southgate to bring in an extra defender, he will have to weigh up what that would do to his attacking options and what forward-thinking player he would have to leave out as a result.

  • Kyle Walker England 2022

    Who plays on the right of defence?

    If Southgate does go with a back three, he will have a decision to make when it comes to the wing-back role.

    You would think that Luke Shaw would operate on the left-hand side, although that is a position Southgate has used Bukayo Saka in before.

    But the big call would come when deciding on the right wing-back. Kyle Walker would no doubt be used on the right side of the back three, alongside John Stones and Harry Maguire.

    So that would rule the Manchester City defender out of the equation, leaving Southgate to pick between Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

    Trippier has had a magnificent season so far for Newcastle and started at right-back in the games against Iran and the United States.

    But Alexander-Arnold would be a very appealing option there, given his attacking capability and the fact the three centre-backs would give England a bit of extra security at the back.

    Even if Southgate decides to stick with a back four, he will still have a tricky choice to make on the right side of defence.

    Walker got some valuable game time against Wales, playing for just short of an hour before he was replaced. 

    He was relatively untested, but looked surprisingly fit considering he hadn’t played since the Manchester Derby on October 2.

    So Southgate will have to decide whether to keep the Manchester City man in the starting XI, or go back to Trippier.