Declan Rice joins Saka, Bellingham and Kane in getting England pelters

Editor F365
Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka for England
Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka for England

Almost every England player has had a kicking now and it’s the turn of Arsenal pair Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka.

Send your views on anything England and Euros to


Is Declan Rice undroppable?
At what point do we stop looking at Rice’s midfield partner to solve England midfield woes, and start looking at the common denominator, Rice himself. To his credit, he has tried to dictate the tempo and direction the game, but that tempo is ponderous, and direction is often sideways or backwards. I can’t remember a time he has made a positive impact on a game at this tournament, but it seems that he is untouchable.. In Southgate’s eyes he almost certainly is. Just another example of his blindness to the issues in this squad.

Meanwhile, we have in our ranks two players that could form the basis of our midfield for the next 10 years: Wharton and Mainoo.

These are two young, intelligent and technically excellent players. One slightly more defensive (Wharton), one slightly more attacking (Mainoo) – and both who are capable of covering the other. They really could form a great partnership. Their problem, of course, is they are inexperienced and untested, and with the demise of the Group stage that is unlikely to change. It probably is a tournament too early for these two to team up, but it’s a prospect that is intriguing, and in the face of another dyer performance, isn’t it worth a try?

The problem is Rice and his apparent omnipresence.
Andrew CPFC

👉 16 Conclusions as England win Group C despite themselves: what does Southgate do now?
👉 Kobbie Mainoo leads the England Clamour rankings; will Gareth Southgate listen?
👉 Harry Kane ‘wandering around like a granny at a car boot’; is Southgate ‘trolling’ us?


No wonder he’s known as Safegate
Watching England play, the phrases that constantly spring to mind are “low risk” and “safety first”. The safe, easy pass almost every time, no doubt with the intended aim of keeping possession while we “probe for openings”. Yet still so often badly executed or poorly controlled that we lose possession. And so slow that any openings are closed before they can be exploited.

Admittedly there were often limited passing options for the player in possession because of lack of movement off the ball, but even when runs were being made, hardly anyone had the balls, vision or ability to play a slightly risky forward pass that might have led to an actual attack. (to be fair to Kane, he gave it a go when he dropped deep , but he should be on the other end of such passes).

Similarly no-one seem to be willing or able to try and beat their man to create something – though credit to Foden for having a go. It improved to a degree once Mainoo, Palmer and Gordon came on, and even Trent, who was at least trying to play the ball forward. But way too little way too late.

It’s pretty clear the players are afraid to take even small risks even against relatively modest opposition. It’s also pretty clear some of them aren’t actually very good with the ball. I’d say the full backs are a particularly weak link in this regard and offer little or nothing in support of attacks. I know full back choices were limited due to injuries and pissing Ben White off but maybe a three at the back with wing backs (Saka/Gordon on the left, Trent on the Right?) would be better than this stodgy offering? The team is crying out for some overlapping, crossing and dynamism down the flanks

Walker is lightning quick, great at recovery challenges, and admittedly that pace allowed him to “set up” Kane’s goal against Denmark (via two bobbles/deflections). But can he actually control a football? It often seems not. His “technique” is bang average at best.

Then Trippier – not his fault he’s shoehorned in on the wrong side but does he have to play the safe ball backwards every bloody time? In fairness I have noticed him make some decent forward runs but so far none of his team mates have seen fit to try and pick him out. That may be because they are playing it safe, it may be because they don’t trust him to do anything with it if he does get it. Who knows?

Aside from the full back issue I am still baffled by the fact some players are considered shoo-in starters for England. For example Saka. I just don’t get it or him. His signature move at Arsenal is to cut in from the right onto his left and get off a shot or cross from there. And it often works in the PL, but defenders seem to have worked out his go-to move at International level and I’m not sure what else he offers. I’m sure those who rate him will try to enlighten me as to why he’s so highly regarded whilst delivering so little, but I think it’s fair to say Palmer looked levels above him down that flank after replacing him.
Kevin Villa (Oh and Bellingham has been shite – yes even in the first half against Serbia, despite the very well taken goal, he’s been shite.)


Leave Foden and Bellingham where they are; drop Kane
It humours me, all this new clamour I’m seeing for Jude Bellingham to play deep and for Phil Foden to take the number 10 spot. What exactly is this based on other than a classic English (I use that pejoratively here) perception of what a midfielder looks like?

Where have all Bellingham’s best performances come from this season for Real Madrid? The number ten position. What’s his best position according to Carlo Ancelotti? The number ten position. Are there any better players for England at number ten? No. Jude plays there and stays there for as long as he is fit. Gareth has called this one right.

What then of Foden? In my opinion he’s the best English player at the moment, though it is a toss up between him and Bellingham and I do think Jude will end up as the more complete player. Foden’s best performances have come from the middle, the left AND the right. He’s a magician so to me there should always be a place for him in the side. Alongside Bellingham when they’re both fit. And I say this as a United fan who should really hate his scurrilous little capuchin-esque face. But I love him, can’t help it.

England’s problems are many but they sit in front of and behind Bellingham and Foden not within them. The one in front is a big one because Harold Kane is in the running for being England’s greatest striker. But the problem with Kane is that he likes to get involved too much. Look at Foden. At City, Haaland doesn’t get involved TOO much which usually draws criticism and you could argue City play better football without him. But by not getting involved he doesn’t take up any space. Foden and De Bruyne et al have more room to manoeuvre, not that they need it.

And at Real Madrid, Bellingham usually has Vinicius and Rodrygo in front of him, but they’re wide. Kane and Bellingham often end up occupying the same space for England, usually because Kane is where you don’t want your one centre forward to be. We’ve seen that before with England (think Rooney) and it happens too often when we’re rubbish for it to be a coincidence. Is it time to think about not playing Kane or even not playing a proper striker at all? Doesn’t seem very English so would be incredibly brave (read “unpopular”) and risky but it might just work.

And then behind we’re just too negative. The whole setup is about not conceding goals. The whole Trent thing was Gareth thinking “how can I add creativity without conceding more? Play a defender with really good passing in midfield!”. It didn’t work because we were all so deep, Trent’s passing range was under utilised. And he’s not actually very good at any of the other things you need to be an effective midfielder. Conor Gallagher’s inclusion was again based purely on stopping the opposition.

In games against teams that have the same approach the effect was to turn those games into a bore fest for all concerned. These two offer no threat that the opposition need to be aware of. Trent can be neutered by not allowing the opposition to run in behind and I’m not even sure what the point of Gallagher is in an attacking sense.

We need players that can control the game. Players who can move the ball quickly and occupy the opposition’s half with the ball. When Mainoo came on, it was no coincidence that England were suddenly a hell of a lot closer to the oppositions box than they had been for the rest of the tournament. I’m not saying Mainoo is HIM for England (though is for United) but someone like that is definitely needed. And no, not Kalvin Phillips.

Another issue for England is that a lot of our players are still really uncomfortable playing the ball to players who are under pressure. The amount of times Mainoo showed for the ball but they wouldn’t give it to him yesterday was incredible and you could see it was because he had players around him. Scholes, Xavi and Iniesta were the three best midfield players I’ve ever seen, all brilliant under pressure. Because of that they brought something to the table that I don’t think we fully understand in England (hence why Scholes was never properly used and retired early). Mainoo and Foden have the same qualities. If we learn to use them right, we’ll win something.

So a selection for England if you must keep Kane might be:

Walker Stones Guehi Shaw (if fit)
Palmer Bellingham Foden

But I think you can be braver than that. Drop Kane, play Palmer as a false nine and then bring Saka on the right (or Gordon on the left). Or if you want to go slightly more defensive, put Wharton (or A.N. Other) in with Rice and Mainoo and play Palmer and Foden ahead of Jude, or Palmer ahead of Jude and Foden, or any combination thereof.

This is all very hypothetical and very un-English (how the hell do we knock it up to the big man?!). But we need to start thinking about how to get the best out of the team rather than shoehorning our best players in. Or thinking about the best way to stop the opposition.

We’ve scored the same number of goals in this tournament as Scotland who pretty much rely on McTominay. Surely we can do better with those creative players at our disposal?
Ash Metcalfe


Ben White clamour is real
Can you expand your clamour rankings to include those not in the squad? Where would Benjamin White place?

Saka has been below par but it’s possible that whoever starts on the right will struggle with Walkers quality of ball.

Saka and White have a good relationship at club that could have been very useful for England.


Southgate has earned the right to stodge
How to evaluate England’s performance at the Euros so far? Southgate was booed last night and seems disappointed with the criticism. It’s clear there’s a disconnect between how England fans see the team performing, and how Southgate (and presumably the team themselves) sees things.

The mood amongst fans seems frustrated. People were excited about the range of talent at our disposal. Pre-tournament XIs featuring five or six attackers were not unusual. The media have, as ever, been massively complicit by wanging on about how we’re tournament favourites – without pausing to explain what that really means – and anything less than total victory, or a brave semi-final exit playing scintillating, balls-out football, would be total failure. But it is undeniable that we have a squad bursting at the garters with hungry, talented lads. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect some of that fresh talent to bring verve and creativity onto the pitch.

Southgate thinks everything is fine. He’s looking at the group table, England top, unbeaten, and feeling a little warm tickle in his cockles. He’s looking at the Goals Against column and that warm tickle is growing into a full-on cockle massage. Yes, we’ve been stodgy. But Gareth is comfortable with the stodge; he’s at home in the stodge. And who can say he’s wrong, really? No significant chances given up against Serbia. Denmark scored a hail-mary and otherwise created half-chances in comfortably our worst performance. Slovenia had nothing. Defensively we look solid, as any Palace fan predicted beforehand because Guehi’s been mint for two years now.

The best evidence that Southgate is more-or-less happy with how things have gone so far is that he made just one change after that ropey performance against Denmark.

Fans watch this team and see a left-hand flank which is totally snarled up, inhibiting our attacking play across the whole pitch. Southgate sees Trippier being defensively solid and offering an outlet on the left and thinks, ‘Yes, this will do nicely.’ Southgate has achieved more than any other England manager of my lifetime – like, massively more, it’s not even close. If anyone has earned the right to set up an England time to grind its way through a tournament, ignoring howls of fan derision, it’s surely Southgate.

There’s a couple of other points worth making. First, there’s an obvious pitfall to trying to stodge your way to tournament success: if we go out next round, or even the round after that, losing 0-1 to someone moderately decent, no England supporter will feel like it’s been a success.

It’s not an irrelevant point. The great tournament memories are made of moments. After Euro ‘96, the best England tournament of my life has undoubtedly been the 2018 World Cup, and the reason it lives so fondly in the memory is because there were so many great moments to cherish: Kane’s last-minute nod-in against Tunisia. Lingard curling one top bins against Panama. Beating Columbia on penalties ffs. Maguire slabbing one in against Sweden. When you try to Greece your way to the final, you reduce the opportunities for those moments to occur.

What moments will live in the memory from this group stage? None. Which means when (if) we get knocked out, there’ll be nothing to savour, no consolation nourishment. In a way, then, the low-risk, defensively-solid tactic Southgate is so fond of is a more high-risk strategy in terms of connecting with fans. Play as badly as we did against Denmark next game, we’ll be easily beaten and deservedly booed out the tournament.

The second point is that this will probably be Southgate’s last tournament. It may be the next guy to come in will make the team more cohesive as an attacking force; it may be that this translates to greater tournament success. Or we could end up in another Hodgson-Allardyce doom cycle. There’s no way of knowing at this stage.

What is certain is that, in ten or twenty years, we will look back on this time with a different appreciation for what ol’ Gareth has achieved. With the distance of years, we will be able to see more dispassionately how he changed the atmosphere and expectations around the England team, how he integrated a new generation of technical players, how he developed a tournament blueprint which brought more success than any other. And we should be a bit more outwardly grateful for the many memories his teams have given us.

So there it is – in my view, we’ve been solid but limited, and it’s worked ok so far. Southgate will be reasonably confident going forward. It’s an open tournament, no team looks definitively better or less vulnerable than any other. I’d say England have as much chance of winning as we did before it started.

There is serious talent on the pitch, and even if the level of the team never rises above stodgy, we’ll be right in any match and competing until the end. That end will probably be 0-1 down in the QF, aimlessly slinging balls towards a statuesque Harry Kane, Cole Palmer given all of three minutes to ‘make something happen’, and a last-gasp smash from Alexander-Arnold that soars majestically into the German equivalent of Row Z. But until that happens, everything remains possible.

Enjoy the rest of the Euros everyone!
Scriv O’Scoob, Reading


…For me the key take away from England’s low impact cruise to the last 16 is Southgate saying ‘So many things are starting to come together’. GS tends to be a man of his word. I’m guessing what he means is

1. Our biggest pre tournament problem that we couldnt win it without 2 international class centre backs has been solved.

2. Mainoo and Palmer are both ready for the knockouts.

3. Players that weren’t fully match fit like Kane, Stones, Saka and Trippier have got plenty more minutes in their legs.

4. Luke Shaw is nearly ready.

5. There is minimal expectation in the media (who seem to have just learnt what formations and tactics are) which can only help our cause.

6. Jude Bellingham has A LOT left in his locker going into the knockouts.

Its clear our best line up would be 7.Saka 9. Foden 10.Palmer 11.Bellingham but Southgate will never drop Kane. This leads to us seeking the second best option which may well be a throwback 11.

People seem to have forgotten the state of the England team Southgate took over from Sam Allardyce. Yes, seriously Sam Allardyce – I’m not joking!! The reason we played 5 at the back in Russia was because our defenders were too scared to pass the ball around in a back 4. Yes, seriously – Im not joking. Southgate has transformed England and is our 2nd most sucecssful manager of all time.

If GS wont drop Kane the only way to fit our 4 world class attacking players into the team is with Bellingham in a double pivot in a 4231 OR resurrecting the Russian 352 with Pickford; Walker Stones Guehi; Trent Foden Rice Bellingham Saka; Palmer Kane.

The England national team was resurrected in Russia with Southgate’s 352 of Pickford Trippier Walker Stones Maguire Young Henderson Lindgard Alli Sterling Kane. A vastly inferior 11.

If Southgate could take that 352 to a World Cup semi, I wonder what he could do with the current crop.

I’m praying Southgate is playing the long game and pacing us through a seven-game tournament. Its hard to believe England’s 2nd best ever manager isn’t much better now with 8 years experience and better players. I don’t buy the media narrative.

Southgate is smarter than most journalists, fans and players and knows way more about football than the muppets who only learnt how to say ‘low block’ last week.

‘So many things are starting to come together’, according to a man who knows.
Ben Teacher


The anger takes its toll
Am I alone in finding the relentless anger all a bit tiresome?

I mean, we’ve played badly and find ourselves top of our group? Is that really so bad?

In a parallel universe, we could quite conceivably have played very well in our group and yet come second – that is entirely feasible.

I know which of these two scenarios I’d rather we were in right now – the one we are actually in.

The extent and vitriol of the anger is making me not want to go to this site (or indeed anywhere else on the internet/social media) at the moment.


Any England manager is doomed
In the absence of winning a trophy, which we came oh so close to doing at Euro 2020, the media and fans were going to turn to Southgate the moment things go wrong. And oh boy are they going wrong and oh boy are the media and the fans turning on Southgate.

The swiftest from which our footballing nation can go from celebrating and lording an England manager is as quick as an England side can go from looking half decent to looking like a bunch of amateurs. For a while Southgate created a feel good feeling with the England team.

Fans were singing his name and we said “Football’s coming home again”. But now the toxic atmosphere surrounding the England is back. The hate, the spite and the rage. Now fans are booing Southgate and throwing bottles and cups at him.

How do we know this won’t happen to the next England manager. People say bring in this one or that one? He’ll probably end up going the same way. Roll on the next England manager.
Dan, London

👉 16 Conclusions as England win Group C despite themselves: what does Southgate do now?
👉 Kobbie Mainoo leads the England Clamour rankings; will Gareth Southgate listen?
👉 Harry Kane ‘wandering around like a granny at a car boot’; is Southgate ‘trolling’ us?


Wreck-it Ralf
Just wanted to write in to congratulate Austria, what a phenomenal group stage triumph!!

To the United players: ya know who he is now don’t ya lads…
Mike, Man United