England exclusive: Anderton ‘agrees’ with Wright as Saka left-back can release Chelsea star’s ‘swagger’

Jason Soutar
Bukayo Saka is replaced by Cole Palmer during England v Slovenia
Bukayo Saka is replaced by Cole Palmer during England v Slovenia

Former England winger Darren Anderton is open to Bukayo Saka starting left-back to help free up Cole Palmer and his “swagger” on the right wing.

Saka kept his spot on the right of England’s attack for the Euro 2024 Group C clash against Slovenia on Tuesday night.

The Three Lions were poor again, drawing 0-0 against the Slovenians after an awful 1-1 draw versus Denmark on matchday two.

The Cole Palmer Clamour has been relentless – almost as relentless as the Anthony Gordon Clamour – and both players received their first minutes of the tournament on Tuesday.

Gordon did not get on until the 89th minute, while Palmer replaced Saka after 71 minutes and made a positive impact from the bench.

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After the match, former Arsenal striker Ian Wright suggested moving Saka to left-back for the knockout stage.

Saka broke into the Gunners first-team as a full-back before moving further up the pitch and ultimately winding up as Mikel Arteta’s right-winger.

He has been crucial for club and country in that position, being named England Player of the Year the last two years.

Wright argues that Saka playing as a left-back can add more “balance” and “fluidity” to the Three Lions team.

“I’m thinking, how are we going to get Palmer into the team if that’s the case?” Wright questioned. “If that’s the case, with how naturally left-sided Saka is, maybe can you put Saka in at left-back and put Palmer on the right-hand side?

“Simply because we need to get some balance and get some fluidity in the game.”

We asked former England winger Darren Anderton if he would entertain the idea of Saka moving to the left side of Southgate’s back four to get Palmer in the attack.

Anderton said he agrees with Wright as the Chelsea forward’s “swagger” could help England in the latter stages of Euro 2024.

“Yes, I agree with this,” Anderton exclusively told Football365 (via William Hill). “After Palmer’s good display off the bench, Saka left-back would work to bring in Palmer on the right-hand side.

“I am not sure it will happen, but it will be a great option to have.

“I like Palmer a lot. He has a swagger about him, he is fearless, hungry and raw, so it can be exciting when he gets his next chance for England to show what he can do.”

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Despite being open to the idea of Saka playing left-back, Anderton’s preferred XI for England’s last-16 clash – likely to be against the Netherlands – would see Gordon coming in for Conor Gallagher as his only change to the team that started against Slovenia.

Asked what his starting XI would be, Anderton said: “I would go [Jordan] Pickford, [Kyle] Walker, [John] Stones, [Marc] Guehi, [Kieran] Trippier, [Declan] Rice, [Jude] Bellingham, [Phil] Foden, Gordon, Saka and [Harry] Kane.

“We need Bellingham further back to free up Foden. We need width on the left and Gordon can help here. We don’t need two holding defenders, it hinders us going forward.

“We need players in behind Kane and Gordon can supply this, which can also allow Saka to do the same on the right.”

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