England boss Southgate sends message to Arsenal star Saka after playing him at left-back

Joe Williams
England and Arsenal star Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka was deployed at left-back for part of the second half on Sunday.

England boss Gareth Southgate has praised Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka for his performance at left-back after switching position in the second half against Slovakia.

Jude Bellingham rescued the Three Lions in the fifth minute of stoppage time at the end of their last-16 clash against Slovakia with a stunning overhead kick equaliser.

Before Harry Kane scored a header early in extra time as England were fortunate to beat Slovakia and line up a quarter-final clash with Switzerland on Saturday.

England have had a problem at left-back this tournament with Kieran Trippier their only fit option as Luke Shaw came to Germany lacking full fitness.

Even Trippier has been playing out of position as he plays at right-back for Newcastle United in the Premier League and Southgate had to move Arsenal winger Saka to left-back on Sunday.

Saka was switched from the right wing to left-back during the 2-1 victory over Slovakia when Trippier was replaced by Cole Palmer in the 66th minute.

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The Arsenal star had made it clear before the match against Slovakia that he was not keen on playing at left-back for the national side.

When suggested that he could be England’s answer at left-back, Saka replied: “I don’t think putting me out of position is the solution.”

But Southgate feels that Saka is a “good option” for England to have at left-back for the remainder of the tournament as it remains to be seen if Trippier will be fit to play in their next match after taking a knock.

“We felt that Bukayo at left-back gave us an extra attacking outlet,” Southgate told BBC Radio Five Live.

“It is a good option to have. I have to say the courage shown by the players was fantastic tonight.”

And England boss Southgate hit back at criticism of his substitutions throughout the tournament after sticking with Bellingham and Kane paid off.

Southgate said: “The two players who get the goals, you could arguably take off 15 minutes from the end because they looked out on their feet, but that is what they are capable of.

“Harry and Jude, with 15 minutes to go you are ­looking and ­thinking, ‘should we be refreshing those positions?’, and maybe that’s the bit that makes the difference. But then you know they are capable of doing the sorts of things they did. That’s why you stick with those players.

“So when people want changes, you’ve got to keep some balance to the team, you’ve got to make changes that you think are definitely going to improve what you’re doing, either physically or with a different sort of a problem.

“I think actually pretty much all the changes we have made this tournament have had an impact, so that’s shown the value of our squad and the need of everyone to be ready.”