Wright suggests Saka, England plan that Arsenal fans will hate and Chelsea fans will love

Jason Soutar
England and Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka looks frustrated during a game
Bukayo Saka looks frustrated during a game

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has suggested playing Bukayo Saka at left-back for England to help “get some balance” in Gareth Southgate’s side.

It has been a difficult Euro 2024 for Saka, who has zero goal contributions or shots on target in three starts for the Three Lions.

Overall, nobody has stood out for England in Germany after narrowly beating Serbia 1-0 and drawing against Denmark and Slovenia to somehow top Group C with five points.

A last-16 clash against the Netherlands looks like the most plausible scenario for England – who have fallen onto the more favourable side of the draw, avoiding Germany, France, Spain and Portugal.

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Everyone has their opinion on what Southgate’s starting XI at the European Championship should be. The general consensus at Football365 was that Jude Bellingham should have been dropped back to play next to Declan Rice, with Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden in the 10, and Anthony Gordon behind Harry Kane.

Southgate made one change from the 1-1 draw against Denmark, bringing Conor Gallagher in for Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield.

That change did not work and Gallagher was substituted for Manchester United teenager Kobbie Mainoo at half-time.

Ahead of the knockout stage, the Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon Clamour is off the charts.

If Southgate plays one or both of them, someone like Saka or Foden will have to come out of the starting XI, unless the England manager listened to Ian Wright on punditry duty for the goalless draw against Slovenia.

Arsenal legend suggests moving Saka to left-back for England

Wright’s masterplan is moving Saka to left-back and Kieran Trippier dropping to the bench, though natural left-back Luke Shaw will likely be fit to start in Sunday’s last-16 clash.

Saka played there when he broke in to the Arsenal side as a teenager and Wright believes this could help create “some balance and get some fluidity in the game”, with Palmer taking his spot on the right wing.

“I’m starting to think, I saw a stat about Kieran Trippier being our second most productive player, touches and passes,” Wright explained.

“I’m thinking, how are we going to get Palmer into the team if that’s the case? 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.”

The former Three Lions striker continued: “As great as Saka has done for England in terms of what he creates and his goals and assists, he is a natural left sided player.

“He started playing for England on the left at youth level, he started at Arsenal on the left. If that’s going to give you the balance and gets you Cole Palmer in the team, it’s something you have to at least look at.

“Yes, Kyle Walker can play there [at left-back], it’s the same situation where you have the player coming inside, you have no one going around. He’s a natural left-footer Saka, we could activate the whole left side.”

Chelsea fans will absolutely love the idea of Saka being forced back to left-back to fit him in. Arsenal fans, meanwhile, will be wondering why one of their own has given ammunition to their rival fans on social media. Because social media is so important.

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