England were in action over the weekend, drawing 1-1 with Ukraine in a frustrating performance from the Three Lions. While Gareth Southgate's side have another exciting match coming up, a friendly against bitter rivals Scotland, Saturday's disappointing result remains a key talking point.
One of the most significant issues from that game was Southgate's team selection, with the manager starting Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, and Jordan Henderson in the middle. Phil Foden, one of the country's most talented players, was left on the bench once again in favor of an aging but experienced number eight.
However, when speaking to the media ahead of the Scotland game, Southgate pushed back on those claims. While Foden is expected to start in that friendly, he could be — on paper, at least — a winger and not the midfielder fans have been crying out for.
And the manager offered a brutal response to that train of thought, pointing to Pep Guardiola, the best manager in world football, and his tendency to avoid playing Foden in the middle. In Gareth's eyes, the five-time Premier League winner has shown little to merit a midfield role.
"He doesn't play in the middle for his club. So presumably there is a reason for that. It depends on the level of the game, really," Gareth stated, as per the Sun.
"You'd have to speak to Pep, who is the best coach in the world, who plays him from wide."
One thing should be noted. As managers always say, positions do not matter. Instead, what is important is the role a player is tasked with executing on the pitch, and Southgate stresses that Phil will always be allowed to drift into central zones, which is vital.
"He's always got the freedom to drift if we play him wide and that's important," the Three Lions boss added.
The manager was then reminded that Foden sees himself as a midfielder and prefers to play there, to which the Three Lions boss fired back, saying: "But he doesn't play there!"
The 53-year-old then addressed the elephant in the room and that is Phil's new-found position at Manchester City in the absence of Kevin de Bruyne. While fans argue that the 23-year-old is an excellent midfielder who was simply denied minutes by the superior De Bruyne, pointing to his brilliant displays in the Belgian's absence, Southgate refutes the claim that the Cityzens ace was playing in midfield altogether.
"Newcastle, he played wide right and he drifted – Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez as nine and 10, Phil defended right-wing in a 4-4-2," the England boss added.
"He drifted in off the touchline with Kyle Walker going round him in possession.
"He definitely picked the ball up in those areas a lot, but his start position was wide on the right.
"I know it was a really eye-catching game and we were really pleased to see it but tactically and positionally it was him coming in from the right."
Southgate also admitted to having conversations with Guardiola regarding Foden and the never-ending conundrum of the mercurial talent's best position. Regardless, Phil's woes look set to continue as Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, and now James Maddison are his competitors out wide.
The Manchester City academy graduate is set to start against Scotland and could force his way back into the lineup after largely disappointing at Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This friendly will take place at Hampden Park on Tuesday and can be watched live on Fox Sports 2 USA, Fox Sports GO, and ViX. For official broadcast listings for this game in other countries, click here.