Arsenal fan and journalist Freddie Paxton has been left baffled by Gareth Southgate’s bizarre use of Gunners star Bukayo Saka in England’s 1-0 defeat away to Italy.
The Lowdown: Saka’s ‘new’ role
The Three Lions made the trip to the San Siro on Friday evening but produced an insipid performance, suffering a loss that saw them relegated from their UEFA Nations League group.
Saka was named in Southgate’s starting lineup, but strangely, he was used in a left wing-back role, predictably not performing at his best all night long.
The 21-year-old has actually played left-back 23 times across his career, but the majority of those appearances came as he broke through from the youth team, recording just two assists from 12 showings there in the 2019/20 Premier League season.
The Latest: Paxton fumes at Southgate
Taking to Twitter, Paxton, a football writer and Gunners supporter, criticised Southgate for his use of Saka and also the decision to select Harry Maguire.
“Southgate’s management is just weird. He sees what happens at club level but often completely disregards it. Saka at LWB. Why? Harry Maguire still one of the first names on the team sheet. Why? Maybe a bit harsh but having him in charge of this crop seems like a massive waste.”
The Verdict: What a waste of talent
Saka has matured into one arguably of the best young wide players in Europe, invariably making a name for himself as a right-sided attacker as he’s racked up 29 goal involvements in 48 appearances from that wing.
For Southgate to use him in a far more defensive position is bordering on scandalous, as the north London starlet was woefully ineffective against Italy, touching the ball only 28 times and recording zero crosses or shots (Sofascore).
If Saka is to play regularly for England at the upcoming World Cup, it has to be out on the right-hand side or not at all, with him and Phil Foden potentially battling for a starting berth on that flank.
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