England’s national side are in a bit of a sorry state if ‘pretty average’ Bukayo Saka can be named their Player of the Year, according to Stan Collymore.
The Three Lions are on something of a downturn at present, having not won in five matches. Their latest defeat – a 1-0 setback to Italy in Milan – saw them relegated to Pool B of the Nations League. It also means they are without a goal from open play in over 400 minutes of football.
With the knives being sharpened, a flurry of players including Declan Rice and Harry Kane have both spoken out in defence of the national side. Under-fire manager Gareth Southgate is also far from happy, insisting he remains the best man for the job. And all three men are adamant that the time to judge England will be after the World Cup, not before.
However, it is quite clear that England are under-performing. A number of positions in their side remain up for grabs which is far from ideal going into a major tournament.
One man who did struggle in Friday’s defeat was Saka. He was asked to play in an unfamilar left wing-back role; quite the ask having performed on Arsenal’s right-wing so successfully for so long.
Prior to the game, Saka was named England’s Player of the Year. He scored three times in qualifying for the World Cup.
And while that remains a positive for Saka, Collymore suggests it a cause for alarm seeing him collect the honour given his current form.
Writing in his Sunday People column (25/9; page 62), Collymore suggests Saka has only been average for England.
Collymore concerned by Bukayo Saka award
“Bukayo Saka is a reasonable choice as England’s Player of the Year. His attitude and freshness round the camp have been welcome,” he said.
“But, overall, the international performances from the Arsenal kid have been 6/10. For the player of the season to have been at that level going into a major tournament is a worry.”
It’s arguably a fair point given Saka and England‘s current form.
If the Arsenal man is to return to his best, he will need to revert to his favoured right-wing position. It certainly will not happen at left wing-back and that experiment needs to end immediately.
While Saka is worthy of a shirt in his favoured role, it does leave Southgate with an issue at left-back.
Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are both struggling for form and fitness this season. As such, the England boss may need to turn to right-back Kieran Trippier to fill in there.
While it’s not his natural position, he’s never let his country down playing there. The issue though for England though is that it impacts their attacking options down the left.
That position, though, is certainly up for grabs going into the World Cup.
England have just one match left before the World Cup begins – against Germany on Monday night – and it will be interesting to see Southgate’s selections.
Not only that, but the coach appears to have shifted his formation to a 3-4-2-1 in an attempt to get around his lack of a left-back. However, the England players looked uncomfortable in the system and may need to revert to a 4-2-3-1 – or a variation of it – against the Germans.