Bukayo Saka won't be happy with Rio Ferdinand as more pressure put on Gareth Southgate

Bukayo Saka of England looks on during the UEFA EURO 2024 round of 16 match between England and Slovakia at Arena AufSchalke on June 30, 2024 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
-Credit: (Image: Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images/DeFodi via Getty Images)

Rio Ferdinand has voiced his belief that Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka is the solution to England's left-back dilemma.

The Three Lions narrowly progressed to the Euro 2024 quarter-finals on Sunday, thanks to a last-minute overhead kick from Jude Bellingham that levelled the scores, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Harry Kane then netted the decisive goal in the first minute of extra time as Saka was moved around the pitch in various positions during the game.

England have been dealing with a shortage of left-backs, as Kieran Trippier has found it difficult to fill in for injured United defender Luke Shaw. Trippier's injury during the Slovakia match only underscored this problem, prompting Saka to switch from right wing to left-back.

However, Ferdinand is convinced that the 22-year-old Arsenal star is the answer Southgate has been seeking, having played in the position for a time for Arsenal.

"Saka playing left-back, I shouted it before the tournament even started, put him left-back," Ferdinand asserted on his Five YouTube Channel. "With Trippier on the left side, I love Trippier as a right-back, but left side he just affects the balance of the team. We don't get overlaps.

"One time, he went down the left-hand side and he cuts back in on his right foot again, the momentum's gone from the move. We allowed the other team to get back.

"If that was a left-footer, he runs down the wing and crosses the ball. I'd play Saka left-back, I would. He's done it for ages as a kid growing up. He played left-back, and he's comfortable at doing it."

Ahead of the match against Slovakia, Saka was asked about potentially filling in at left-back by BBC 5Live, to which he said: "No, obviously I love Ian Wright and he says so many great things about me but I don't think putting me out of position is the solution.

Rio Ferdinand looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2024 round of 16 match between England and Slovakia at Arena AufSchalke on June 30, 2024 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
Rio Ferdinand has called for Bukayo Saka to stay at left-back -Credit:Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

"But, at the end of the day, I think we can talk about this but it's in Gareth (Southgate's) hands, so we will just have to trust whoever Gareth selects on the day."

In another conversation with talkSPORT, Saka reinforced his desire to stay on his favoured flank, adding: "I feel more comfortable on the right, I think that's where I play best so that's my thoughts.

"I think, a lot of the time coming in on my stronger foot, being able to link up with players, play passes, take shots. It's when I'm at my best so that's why I think it's my best position."

In the hunt for an equaliser against Italy, Southgate made the decision to shift Saka into a more defensive position after Kieran Trippier's injury, with Cole Palmer stepping in on the right flank. As the match progressed and changes were made, Saka found himself finishing the game as a right wingback.

With Trippier's availability in doubt for the upcoming clash with Switzerland - and Luke Shaw's fitness also uncertain - England's options at left-back could be limited to Ezri Konsa and Joe Gomez, with the latter having filled in at left-back for Liverpool this season.

Manchester United legend Gary Neville has backed Saka for the left-back role but anticipates Southgate might have other plans.

"I think that it would be brilliant to see Bukayo Saka at left-back but I think Gareth Southgate won't do that," Neville commented on ITV during England's last group game.

Neville also suggested an alternative: "What you may get him to do is put Kyle Walker as left-back and put Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right who is a brilliant user of the ball on the right-hand side. Having Kieran Tripper and Walker on either side means we're blocking a little bit both sides and I think having Trent on one side is the best we're going to get."