Mikel Arteta green lights Bukayo Saka new Arsenal role to hand Cole Palmer major Euro 2024 boost

Bukayo Saka and Cole Palmer of England speak during an England gym session at St George's Park
-Credit: (Image: (Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images))

What does Gareth Southgate do with his super talented front line during Euro 2024? That's the big question as the tournament gets under way this week.

England are one of the favourites for the tournament, due mainly to their wealth of talent at the top end of the pitch. Southgate has a host of stars to pick from when it comes to naming his front three, or even front four.

Captain Harry Kane starts as the striker, but who supports him? When you've got Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Eberechi Eze and Anthony Gordon to pick from, Southgate has tough choices to make.

For many, the choice would be how do you get Bellingham, Saka, Foden and Palmer into three spots around Kane? Foden is best in the No.10 role, but is likely to be pushed out to the left to allow Bellingham to play in that free role ahead of two other midfielders.

Then there's the choice between Palmer and Saka for the berth on the right. Palmer had an outstanding season, finishing as second top scorer in the Premier League behind Erling Haaland.

He pretty much carried Chelsea on his back for the entirety of the campaign. That should not diminish what Saka did for Arsenal, though. He was the Gunners' top scorer in the league, pushing them to another runners-up spot in the Premier League and ended the campaign with 20 goals and 14 assists in 47 appearances.

Who gets the nod on the right? Probably Saka, but what about if you could play them both?

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England are struggling defensively, with Harry Maguire ruled out through injury and Luke Shaw taking up a place in the squad despite not being fit yet. Southgate will need to choose a left-back for the first few games - likely to be Kieran Trippier deputising there.

But Mikel Arteta has already shown Southgate a way to utilise Saka, that also allows Palmer to flourish. In fact, Southgate has already done the same himself - playing Saka at left-back or left wing-back.

Saka spent a good chunk of the 2019/20 season playing at left-back due to Arsenal injuries to Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac. And he acquitted himself well in the position, despite being unfamiliar to him.

He said at the time: "I learned a lot about how wingers in the Premier League play against defenders and how to position myself because in his system it’s different. I get to play much higher because the winger comes inside and I get to go.

"There’s a lot of space for me and it’s good for me. I’m playing sort of as a winger when we have the ball but without the ball, I have to come back and work on my clearances, my heading and stuff I haven’t worked on my whole life."

Southgate did utilise Saka as a left wing-back against Italy in 2022 in a 3-4-3 formation that became more of a 5-4-1 out of possession. England lost the game 1-0 in the Nations League and the fact he has not played there since for the three Lions suggests Southgate will not try the experiment again. That or the fact England have had players more suited to the role available.

This time around, however, there may not be players more suited to the role. And, if it gives Southgate a chance to get one more talented forward onto the pitch, it could be worth a shot.