Where should Phil Foden play for England after scintillating Man City form?

Phil Foden has performed in the absence of Erling Haaland (Getty Images)
Phil Foden has performed in the absence of Erling Haaland (Getty Images)

Phil Foden’s hat-trick against Aston Villa on April 3 might well be looked back on as a watershed moment for the Manchester City player.

Long thought of as an understudy to the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland, on that occasion he shone in their absence, with a swagger and confidence England fans have been waiting for. Not even Wayne Rooney had three Premier League hat-tricks to his name before the age of 24.

Undoubtedly Foden will be included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming Euro 2024, but questions remain over whether he will play.

Here The Independent’s sports team take a look at where they think the England manager should employ one of his key weapons.

Phil Foden has been the standout performer of the season (Getty Images)
Phil Foden has been the standout performer of the season (Getty Images)

Miguel Delaney (Chief Football Writer): As brilliant as Phil Foden is, the fundamental issue with England is that he is best in the area where Harry Kane - and now, increasingly, Jude Bellingham - drop into. So while you'd ideally have Foden as a fluid playmaker, Gareth Southgate's system makes it unlikely. But you obviously now have to start him - which probably means a wide forward spot or at the tip of midfield. Whether either maximise this incredible performance level remains to be seen.

Richard Jolly (Senior Football Correspondent): Off the left - just by a process of elimination, with Jude Bellingham operating as a No 10, Bukayo Saka on the right, Harry Kane in attack and the need for someone alongside Declan Rice; much as many like the idea of a central trio of Rice, Bellingham and Foden, it is probably unrealistic against better opposition and would force the latter pair to do too much defending, taking away from their strengths.

Jack Rathborn (Sports Editor): The temptation now will be to shift Phil Foden into the middle, perhaps even alongside Jude Bellingham. But that would expose Declan Rice, as both No8s and No10s, or deprive England of genuine width if Foden and Bellingham were given free roles behind Harry Kane. It’s a conundrum that Gareth Southgate may want to solve with Foden thriving 20 yards from goal and between the posts, yet there is likely not enough time for him to be convinced. Bellingham, still, offers as much upside in that role and a lesser version of the Foden that dazzled for Manchester City against Aston Villa would still give England a cutting edge from the left alongside Bukayo Saka’s speed from the right. Perhaps Foden’s form and this debate obscures the real dilemma for Southgate: Who will operate alongside Rice and provide the balance needed for England’s superstars to make the difference in the final third?

Where should Phil Foden play for England (The FA via Getty Images)
Where should Phil Foden play for England (The FA via Getty Images)

Alex Pattle (Sports Reporter): I've long been an advocate of Foden as a No 10, with his performance against Villa showing all the traits that make him a great fit. That said, Jude Bellingham is an exciting No 10 option behind Harry Kane if Foden is to be stationed out left for England. I'd be happy enough with that – Foden really just needs to be on the pitch, in all honesty – but England's lack of solid defensive midfielders has me leaning towards Bellingham playing deeper, with Foden as the 10. That leaves the left-wing spot open, so maybe we have to hope Marcus Rashford can enter the Euros on good form.

Jamie Braidwood (Sports Reporter): I would start Foden on the left wing, with Jude Bellingham at 10 and Bukayo Saka on the right. Having an attacking left-back providing natural width in either Ben Chilwell or, if fit, Luke Shaw would enable Foden to drift inside and combine in central areas with Bellingham and Harry Kane, and allow him to take up the sorts of positions that were so devastating against Aston Villa on Wednesday night.

Foden's performance against Belgium last month was an example of how this could work and his partnership with Bellingham looked particularly promising from an England perspective. Gareth Southgate has the pieces to adopt a 3-2-4-1 structure in possession, with Foden and Bellingham key as two 10s.

Sonia Twigg (Sports Reporter): Despite Foden’s quality, he might be best suited to playing behind Harry Kane, although Jude Bellingham is arguably a better fit. That leaves a space on the left, unless Gareth Southgate is willing to change his system, which seems unlikely. Therefore I see him playing just off the left, although largely by process of elimination and the prowess of Bellingham and Kane.

Luke Baker (Sport Live Editor): Given all the options England have available, I think Foden has to start on the left, with Bukayo Saka on the right and Jude Bellingham in the No 10 role. Then Declan Rice and ideally Trent Alexander-Arnold or Kobbie Mainoo (but let's be honest, it will be Jordan Henderson) as the central midfield duo behind. England's most likely route to Euros glory is Bellingham grabbing the tournament by the scruff of the neck and pushing himself genuinely into the 'best men's player in the world' conversation, which has the best chance of happening if he plays a more advanced role rather than being wasted as part of a double pivot alongside Rice. Thus Foden – who has been electric for Man City but still has questions to answer in an England shirt – shifts out wide, where he can still be incredibly effective drifting inside. Hopefully there'll be a level of fluidity between him and Bellingham where he can still take up a more traditional No 10 role at points in the game anyway.

Kieran Jackson (Sports Reporter): Tricky decision, but the priority has to be Jude Bellingham in the No 10. The Real Madrid midfielder has lit up LaLiga playing beyond the traditional No 8 role that he featured in at the World Cup and should, on the whole, be utilised behind Harry Kane in Germany. As a result, certain starter Foden shifts out to the left with Bukayo Saka on the right, though I do think both could swap wings at various points throughout each match. If Saka is rested at all or injured, Foden should definitely be used on the right, cutting in on that wand of a left foot.