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Euro 2024: England told to make one change to lineup for Netherlands semi-final

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Former England international Stephen Warnock has called on Gareth Southgate to change the left wing-back position for Wednesday’s Euro 2024 semi-final against Netherlands.

The Three Lions will attempt to reach a second successive European Championship final when they take on Ronald Koeman’s men in Dortmund, having stuttered their way to the last four so far.

England have won just once inside 90 minutes at this summer’s tournament – a 1-0 triumph over Serbia in their opening match – and needed late equalisers in both knockout games before going on to beat Slovakia and Switzerland in extra time and on penalties respectively.

Southgate switched formation for the Switzerland match, playing three at the back with Bukayo Saka and Kieran Trippier as wing-backs.

Saka started on the right despite being predominantly left-footed, while Trippier was on the left despite being right-footed, and the latter in particular has been criticised at times throughout the tournament for cutting inside too often compared to a natural left-back.

Warnock knows the left-back position well from his playing career and featured there twice for England, and he believes that a natural left-footer would improve the overall balance in Southgate’s side, if he sticks with the formation from the Switzerland match.

“I think the reason [the three-at-the-back formation] works is because you’re trying to get [Jude] Bellingham and [Phil] Foden into that position behind Harry Kane,” Warnock told media.

“But also, when you’ve got wing-backs, you can push them higher up the pitch and press, and then at the back, it leaves you three vs. two, three vs. three. What you’re then doing is you’re trusting your three centre-backs to go as tight as you want and to be left in in one vs. one situations, albeit three vs. three.

“But you’re happy to go one against one against your man, I think it works. My only thing with it is I still don’t understand Saka and Trippier playing on the opposite sides and playing inside.

“I understand Saka to a certain degree, because he’s used to playing that side and he can run the ball down the line quite comfortably. But Trippier – there’s nothing against him, I’m a huge fan, he’s been magnificent for club and country – but it’s not a natural thing for him to want to go down the left-hand side. He always wants to come back, and it just slows England down a bit.

“If they can get that balance right down the left-hand side, I think the formation actually works really well.”

Saka is England’s main man

Saka produced the standout performance of England’s quarter-final victory over Switzerland, deservedly being named man of the match on top of scoring the equaliser and netting in the penalty shootout.

Warnock was full of praise for the Arsenal winger, but believes that a switch away from Trippier on the left side would help Saka to stand out even more as England’s main man.

“If you can isolate Saka in one vs. one situations and make the most of his attributes, then he’ll stand out in most games,” Warnock told media.

“There have been games where he’s been suffocated where we’re getting the ball out to him so slow. But again, that comes down to the balance of the left-hand side. If you’re playing against England, you know that that ball effectively is only going to go out to Saka, he’s going to be the main player.

“What are you going to do? You’re going to put two men on that side, make sure that you make it very difficult for him and make it tough for him to take you on in one vs. one situations. It’s very easy to set up against England at the moment because of that imbalance.”

England have suffered from a shortage of available left-backs so far at Euro 2024, with Luke Shaw the only natural one included in the squad despite the Manchester United man having not played since February due to injury.

Shaw also missed England’s first four games of this summer’s tournament, but did make a cameo off the bench against Switzerland and could be in line to feature against Netherlands in Wednesday’s semi-final.

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