Who are the wing-backs? Time for Toney? England XIs to face Switzerland


Peter Smith: Alexander-Arnold’s creativity and refreshed wing threat required

(4-2-3-1) Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Konsa, Gomez; Mainoo, Rice; Palmer, Bellingham, Gordon; Kane.

You’ll see the majority of our writers are calling for a switch to a back three. My fear would be another defender on the pitch would only further encourage England to invite the opposition on. That performance in extra-time after Harry Kane’s goal was a hard watch and there’s a reason Gareth Southgate – to most England fans’ delight – ditched the system before the last World Cup. I’m also uncomfortable about reverting Bukayo Saka to left-wing-back.

Instead, I’d restore Trent Alexander-Arnold to his familiar right-back position in place of the out-of-sorts Kyle Walker, bring in Ezri Konsa for the suspended Marc Guehi, and have the solid, reliable Joe Gomez – who did well at left-back for Liverpool this past season – take the spot of Kieran Trippier. Gomez can marshal Switzerland’s shot-happy Dan Ndoye.

Like Trippier, Gomez is right-footed, so to stretch the play down that left side and avoid England constantly turning back and coming infield from wide positions on that flank, Anthony Gordon is selected. He can give his Newcastle team-mate Fabian Schar problems. And on the other side, Cole Palmer has shown in his cameos he has the quality, unpredictability and confidence to step in for Saka and ignite the attack.

Oli Yew: Saka to provide width from left wing-back

(3-4-3) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Konsa; Alexander-Arnold, Mainoo, Rice, Saka, Bellingham, Palmer, Kane.

England got out of jail against Slovakia but they may not be so lucky against an excellent Switzerland side. Despite the Jude Bellingham heroics, the reality is England were really poor again in the last 16, and changes need to be made before it’s too late.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. It’s time for a system change that matches us up to the Swiss but also gets us attacking on both sides of the pitch. With a 3-4-3 formation, Trent Alexander-Arnold comes back into the team at right wing back, while Bukayo Saka performs the same role on the other side of the pitch, and the Arsenal star can still ask plenty of questions of the opposition from that position.

His presence on the left also creates space on the right – Slovakia had to stop overloading their left side because of the potential threat of Saka – and that will help Alexander-Arnold and Cole Palmer, who should get his first start of the tournament. The goals from Bellingham and Harry Kane get them another chance, while Ezri Konsa replaces the suspended March Guehi in a back three alongside Kyle Walker and John Stones.

Joe Shread: Matching the Swiss system makes sense

(3-4-3) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Gomez; Alexander-Arnold, Mainoo, Rice, Saka; Palmer, Bellingham, Kane.

It was quite hard to determine what shape England were trying to play for much of their win over Slovakia but there was definitely a switch to a three-player defence in there somewhere. Gareth Southgate should make that switch clear and permanent when England take on Switzerland.

The Swiss play with three at the back so matching their system makes sense. It’s also the best way for Southgate to ensure his side have natural width on the left, with Bukayo Saka moving to wing-back and Kieran Trippier dropping to the bench.

It’s a toss-up between Joe Gomez and Ezri Konsa to replace the suspended Marc Guehi, while playing at wing-back Trent Alexander-Arnold allows England to find space for one of their most creative players, while also freeing him of some of his defensive responsibilities and ending his doomed trial in midfield.

Kobbie Mainoo deserves to retain his place, while Cole Palmer should start ahead of Phil Foden, who continues to underwhelm.

Ben Grounds: Toney can unsettle Swiss

(5-3-2) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Konsa; Alexander-Arnold, Rice, Mainoo, Bellingham, Shaw; Kane, Toney.

England have been stodgy, predictable and should be going home. It was only after Ivan Toney’s introduction against Slovakia that they posed a threat. It’s time to see if there is true substance to a partnership with Harry Kane. His inclusion would shift the mood music around Gareth Southgate and England at this tournament.

Switzerland go into this as favourites on form, and Southgate must acknowledge this with a solid structure that matches up their opposition in the same way he overcame Germany at Euro 2020. He must now pick a system that suits his personnel and Kieran Trippier’s withdrawal can solve the biggest issue.

The only caveat to that is should Luke Shaw still not be fit to start, I would place Bukayo Saka in front of him on the left. This could again go the distance so having Cole Palmer and Phil Foden as finishers and the energy of Conor Gallagher and Anthony Gordon off the bench could prove a shrewd move.

Lewis Jones: Load the midfield to stop Xhaka and play the percentages

(5-3-2) Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Walker, Stones, Konsa, Saka; Mainoo, Rice, Bellingham; Toney, Kane.

It’s time to rip it up and start again, Gareth. Antonio Conte once famously showed with Chelsea that a switch to a 5-3-2 and a more direct style of play can lead to riches – and this is how I’d play it ahead of the Swiss game. I’d have three in the middle to stop Granit Xhaka from dictating things in the mesmerising way he’s done at this tournament.

Needs must, so Bukayo Saka is going to have to play left-wing back and Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right with Kyle Walker playing as the third centre-back, although he deserves to be dropped after his horror show against Slovakia. We’re clearly not confident or good enough under this manager to play total football, so Walker’s weapon of a long throw and set pieces should be focused on. That’s why I’m picking Ivan Toney to partner Harry Kane. Get it in the mixer. Yes, it’s come to this.

Sam Blitz: Gordon can solve left-side issue

(4-2-3-1) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Konsa, Trippier; Rice, Mainoo; Saka, Bellingham, Gordon; Kane

The last time England played a back three was the 3-3 draw against Germany at Wembley. That was in September 2022 – the final game before the Qatar World Cup. That entire England team has been ripped up and this new cycle has been coached on a back four. England are far from convincing but making such a drastic mid-tournament change would only dig an even deeper hole, and lead to more confusion and instability.

Instead, Gareth Southgate should fix the big problem which is England’s left-hand side. Phil Foden, for all his talents, hasn’t worked in that role. And you can’t afford to take Jude Bellingham away from his No 10 role, his overhead heroics showing he possesses that moment to get this team out of trouble.

It’s time to unleash Anthony Gordon down the left as a more natural option. Yes, the Newcastle winger wasn’t used against Slovakia, but neither was Ivan Toney for the previous three England games – and look how big an impact he had on Sunday.

Ron Walker: Palmer and Gordon can pin Switzerland back

(4-2-3-1) Pickford, Walker, Stones, Konsa, Trippier, Rice, Mainoo, Palmer, Bellingham, Gordon, Kane.

England need to find their balance, but this does not mean a return to their limited 3-5-2, 3-4-3 which was functional without flair. It’s time for Gareth Southgate to make the changes he should have done after Slovenia. Get Anthony Gordon in to provide more width and direct play so we can finally worry teams on our left flank. Then Kieran Trippier can stick to his main job as a reliable defender.

Give Cole Palmer the starting spot he deserves, because he has shown more in two brief cameos than Bukayo Saka has in four matches. This might not be England’s best team on paper, but it is the one that looks most potent on current form.

Two dangerous wingers will pin back Switzerland’s wing-backs, take England higher up the pitch and give England more freedom to actually dictate games for the first time in Germany.



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