Gareth Southgate’s Phil Foden excuse insults England fans.

Gareth Southgate's Phil Foden excuse insults England fans.

The talk about Phil Foden has been going on all weekend. Now, we’re still talking about it. We’re still scratching our heads and wondering what Gareth Southgate thinks when he picks his team (which is wrong) and makes his substitutions (which are also wrong), just like we’ve done for every England manager since the beginning of time.

England’s managers never get a fair shake. Even if they are made up, their supporters will always find something to beat them with. Who didn’t get mad when, for example, Mike Bassett chose Tony Hedges from York City and Ron Benson from Plymouth Argyle? It’s not usually a good idea. But then again, it is sometimes.

As England struggled to a boring 0-0 draw with the USA, fans were right to want Phil Foden to play. Southgate decided not to give in, saying that the player hadn’t played in the number ten spot for Manchester City.

This is the most important thing to worry about. Here, the manager of England admits that he couldn’t figure out how to “fit one of England’s most talented and versatile players into an already fluid 4-2-3-1 system.”

Let’s look at each part. Phil Foden can play as a 10, an 8 who likes to attack, or on either wing. Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, and Jude Bellingham all had bad games against the USA and could have been replaced. Foden could have replaced each of them with a little rearranging, depending on who else Southgate wanted to bring off the bench.

Southgate’s argument that Foden doesn’t play as a 10 for City is nonsense. Players can play different roles for their clubs and countries, which he should know since he has often put Kyle Walker in the middle of the defense. When they’ve been training with Pep Guardiola for six seasons, they’re not just used to it. They’re comfortable with it.

The argument also doesn’t work because Marcus Rashford replaced Saka on England’s right side, a position he rarely plays for Manchester United.

Whenever Southgate has tried to defend his decisions, he has used double standards and illogical reasoning. It seems like his comments to the media was made on purpose to make fans angry.

If they were, he always hits the target.

For many good reasons, Foden shouldn’t have been put in the game against the US. Given how things were going in the group, it made sense to keep England from losing instead of going all out for the win and getting caught on the counter.

Foden’s defense and work off the ball aren’t as good as those of other players, and we haven’t seen him play as well for England as he did for Man City. Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford scored against Iran, so they deserved to come off the bench and make an impact.

Each argument, though, has a good counterargument. With a win, England could have made sure of qualifying right then. Changes that seem to be offensive can be defensive. Foden’s ability to get the ball in tight spaces might not have helped England take control of a game they were having trouble with in the middle.

Does he need to be strong on defense when Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson, and a solid back four are behind him? What is Foden supposed to do on the field in the first place? This isn’t a defense.

We haven’t seen his best for England because he often plays in Southgate’s preferred 3-4-3 formation, which is both limiting and depressing. Based on how he has played this season, Foden should be way ahead of Saka, Mount, and Sterling, let alone Rashford and Grealish.

This argument can go on and on. The point is that Southgate could have come up with some good reasons. As a manager, we are used to his obvious practicality, which he wears like a Marks and Spencer waistcoat. Fans probably wouldn’t have been happy, but at least they might have understood.

Instead, Southgate’s comment made it sound like he was scared, didn’t like fans, or, even worse, was not very good at his job. When the score is 0-0, and Foden sits on the bench, there better be a damn good reason.

Southgate couldn’t think of any. So it makes sense that a national inquiry is being held. Both in the World Cup semi-final and the Euro final, England paid a high price for his game-changing substitutions or lack thereof. Even though England fans are often told to find something to complain about, they have every right to be angry about this.

In knockout football, these decisions can decide who wins or loses. If you don’t make them in the group stage, you won’t be brave enough to make them later in the tournament. Southgate still can’t get them right or even figure out why he makes them.