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John Barnes happy to avoid Austria but warns Southgate of shoehorning Palmer into an already struggling attack

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Bonuscodebets had the pleasure of sitting down with former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes to discuss the England team ahead of their clash with Slovakia on Sunday. Barnes delved into the performance of Cole Palmer when he came on off the bench as well as the idea of using Bukayo Saka at left back.

In this article:

  • Cole Palmer shines against Slovenia but doesn’t mean he should start
  • You can’t shoehorn Saka, Palmer, Foden and Bellingham
  • Barnes happy to see England avoid Austria

Cole Palmer shines against Slovenia but doesn’t mean he should start

Before coming on for Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka against Slovenia on Thursday, Cole Palmer hadn’t played a single minute of football but quickly reminded the world of what he’s capable of through his cameo. A cameo that had the pundits over at ITV purring from Ian Wright to Roy Keane. But was it enough to earn Palmer his first start of the tournament on Sunday?

“It was a great performance. He came on and he looked dangerous, but once again, it’s not about playing Cole Palmer and giving him the ball and saying go and look dangerous. He looked dangerous for Chelsea and where did Chelsea finish?

“It’s not about individuals looking dangerous and playing well. It’s about how they compliment the team. And if we think that Cole Palmer is going to come on and do what he does for Chelsea, then there’s no point having Jude Bellingham or Phil Foden.”

Palmer’s performance against Slovenia has led to talk of him deserving a starting place against Slovenia but Barnes is wary of trying to shoehorn in all of the best attacking players which could impact the balance of the team.

You can’t shoehorn Saka, Palmer, Foden and Bellingham

“It’s about the team benefiting from all of the players playing in their position, doing what’s right for the team. You can’t have Cole Palmer, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Saka on the pitch at the same time.

“You have to have the right balance and that is why I think Mainoo and Rice are needed in midfield. We’re good enough to go through. We’re in a nice group half of the bracket, which means we can get through to the semi-final and maybe the final. Thankfully we’re not on the other side, but I think ultimately for us to really win it, we’re going to have to come up with a way of play that suits the team rather than looking just to put the best individuals in the team.”

One of Ian Wright’s suggestions was to get a natural left footer in Saka at left back so that Cole Palmer could step in on the right side after his incredible cameo but Barnes who was speaking exclusively to Bonuscodebets laughed off the idea and compared it to Southgate using Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield.

“I wouldn’t like to see Saka playing left back against Dembele or against some of the wingers that he’s going to come up against. I don’t know why we think we can play Saka at left back, when he’s not played there much. Saka at left back is not a solution.

“I think the experiment with Trent didn’t work because Trent’s has not played in midfield for Liverpool. But over the years, what he has done is he’s moved into midfield from a right back position when Liverpool are in possession but he doesn’t start off in midfield.”

Barnes happy to see England avoid Austria

One of the huge concerns has been the attacking patterns and cohesion so far and Barnes claims he is relieved that England have avoided the Ralf Rangnick led Austria who topped their group which included the likes of France and the Netherlands.

“I think it is too late for us to now talk about nailing down a system of play where the players can come in and fit into that system.

“Because when Gordon plays, he plays differently to Cole Palmer, who plays differently to Foden and Bellingham plays differently to anybody else who’s an attacking player. I don’t think we’re going to get a system in place before the next game. So therefore I think we’re really going to have to rely on individuals.

“I’m glad it’s not Austria we’re facing because Austria are one of the most impressive teams there because they won their group. So I think that the team will really depend on who we play.”

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