Your top players are undoubtedly talented, but the best lineup isn’t always about having all of them on the field. England is grappling with this issue once again. Similar to Sven-Göran Eriksson’s oversight in 2006 with Michael Carrick and Roy Hodgson’s misstep with Wayne Rooney in 2016, Gareth Southgate has fallen into a familiar pattern. His tactical approach is sluggish, the starting XI lacks balance, and his attempt to cram too many similar players into a static attack has rendered England the least entertaining team to watch at Euro 2024.

However, there’s still time to rectify the situation before the last-16 match in Gelsenkirchen. Major overhauls aren’t necessary; just a few adjustments could enhance England’s performance, especially considering their slight improvement in the latter half of the draw against Slovenia. The critical question is whether Southgate will make these bold changes.

The first obvious change is to replace Conor Gallagher with Kobbie Mainoo, letting the young player take charge in midfield without overemphasizing his defensive duties. Another issue Southgate needs to address is the left-back position. Kieran Trippier is struggling both in possession and against stronger attacks.

Waiting for Luke Shaw to regain full fitness isn’t feasible. Ian Wright suggested using the left-footed Bukayo Saka at left-back, a role he played in his youth. A potentially better option could be moving Kyle Walker to the left and starting Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back. While still not perfectly balanced, Walker doesn’t overlap much on the right, and Alexander-Arnold could control possession more effectively in his usual position, drifting into the midfield role he often plays for Liverpool.

Flexibility is key. Despite having an array of talented forwards, Southgate hasn’t found the right combination. Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham are often in each other’s space, and Saka is wearing out on the right wing. This could be Southgate’s biggest decision: Can he prioritize team dynamics over individual reputations concerning Foden, Bellingham, and Saka?

Foden’s situation might resolve itself, as he returned home on Wednesday for a family matter, and his availability for Sunday’s game is uncertain. England hopes he will be back, but Southgate, likely on thin ice with his job, needs to be proactive. The lack of significant changes after the disjointed 1-1 draw with Denmark was concerning. Persisting with the same lineup, where Foden is awkwardly positioned on the left, Bellingham is overburdened in the middle, Saka is exhausted on the right, and Harry Kane looks slow up front, is not working. This setup isn’t going to improve magically.

A fresh approach is needed. Cole Palmer, who showed flair after being subbed in against Slovenia, should replace Saka. Additionally, England needs more speed on the wings. If Foden misses training, Southgate might finally start Anthony Gordon on the left. Ideally, Foden should move inside, and Bellingham should be benched.

Bellingham was expected to shine, especially after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. He was impressive in the first half of the game against Serbia, scoring the winner. However, Southgate noticed Bellingham’s energy dwindled after halftime. Bellingham has been used as a false No. 9 at Madrid, but does he currently have the discipline or stamina for a midfield role? His performance against Denmark was lackluster, slowing down play and showing signs of frustration.

In the match against Slovenia, Bellingham’s effort improved, but his execution was poor. He frequently lost possession and seemed overwhelmed by pressure. Foden, despite his imperfections, has been more effective and doesn’t deserve to be dropped. Bellingham has had two consecutive poor performances.

This is understandable, given Bellingham’s youth at 20. He’s part of England’s leadership group but is still learning. The scenario is reminiscent of Wayne Rooney’s meltdown in 2006. Bellingham’s recent frustrations and interactions with referees suggest opponents are targeting him.

The main issue is tactical. Three games in, it’s clear that Bellingham and Foden can’t coexist effectively without Shaw’s width from left-back. Adjustments are necessary. While Gordon might not be more talented than Foden or Bellingham, his directness could stretch the play. International football often requires players who can fulfill specific roles. France won the 2018 World Cup with Olivier Giroud upfront, who didn’t score but played his role effectively.

Southgate must decide, especially if Foden returns before the end of England’s campaign in Germany. Bellingham is undoubtedly part of England’s future, but Southgate needs to focus on the present. The best players are those who can help England win the next four games, and Bellingham should consider himself fortunate if he gets another chance on Sunday.