Leave Ian Wright alone - Bukayo Saka at left back is not the worst idea for England

  • England failed to impress again at Euro 2024 versus Slovenia
  • Ian Wright suggested Bukayo Saka could be a left-back option for England
  • His proposal drew criticism from many Arsenal fans - but is he wrong?
Ian Wright's tactical plan involving Bukayo Saka drew criticism from Arsenal supporters
Ian Wright's tactical plan involving Bukayo Saka drew criticism from Arsenal supporters / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

It looks like the ‘can Bukayo Saka play left back?’ conversation has brought out the worst in Arsenal fans on X.

Club legend Ian Wright first mooted the idea on Tuesday night, following a dismal 0-0 draw between England and Slovenia, and was duly lambasted for it across social media; some just critical of the tactical ploy, others suggesting he is betraying Saka and now belongs in the same ‘traitors’ group as Robin van Persie or Cesc Fabregas.

Amid the ridicule, Wright meant well and has at least sparked an interesting debate on whether our Starboy should be used as a short-term backline solution - and I for one believe he could be on to something.

Defence is not somewhere you would want a man of Saka’s extraordinary attacking talent and it seems unlikely that his right-wing peers (e.g. Mohamed Salah, Pedro Neto) would be expected to perform there either. Furthermore, he is hardly the optimal choice from a defensive point of view.

Ian Wright does not deserve a backlash; Bukayo Saka at left back is a (not great) option for England

Bukayo Saka
Could Bukayo Saka be used as a left-back by England at Euro 2024? / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

But, given the circumstances, his redeployment is perhaps worth consideration. England are severely lacking in the left-back department as Luke Shaw remains a fitness risk, while any out-of-position right-backs (Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold) have not fully convinced in the Manchester United man's absence.

In contrast, Saka has played there before at Arsenal and, crucially, is left footed so can naturally hold the width from that side and get crosses into the box. His ability to take on defenders on either side would also grant England an unpredictable edge up top, as recent left-back choices need to cut inside on their stronger foot and, thereby, cause the pitch to narrow in offensive situations.

It was in this sense that Wright advocated the positional switch. Additionally, and far from championing Cole Palmer over one of our own, he (W)rightly pointed out how Saka is good enough to play elsewhere and still thrive, while Palmer’s presence at right wing means England would not suffer greatly if Saka were forced to plug the backline gap.        

This dilemma is obviously not ideal and maybe Joe Gomez should be trialled in defence first before a truly world-class attacker is dragged back there. But the manager must ultimately take the blame for leaving his left backs at home and, if push comes to shove, Saka might be as viable as any other internal solution.

So Ian Wright might have a point after all, and in any case he does not deserve his ongoing online castigation.