Gary Lineker ‘disagrees’ with Gareth Southgate’s comments over Trent Alexander-Arnold substitution against Serbia

Gary Lineker has questioned Gareth Southgate’s explanation for substituting Trent Alexander-Arnold for Conor Gallagher in the second half of England’s nervy 1-0 win over Serbia.

Jude Bellingham’s powerful 13th-minute header proved decisive as England got their Euro 2024 campaign off the ground with victory in Gelsenkirchen, but it was an uninspiring performance from the Three Lions for large periods.

England were disjointed in attack and allowed Serbia to apply pressure by sitting back after the break, with Jordan Pickford forced into a top save to deny Dusan Vlahovic in the closing stages.

But Harry Kane and Co will be pleased to get three points on the board and Southgate was satisfied with his side’s resilience in the second period as the result ensured they secured top spot in Group C.

Alexander-Arnold’s role was a key talking point heading into England’s opener and Southgate praised the Liverpool star’s display in the middle of the park as he spoke with BBC Sport shortly after the final whistle at Arena AufSchalke.

The England head coach also explained the reasoning behind his decision to introduce Chelsea midfielder Gallagher in place of Alexander-Arnold with 20 minutes remaining of the cagey contest.

Asked for thoughts on Alexander-Arnold’s showing alongside Declan Rice and Bellingham, the England boss replied: ‘Well, good.

‘I have to say that he’s been really diligent in getting his positioning right, balancing off, obviously Jude goes forward a lot, so I thought Trent adapted and adjusted to his positioning really well.

‘He used the ball well, obviously had a good effort on goal.

‘In the end we wanted some fresh legs in there and Conor can obviously get to the ball quickly and we’ve got a squad and we need to use it.’

After hosting the BBC’s coverage of the match, Lineker gave his thoughts on the ‘strange’ encounter and England’s, at times, ‘exacerbating’ display on The Rest Is Football podcast alongside Micah Richards.

‘It will be interesting to see how Gareth manages that situation on the left-hand side because you’ve got an obvious player on the left-hand side with [Anthony] Gordon, [Eberechi] Eze as well. There’s so much talent in that team!’ the ex-England striker said.

‘It’s a little bit exacerbating when they suddenly get 1-0 in front and it’s a criticism levelled at Gareth a lot about that fact he gets ahead and the team, whether it’s by instructions or whatever, but for some reason we do tend to sit back.

‘There’s almost a side of the human condition where you want to defend something when you’ve got it, but when your strength is keeping the ball and going forward and being calm, then suddenly sitting back when you can’t get out, it was a strange game.’

Lineker was confused by the decision to bring on Gallagher for Alexander-Arnold in the 69th minute and disagreed with Southgate’s post-match explanation of the substitution, with the England boss suggesting they needed protection and ‘fresh legs’ to close out the game.

‘The one thing they weren’t doing was keeping the ball and suddenly you brought on a player who is less likely to keep the ball [Gallagher] which is odd,’ Lineker added.

‘But he [Gareth] said in his interview after that game, “I needed protection, I needed the legs”, but I disagree with him. I think we needed someone to actually calm down.

‘[Jarrod] Bowen is an obvious change for [Bukayo] Saka, there’s no real change there. Saka is obviously a better overall player and I thought Saka played really well.’

However, Lineker is confident England will ‘find their feet’ and feels the underwhelming performance will have little bearing on how far Southgate’s men progress in Germany.

‘It’s three points, we’ve got to remember that. I don’t think there’s any reason really to be depressed,’ he continued.

‘I played in so many tournaments where we eventually performed brilliantly even though it might not have worked for us.

‘I can think of the ‘90 semi-final where we lost on penalties, where we started the tournament awfully and found our feet.

‘You do find your feet in a tournament. The first game is difficult, everyone is edgy and you don’t want to lose. I don’t think it really makes that much difference on where England will finish.

‘There were a few things to be positive about and a few things to be negative about, but every game is different and then suddenly you find a little spark and the world’s a better place.’



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *