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5 talking points from England's international break | UEFA Nations League 2020-21

Scott Newman
Modified 15 Oct 2020, 19:38 IST
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#3 England are no longer so reliant on Harry Kane

Is Dominic Calvert-Lewin a viable alternative to Harry Kane for England?
Is Dominic Calvert-Lewin a viable alternative to Harry Kane for England?

Harry Kane has arguably been England’s most important player ever since Southgate took over as boss back in 2016. The Tottenham Hotspur striker has now scored 32 goals for his country, and finished as Golden Boot winner in the 2018 World Cup and top scorer in qualification for Euro 2020, too.

However, the worry that England have had during that time has always been around Kane’s fitness. The striker is somewhat injury-prone, and so many fans wondered how England would cope without him – even while the likes of Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling were scoring goals from wide areas.

The emergence of Tammy Abraham as a potential alternative last year was welcome, but following the recent games, England now have another two options. Both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings scored goals in the friendly win over Wales, with Calvert-Lewin also performing well in the win over Belgium.

Are either of them as good as Kane? Well, no, but Calvert-Lewin in particular offers a different style of forward to the Tottenham man. And bringing him off the bench in a major tournament as a tactical switch could definitely be a viable option now.

England might be short of top-class players in some positions, but based on the rise of Abraham, and now Ings and Calvert-Lewin, upfront isn’t one of them.

#4 Why won’t Southgate trust Grealish?

England fans appear to be frustrated by Gareth Southgate
England fans appear to be frustrated by Gareth Southgate's lack of trust in Jack Grealish.

Many fans and observers have been calling for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish to be capped for England for some time now. And when the Three Lions were hit with some injury withdrawals from September’s squad, the playmaker was given his chance.

After impressing in September’s draw with Denmark, Grealish was included in the squad from the beginning for this month’s games. Given his first start against Wales, the Villa captain performed brilliantly, and created Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s opening goal.

His performance was so good that he was awarded Man of the Match, and calls for him to start against Belgium and Denmark immediately went out. Somehow though, Gareth Southgate ignored those calls – and despite making numerous substitutions in both games, Grealish was nowhere to be seen.

So why was this? It’s honestly hard to say. Southgate had stated before that in his mind, Grealish would be competing against Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood for a spot as a wide forward. But two of those players were missing from the current squad.

And in both the Belgium and Denmark games, Mason Mount – who rarely plays as a wide-man for Chelsea – was given the nod ahead of the Villa captain. Sure, he scored against Belgium, but his inclusion over Grealish was definitely strange.


It was also strange that when the Denmark game was crying out for someone with Grealish’s ball-carrying skills, Southgate ignored him again. Instead, the England boss introduced Sancho, Calvert-Lewin, and Jordan Henderson.

So what more does Grealish need to do to have his talents fully recognised in the England set-up? Right now it’s hard to say, and perhaps only Southgate knows. But for the majority of fans, it feels like this immensely talented player is being treated somewhat unfairly.

#5 Maguire needs a break

Harry Maguire is badly struggling for form with both club and country.
Harry Maguire is badly struggling for form with both club and country.

It was always a risk to start Manchester United captain Harry Maguire in the UEFA Nations League games with Belgium and Denmark. Not only was he coming off a match that saw him concede six goals against Tottenham, but the shadow of his Greek court case was still very much looming over him.

Maguire performed decently against Belgium, albeit with some shaky moments. But against Denmark, he had a total stinker. The United defender was red-carded after just half an hour of the game for two bookable offences, both of which were crude, late challenges following simple errors.


Worse still, both of the challenges came when Maguire was horribly out of position, as he was in the centre of the pitch for the first and in a wide left area for the second. When he trudged off the pitch, he looked very much like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

The truth is that Gareth Southgate should never have picked a player so badly struggling for form right now. It goes against the ethos that he introduced to the England squad back in 2016. It may have done Maguire far more harm than good overall.

The United captain is still an excellent defender, but right now, more than anything else, he needs a serious break. Unless his form quickly improves, perhaps leaving him out of the next England squad entirely would be worth considering.

Published 15 Oct 2020, 19:38 IST
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