England Reporter Notebook: Grealish, Southgate and more | Football News

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Jack Grealish got his first call in England for the Three Lions League double header

Sky Sports News England Rob Dorsett reports from his isolation base in Iceland all things Grealish, Southgate, Pickford, defense and… who will even start?

Grealish has a ‘battle for playing time’

The fact that Gareth Southgate had long resisted Jack Grealish’s call – and the fact that he was only included this time after Marcus Rashford’s withdrawal due to injury – would suggest that the captain of Aston Villa still has a battle on its hands. to get any match time against Iceland or Denmark. Southgate sees Grealish as a left striker in a front three, and in that department England are very well covered.

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Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett explains why Grealish was first called up to England senior squad

Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett explains why Grealish was first called up to the England senior squad

Even in Rashford’s absence, he has to overtake Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and now Mason Greenwood, who has exploded onto the Premier League scene with Manchester United. I think it all depends on how Grealish performs – on and off the pitch – within the England squad over the next few days.

His character will be assessed as much as his abilities – how does he fit into the larger squad and how comfortable is he speaking alongside England’s elite players? Team unity and a collective strength of character are vital for Southgate. There is no room for the loners or the Mavericks: Grealish is not the first of these things, but he certainly is the second. The next question concerns its integration into the English system.

Few of us doubt Grealish’s extraordinary talent and ability to change games in an instant. But the higher the level he plays, the less freedom he will have to move wherever he wants. There aren’t many clubs that could give Grealish the free role he has at Villa, where he lines up on the left but has the freedom to move almost anywhere on the pitch.

Will Southgate ask him to play a more disciplined and regulated role with England in training? And will Grealish be able to do himself justice with those kinds of restrictions? This is something the England manager will have to think carefully over the next few days.

No easy commute from Southgate after a busy schedule

Southgate and the FA take the Nations League very seriously, and they certainly aren’t seen as glorified friendlies. When it comes to friendlies, Southgate has always tried to organize matches against some of the best teams in the world – just see the series of three friendlies against Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil at the fall 2017 as England began preparations for the World Cup.

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Dorsett explains logistical challenges Gareth Southgate faces ahead of England Nations League game in Iceland

Dorsett explains logistical challenges Gareth Southgate faces ahead of England Nations League game in Iceland

Southgate wants to see his young team put to the test against the best, so that they are better prepared for the big games against strong opposition in the later stages of the tournaments. And the Nations League has been a huge positive for Southgate and England in that regard.

After England’s tremendous performance at the Russia World Cup, the accusation was made that England did not play strong teams, and when they did, they lost (witness defeat against Belgium in the last group match and England’s final exit from the tournament in the semi-finals at the hands of Croatia).

Two years ago, the Nations League responded emphatically to these criticisms, as England beat Spain in Seville and took revenge against Croatia to advance to the semi-finals. These results gave the team confidence and a new conviction that they could compete with the best.

A delicate balance

We could well see a different-looking England starting 11 at the previous caps. No member of the Southgate squad will have played a competitive game for at least a fortnight before facing Iceland in Reykjavik on Saturday – many will not have had football for a month. Some have played pre-season friendlies with their clubs.

But quite simply – every player is in a very different state of fitness. The withdrawals of Rashford with an ankle injury and Harry Winks for some unspecified reason are a case in point. Declan Rice hasn’t played in any of West Ham’s preseason games after suffering a blow, but is now back in the gym.

What is the form of Harry Kane, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham – who have all self-isolated since returning from vacation and haven’t been able to train with their clubs? It’s a logistical nightmare for Southgate, as they try to find out the individual status of each of their players before joining Monday morning at St George’s Park.

In truth, Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland will only be able to make an accurate assessment of each player’s readiness to play when they see them training.

Keep in mind that the first light grass training session was on Monday afternoon and the team flew to Iceland on Friday after just three full training sessions – there has very little time for Southgate to make these assessments.

A goalie headache?

Is Jordan Pickford’s position threatened? You have to say it. Based on what we’ve seen this season – and particularly since returning from the Premier League – Pickford is not England’s fittest keeper.

Jordan Pickford has made the most mistakes leading to goals since August 2018 in the Premier League

Jordan Pickford has made the most mistakes leading to goals since August 2018 in the Premier League

Stats will show you Dean Henderson kept 13 clean sheets compared to Pickford’s nine, and the Manchester United keeper made 97 saves on loan at Sheffield United, compared to Pickford’s 94. Burnley’s Nick Pope was better than both, with 120 saves and 15 clean sheets.

But Southgate is very loyal to the players who have served him well, and Pickford undoubtedly records his best performances when he wears an English shirt. His experience and level of performance in international football means Southgate has a tough call to make.

Selection issue: Harry Maguire not being in the squad, who is likely to start as center-back?

… and more defensive doubts

Defense is a particularly difficult area for Southgate this time around. It was confusing to many that he didn’t name a single left-back in his initial squad of 24 – and a real kick in the teeth for Danny Rose, who was not named despite his form and availability. .

Add to that Maguire’s absence for well-publicized reasons, and Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw due to injury, and England are having some difficulty here. The lack of a left-back in the squad and the appeal of Conor Coady – who regularly plays in a three-way back for Wolves – suggests Southgate may consider this system to face Iceland.

Harry Maguire was struck off the Southgate squad after being convicted of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery in Greece - although the conviction was overturned before his appeal.

Harry Maguire was removed from the Southgate squad after being convicted of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempted bribery in Greece – although the conviction was overturned before his appeal.

I could imagine him giving Coady his England debut, starting him alongside Joe Gomez and Tyrone Mings. It’s a formation that served England so well in their run to the World Cup semi-final two years ago, but Southgate has gradually evolved into a more traditional full-back since the tournament.

Alternatively, he can crow-bar a makeshift left back into a four flat back. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was called up late on Saturday, played in both full-back positions for Arsenal.

Due to the issues discussed earlier – with so many unknowns about each player’s fitness levels and the type of system Southgate might play – it is probably England from age 11 the hardest to predict, in the entire Southgate tenure.

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