Jack Grealish brought life to England’s monotone football as he helped restore the feel good factor to Gareth Southgate’s side with fine display in Wales victory and puts himself firmly in contention for Euro 2020 spot

  • Jack Grealish felt the need to prove himself in England’s clash against Wales 
  • Grealish drifted from his position on the left of England’s front three to the right 
  • The midfielder then changed the tempo of the game and gave England some life
  • Grealish also helped out young Bakayo Sako – struggling on debut at left wing
  • His performance will make him part of England’s conversation going forwards 

It was almost as if Jack Grealish had endured enough of England’s early monotone football. Grealish is a player who thrives on the colour and life of a football match so England’s tepid, hesitant opening 25 minutes was never likely to suit him.

More than most, Grealish was at Wembley to make an impression. It was only in August that Gareth Southgate explained why the Aston Villa player wasn’t in his squad.

‘Jack is competing in my view against Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling,’ said Southgate ominously.

Midfielder Jack Grealish felt the need to prove himself in England's clash against Wales

Midfielder Jack Grealish felt the need to prove himself in England’s clash against Wales

So with opportunity having come quicker than expected and on the back of circumstance as well as his own good form, this was a night when Grealish couldn’t really afford to hang around. An impression had to be made.

Perhaps that is why he decided to drift from his position on the left of England’s front three and over to the right hand side midway through the first half.

For the previous 20 minutes or so, absolutely nothing had happened – for him or England. This was a night that ended with a little of the feel good factor that Southgate so badly needed after the difficulties and self-inflicted negativity that have recently surrounded his squads. But that was not the case early on.

It wasn't too long ago since Gareth Southgate opted to leave Grealish out of his England side

It wasn’t too long ago since Gareth Southgate opted to leave Grealish out of his England side

So poor was England’s tempo that the game was being played at a walking pace, which was presumably exactly what Wales had wanted.

Grealish changed all that, though. He changed it with one change of position, one very slight trick to square up his defender and one clipped cross on to the forehead of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Suddenly England were ahead, the feeling of the game changed and they went on to improve from there.

It was typical of Grealish. There has been some criticism of his final ball in the past. Some say that is why Manchester United never made their move this summer, why former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino baulked at his purchase two years back.

During the game Grealish drifted from the left of England’s front three over to the right

During the game Grealish drifted from the left of England’s front three over to the right

But so far this season, his use of the ball for Villa has been exceptional. Grealish sees angles and space quite naturally and has the ability to pass at exactly the right pace. It’s a gift that he has worked to improve and from the moment he set up Calvert-Lewin, it seemed as though a light had come on.

Grealish thrives on being Villa’s go-to man for drive and tempo. He enjoys responsibility. Early on here he looked suffocated by England’s lethargy. But good players will eventually go looking for the ball – and the influence that comes with it – and his part in the goal gave him the confidence to do what comes naturally.

Soon after he was helping out young Bakayo Sako – struggling on debut at left wing-back – to block a Wales cross and then came a back heel to feed Kalvin Phillips by the left touchline.

The midfielder changed the tempo of the game and gave England an element of life

The midfielder changed the tempo of the game and gave England an element of life

England’s formation had not helped Grealish early on. It hadn’t helped anybody apart from those who were playing for Wales. Southgate’s back three was too often a back five and as such far too much of their football was played in front of a Wales side that was hardly even asked to turn round and face its own goal.

Over time, England’s improvement did come. Rarely have three goal scorers enjoyed their big moments as much as Calvert-Lewin, Conor Coady and Danny Ings did. That was some antidote after another week of rather demoralising Covid breaches by England players.

As for Grealish he fell deeper as the game wore on. That may not have been Southgate’s instruction but England did look better when he was moving forwards with the ball.

Grealish also helped out young Bakayo Sako – who was struggling on his debut at left wing

Grealish also helped out young Bakayo Sako – who was struggling on his debut at left wing

Grealish has made himself part of the conversation for the England squad going forward's

Grealish has made himself part of the conversation for the England squad going forward’s

Twice around the hour, he was brought to ground by flailing Welsh legs. That was indicative of his influence while Wales were also increasingly worried by their own defending. Each of the scorers were unmarked as they scored and that is not a privilege they should expect to get used to at this level.

Without wishing to burst bubbles, it is hard to see Calvert-Lewin replacing Harry Kane as England’s number nine while Coady and Ings will also require a sudden shift in the order of things for them to enjoy a long run of starts.

For his part, Grealish is unlikely to be looking that far ahead. The likes of Greenwood, Sterling and Sancho will be back in the squad soon but he has at least managed to make himself part of the conversation. From that point of view, this was a good night. 

source: dailymail.co.uk

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