England vs Wales: Five things Southgate learned as Grealish dazzles and Calvert-Lewin scores


1) Grealish stakes claim for key England role

Reading football Twitter you would think Jack Grealish had suddenly burst on to the scene this season. He was sensational in Aston Villa’s demolition of Liverpool and he was fantastic again here against Wales, but he was doing the kind of Grealish things he has been doing for several years. His ability to drift past opponents, shield the ball, draw fouls and create opportunities for teammates is as good as anything England have right now and the only mystery is why it has taken Gareth Southgate so long to harness those skills. His talents are not dissimilar to Paul Gascoigne, albeit a lofty comparison, and in the same way Grealish can add an X-factor to this team to unpick better defences than this in the months and years to come.

2) Calvert-Lewin and Ings, ready-made understudies

England have been searching for a reliable understudy for Harry Kane since Jamie Vardy retired from international football. Marcus Rashford is better attacking from wide while Tammy Abraham is yet to find consistency; but in Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings, Gareth Southgate has quality in abundance. Both took their first England goals with aplomb and most importantly played in a manner akin to their Premier League form. While there is an argument to pair one of the duo with Kane in attack, it’s more likely in the short term that they compete to be first man off the bench when called upon, and they both showed here that they are worthy of the role.

3) Pope is England’s best goalkeeper

It is a long time since Jordan Pickford was England’s best goalkeeper, probably stretching back to the 2018 World Cup. Of course it was his excellent and dependable work in Russia which earned Southgate’s trust and cemented his place as No 1, but that position is surely no longer so solid now. While Pickford has been making a series of errors in the Premier League over the past 12 months or so, Burnley’s Nick Pope has seemed near imperious, and Pope showed exactly what he has to offer with a composed display and clean sheet at Wembley. It may not have been the stiffest of tests, but Pope showed in his demeanour that he feels he belongs in the England team. The question now is whether Southgate agrees.

4) 3-4-3 still raises questions

This was a far better England performance than the stale draw with Denmark last time out, but there were still periods of the match particularly in the first half when the midfield four appeared disjointed from the front three. Southgate has said he believes it could be a formation that England use against high quality opposition and it makes sense to trial sooner rather than later, but neither Wales nor Denmark represent the kind of calibre the manager is preparing for. The result was good here but the performance wasn’t always controlled and there remain plenty of question marks over whether England should continue towards Euro 2020 with the 3-4-3 shape.

5) Coady here to stay?

Conor Coady’s delight after scoring was joyous, and to cap off his day he finished the game wearing the captain’s armband too. Could he be a long-term solution in what has been a problem position for England in recent years? Time will tell, but the early signs are promising. 

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