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Gareth Southgate Claims Jack Grealish Needs To Be Better Defensively To Start For England

Ryan Sidle

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Gareth Southgate Claims Jack Grealish Needs To Be Better Defensively To Start For England

Jack Grealish has been told he needs to improve his defensive ability if he wants to start for England, by manager Gareth Southgate, a statement that will likely anger fans of the national team.

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Grealish was a substitute for England, as they faced Germany in the Nations League on Tuesday night, and came on with just 18 minutes of the game to go.

The Three Lions had been outplayed for much of the match and were 1-0 down, thanks to Jonas Hoffman's 50th minute goal, facing back-to-back defeats for the first time since 2019.

However, the Manchester City forward made an instant impact as he set up a couple of very good chances, added a general urgency to England's play and inadvertently set up Harry Kane's contentious penalty, that earned the team a draw.

Grealish has had to wait for his chances for England. Image: Alamy
Grealish has had to wait for his chances for England. Image: Alamy

With Southgate's team still having to play Italy and Hungary in the next week most would be expecting Grealish to turn two substitute appearances into a start, but that might not be the case.

After the match, the England boss said the 26-year-old 'could be both' a starter or impact sub in the team and then explained that he would need to be better in defence to become the former.

"If we didn’t trust him we wouldn’t put him on the pitch with 20 minutes to go in the belief he can make a difference," Southgate said of Grealish.

"The start of the game, the challenge to the wide players [is] to attack, defend, try to score goals at a high tactical level and you’ve got to be spot on.

"I think that’s an area Jack can get better at and what he did do was carry the ball and at that moment of the game as it opens up there’s a little more space, a little more opportunity, and also that freshness.

"The impact that he and Jarrod Bowen had was really important in those attacking areas. There is a good challenge there, good competition for places, and we have got to keep pushing them."

Southgate's advice is unlikely to go down well. Image: Alamy
Southgate's advice is unlikely to go down well. Image: Alamy

The claim from the manager is likely to annoy fans of the team, with many already considering the 51-year-old to be too cautious, despite leading the national side to a semi-final and final in the past two major tournaments.

Grealish has earned 22 caps for the Three Lions since making his debut in September 2002, which already came too late for many fans.

He has only started 11 of those games, coming on as a substitute in the other 11, and the manager's reluctance to make him a regular starter has often been criticised.

The then Aston Villa captain was cheered during last summer's Euros every time he was shown on screen warming up and always received a huge ovation when coming on.

Grealish became a hero during the Euros, as fans demanded his introduction. Image: Alamy
Grealish became a hero during the Euros, as fans demanded his introduction. Image: Alamy

Southgate's defensive football continues to frustrate fans, during last week's loss to Hungary, the former Middlesbrough boss set the team up in a 5-2-3 formation, with many also complaining that despite fielding five defenders his midfielders were also too defensive.

On Tuesday he did go back to a 4-2-3-1 formation but things didn't improve in an attacking sense until Grealish, and then Jarrod Bowen, were brought on late in the game.

Southgate's success with the team had made him quite popular but failure to turn either run into a first tournament win since 1966, coupled with defensive football and recent results, have led some to call for Graham Potter to take over as manager.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Jack Grealish, England, Gareth Southgate, Manchester City, UEFA Nations League

Ryan Sidle
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