England’s midfield under Gareth Southgate has often been pretty uninspiring, but rarely is it as boring as it was in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Scotland.
The boss’ infamous two defensive-midfielder system, consisting of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, did not work at all against Steve Clarke’s side, with neither showing on the ball or looking remotely interested in creating a chance.
Even further forward, the trio of Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling all failed to inject that oomph – leaving fans crying out for the creativity of Jack Grealish.
We had to wait over an hour for Southgate to make the change fans were all crying out for, and it didn’t take long for Grealish’s presence to be felt. He won a free-kick within seconds of being on the pitch and spent most of his 30-minute outing on the ball.
Now, let’s not act like Grealish came on and saved the day. He didn’t, and the 0-0 scoreline shows that. However, he probably would have if literally anyone else on the pitch looked like they wanted to make something happen.
There were times where nine England outfield players were all stood still, watching Grealish and simply hoping that he would wave his magic wand and make something happen. Unfortunately, he’s not that good. He can’t carry an entire country on his back.
He was asked to cross the ball into a box which had no presence from England. Luke Shaw ended up being the target man on one occasion, and why would Grealish ever play that ball? He might not know what an encyclopaedia is, but he’s not an idiot.
From this point on, Grealish must start every game for England. Nobody else in the squad brings that kind of creativity and willingness to make things happen. You can argue that Jadon Sancho is the only other player like that, and he hasn’t even played a minute at the tournament so far.
By the time Grealish came on the pitch, the tone of the match was already set. Scotland had been allowed to build all the momentum and England were licking their wounds at that point. They were all off it.
It wasn’t good enough from England, and it wasn’t good enough from Southgate.