|>>|| No. 9268
As I have been saying since the build-up to the tournament, Jack Grealish has to start. One thing we have seen, watching him and Raheem Sterling in the two opening games, is how differently England and Manchester City play, and how difficult that makes it for Phil Foden especially to adapt.
City play in the final third. They keep possession there. And Foden is not a dribbler but a player who plays nice little passes and moves into good positions. At City, the movement of players around him enables it. You will see Kevin De Bruyne making a run into the inside channel, Kyle Walker running on Foden’s outside and Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez making movements infield, and it all happening at speed.
City will play quick five-yard passes before a little movement — not a big one — will free Foden up and he has licence to go into the spaces and play as a No 9, at times, or No 10 at others. Whereas with England he is a bit isolated out wide and when he receives the ball, the possession is slow and there is little happening around him. That means he then has to dribble — and if you are playing in such a way that, from your wide players, dribbling is what is required then why not play Grealish and Jadon Sancho, two of the best at doing it.
Against Scotland, I watched Foden getting the ball, playing it to Reece James, not getting it back and nothing really happening. The ball would then go to the centre backs and out to the other side and the tempo was slow. I thought this might happen. I was saying before the tournament that we have to calm down on Foden hype because even though he is an unbelievable talent, you cannot expect young players to come and tear tournaments up. I love Foden as a footballer but you have to realise that, for four years and more, he has been moulded into a City player. Pep Guardiola did not let him go on loan, or experience a different style of football — his whole adult career has been spent playing the Guardiola/City way. It is hard for him to turn up and just change how he has been playing since the age of 16.
Grealish commits defenders. You saw it in glimpses yesterday. What that game showed is that when you are against a side who are playing well defensively, in a good shape and hard to break down, you need players to commit the full backs. It makes a massive difference, opening up gaps where other players can come in and play.
The Czechs are similar in style to Scotland, even if they have a different formation, and I would use Sancho against them too. I would also play Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front with Harry Kane. Why? Well, in both games Harry has been isolated — especially against Scotland where he had to play against three centre halves, which is always very difficult for a single striker. Calvert-Lewin could make a difference. He can run channels, occupy the centre backs, win headers and bring the crossing ability of someone like James into play. He could do for England what Olivier Giroud does for France, offering that different option. Kane could play more in the No 10 role he has started occupying for Spurs.
I have spoken about the need for him, for England, to stay high up, play within the width of the goal and be a No 9 but instead he has dropped deep — especially against Croatia. If that is the way Harry is going to play, you might as well play with a No 9 and free Harry to be in the role he now seems to prefer. Adapt the team to him. You certainly do not drop him — he has to play. It will be obvious to everyone that he has not had the best two games but he is England’s most natural goalscorer by far, so he has to be on the pitch. He just needs better service and to be more connected to the rest of the team. Another change we need is for Jordan Pickford to speed his distribution up. He is taking far too long at goal kicks, keeping England’s tempo slow and giving the opposition time to get back in shape.
Rooney's Euros column in The Times. Can't really argue with that.