Skip to main content

Euro 2020: Why isn't Jack Grealish starting for England?

Jack Grealish
(Image credit: PA Images)

He's only actually started one game at Euro 2020 for England - but Jack Grealish is perhaps the most talked about player in Gareth Southgate's squad.

After a dazzling season with Aston Villa, the no.7 has been many people's choice to start on the left for England, especially early on in the tournament, with Raheem Sterling heading into the competition after a somewhat disappointing season individually at Manchester City. 

RICHARD JOLLY Can England become the new Germany at major tournaments?

So why hasn't Grealish started more? Why isn't the Villa man an automatic pick for the national side after the season that he's had?

1. Gareth Southgate favours Mason Mount

Mason Mount, England

(Image credit: Stuart Manley)

Aside from the three-at-the-back formation that Southgate utilised to match up against Germany, England have been consistent in going with a 4-2-3-1.

This employs two midfielders in Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips who on paper, look like defensive-minded midfielders. Throughout the tournament, however, both have covered a lot of ground with Phillips in particular tasked with bursting beyond his natural position. 

But Mason Mount ahead is key. Mount's job is to act as a no.8 at times, a no.10 at others, using his creativity from the left halfspace and offering another body in the midfield. Mount is an excellent presser, a good passer and he's very good off the ball. Better off the ball than Grealish, some would say...

In fact, Mount takes up a lot of the positions that Grealish does - it says a lot that when Mount had to isolate before the Czech Republic game, Grealish came in as his replacement. It's not necessarily that Southgate doesn't rate Grealish enough to do this job - but he has worked with Mount in the England set-up for longer and certainly trusts him to do this job. 

2. Raheem Sterling is in good form

So if you were going to crowbar Mount and Grealish into the same team, where would you fit the Villa captain?

The obvious answer would be in Raheem Sterling's position out on the left. The Manchester City forward has not had the best season by his lofty standards and Grealish could be an option here.

Sterling has certainly answered his critics with three goals at the Euros so far. Southgate definitely trusts the Brent-born 26-year-old and he's repaid that faith so far - plus, he stretches the opposition defence in a way that Grealish - a more creative player - simply doesn't do.

Of course, Sterling can play on the right of the pitch. But with the link-up of Shaw and Sterling working so well, Southgate has clearly found a good thing. 

3. Jack Grealish is still earning Southgate's trust

Jack Grealish

(Image credit: PA Images)

There's certainly an element of this debate about Grealish's personality. It's been suggested for a while that Southgate doesn't trust the 25-year-old or that he's been reluctant to call him up - perhaps down to off-field controversy or his loud personality, in comparison to someone more studious like a Rashford or a Saka. 

Southgate seems to have put pay to those rumours by selecting Grealish, handing him the no.7 shirt and trusting him to come on in big games. But it can't be proved that Southgate favours sensible personalities over the likes of Grealish, there is truth in the fact that the England manager is still learning to trust the playmaker.

Sterling has had time to earn his manager's trust and develop as a player under him; Kane has been a regular from the start of his tenure and even Mason Mount has developed that closeness. Grealish only made his debut last September - there are simply others that have been regulars for Southgate for longer.

The England boss has showed in the past that he's more likely to choose the players he knows can deliver for him. It just might take a little while longer for Jack Grealish to reach that point with him. He's definitely on the right path though.

4. The system often doesn't call for Grealish from the start

Jack Grealish started in Mason Mount's absence against the Czechs. But when the Germany came around, the 3-4-3 that Southgate had chosen just didn't require that spark of creation from the start. 

England played on the counter-attack for the most part, using Sterling and Saka to stretch the Germans. There was no need for Grealish - until the game became a little more chaotic in the second half.

Grealish demands the ball often at Aston Villa, dictating play in the final third and winning fouls at whim. That's not often the way England play: they're not often in full control of games. They have more than enough creation from Shaw and Mount from the lefthand side, anyway, and use Sterling as a runner on that flank.

Grealish is perfect for when defences get a little sloppier, beginning to bring him down around the area and don't know whether to double up on him and leave space elsewhere. Which leads us to...

5. Grealish makes a great impact player

Jack Grealish

(Image credit: PA)

The impact of Grealish coming on and grabbing a goal against Germany felt planned. Even if Southgate did it spontaneously.

Grealish is the perfect player to ignite the atmosphere in the second half, up the tempo and expose the chaos of a game starting to unravel. Sure, he can affect a game from the start - but opposition defenders seeing him coming on in the second half... ain't half demoralising.

There's plenty of reason to start him - but why mess with a good thing? 

Subscribe to FourFourTwo today and get a FREE England Euro 96 shirt!

READ NEXT

TACTICS England's possible line-ups against Denmark: FFT writers pick who they'd start

FOR YOUR HOME Euro 2020 wall chart: Download free with full schedule, fixtures and dates

REFS Euro 2020 referees revealed: who are they, how were they selected and will VAR be in use?