England international break winners and losers: Grealish and Saka shine but Henderson faces midfield battle

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Jack Rosser
·5-min read
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As we edge closer to the Euros, England’s triple-header against Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Iceland left Gareth Southgate with plenty of ponder going into a tournament year.

Several young players made their case to Southgate, while others leave this England camp with question marks over them ahead of next summer.

So who were the winners and losers from the November international break?


Jack Grealish

The debate going into the final international break of 2020 was whether or not Jack Grealish was worthy of a place in the England XI - the question now is who accompanies him in the front three.

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Getty Images

Southgate revealed early in this camp that he had told Grealish to look at Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling and work to replicate the impact their impact for club and country.

Across three attention-grabbing performances, especially his dazzling display in Belgium, the Aston Villa captain more than stepped up to the mark.

Grealish offers something different than any other English player and relishes the spotlight. During a camp in which clubs were concerned about protecting and resting their players, the 25-year-old old would have been delighted to play every minute of all three matches. He now looks a shoo-in for the 23-man squad.

Bukayo Saka

When he made his England debut in the 3-0 win over Wales last month, Bukayo Saka admitted to a bout of nerves and needing time to settle. The Arsenal man looks more than at home now.

Saka replaced Ben Chilwell in the first half against Belgium, the world's top ranked side, with some confidence, combining wonderfully down the left with Grealish to cause problems as England dominated throughout the second half.

His confidence grew once more against Iceland, where he almost scored a first senior goal.

While Chilwell - if fit – is still likely be Southgate's preferred starter in the left wing-back role next summer, Saka looks to have secured his place in the squad and the England manager should not be afraid to use him when required.

Phil Foden

Recalled in the squad for the first time since being banished from Iceland for breaking Covid-19 rules in September, Phil Foden's England camp began with Southgate drawing a line under the incident. It ended with a sparkling display from the Manchester City midfielder in the 4-0 win over Iceland that showcased what a talent he is.

The 20-year-old swept in Jadon Sancho's cross late on to score his first England goal before adding a fine long-rage strike minutes later. Foden toyed with Iceland at Wembley, showing just how devastating an impact he can have when given the chance, and space, to do so.


James Maddison

The Leicester midfielder responded to being left out of the initial England squad by starring in a 4-0 Europa League win over Braga for Brendan Rodgers, and admitted afterwards that he was disappointed not to have been called up.

That disappointment will have certainly ramped up when, after James Ward-Prowse withdrew through injury, Southgate turned to 17-year-old Jude Bellingham and not to Maddison to replace him.

Maddison has struggled with injury this season and, like Grealish, has always appeared to have to work harder than most to get his shot under Southgate.

His talent is unquestionable, but he is running out of time to prove to Southgate he deserves to play a part at the Euros next summer.

Jordan Henderson

The Liverpool captain was one of the unfortunate players to suffer an injury while away with England, but that is not the only reason this was a bad camp for him.

A year ago, Henderson was an unquestionable starter in Southgate's 4-3-3 system, and likely still would be if England were to stick to that shape.

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Getty Images

He started the all-important game against Belgium alongside Declan Rice, but when replaced by Harry Winks at the break the Three Lions finally took control of proceedings.

Henderson could well find himself a victim of the switch to a two-man midfield. Rice's talents are obvious and what he brings to the side is perhaps more defined than Henderson.

If Southgate wants a more defensive player in there, he'll pick the West Ham midfielder and when in need of a more creative presence alongside Rice, Henderson might not fit the bill as well as the likes of Winks or Mason Mount.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Having had to withdraw through injury before England even met up, Alexander-Arnold watched on as Southgate gave Chelsea's Reece James a huge vote of confidence by including him in his ranks despite only being able to feature in the Ireland friendly.

James has made a fine case to be Southgate's first choice at right wing-back and leaves Alexander-Arnold with work to do between now and next summer to wrestle it back, while Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier also impressed in the role.

Alexander-Arnold is one of the world's best in his position, but still faces a fight to take top spot in the position where Southgate is most spoilt.

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