England player ratings vs Ukraine: Maddison justifies selection as Saka shines again
It was a tale of two very different wingers in England’s comprehensive victory, with James Maddison and Bukayo Saka interpreting their roles completely differently.
Maddison was listed on paper as the left-winger in England’s 4-3-3 formation, but in reality he roamed around the pitch with the freedom of a more conventional No 10. It was curious to watch, not least because it is not the sort of shape we have grown used to seeing from Gareth Southgate’s England. Maddison is no winger, and he is certainly not a striker. He was therefore never going to approach this system in the same way as the likes of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford or Jack Grealish.
All of those players prefer to run at their opponents, to stretch the game with their speed or dribbling, whereas Maddison is an attacking midfielder who generally seeks space in the centre of the pitch.
With Maddison tucking inside, the width on the left wing was often provided by Ben Chilwell, overlapping from full-back.
Occasionally, midfielder Jude Bellingham took up a wider position than Maddison. It meant England’s attack was lopsided, but deliberately so, as Saka held his position on the right touchline and Maddison floated freely from the left. Saka’s ability to hold his position would prove decisive, with his cross setting up Harry Kane’s goal before he did move infield to curl a beauty into the top corner to make it 2-0.
The Arsenal player is assured of his place in the side, while Maddison is unlikely to be the leading man of this team any time soon. In truth, he is probably unlikely to be a regular starter when the biggest matches come around. But his performance against Ukraine (on his first international start) proved that he does offer variety in attack for England, who have often been accused of being too rigid under Southgate’s management.
It was a measure of Maddison’s effectiveness in the final third, and indeed an indication of the quality of his set-pieces, that he created five chances in the match, the most by a player in his first England start since Theo Walcott against Andorra in 2008.
Mike McGrath runs the rule over the rest of the England team.
Very little to do compared with the pressure his goal was put under in the second half in Naples. Had to be precise with his passing and was alert off his line to potential threats. 6/10
Was up against the pace of Mudryk but has plenty of speed himself to keep up with Chelsea’s £89million January signing. Two solid displays during the international break, keeping his place in this win rather than Kieran Trippier being given a run. 7/10
Picked up where he left off in Italy with good blocks when Ukraine got into dangerous positions to threaten Pickford’s goal. Looks composed on the ball and is patient as he looks for the right pass. 7/10
Good positioning from the Manchester United captain meant he did not get caught out and gave England a solid foundation to build from. Extended an incredible record of not tasting defeat since coming back from the World Cup. 6/10
Clash of heads with Malinovskyi in the first minute but he was fine to continue and put in some good attacking work down the left flank, getting crosses in and bringing others into the game. 6/10
Added control to the midfield with a calming presence, even if it took him a little time to get his decisive passes going. Supported attacks with runs in the inside channels and dangerous with his crosses to the far post. 7/10
Looked to be positive with the ball and even in tight areas managed to keep possession plenty of times. Almost scored when he got on the end of a cross in front of goal but got his footing wrong. 7/10
Disciplined in his role sitting in front of the defence protecting his team-mates, rather than rampaging forward at every opportunity. It was still effective and allowed Bellingham to take more advanced positions. 6/10
Beautiful goal, curling into the top corner for his fourth strike in six international appearances. He had just set up Kane for the opening goal with an excellent cross. Also drew fouls with his direct running. 8/10
After receiving his Golden Boot for becoming England’s record scorer he added to his tally with a typical finish from close range after 37 minutes. Also had a strong penalty shout and found space in dangerous areas. 7/10
Good free-kick delivery from the Leicester midfielder, who was making his first England start more than three years after his debut. Could have scored with a header straight at the goalkeeper. Was tidy in possession and busy. 7/10
Subs: Toney 81 (Kane), Grealish 85 (Maddison), Gallagher 85 (Bellingham).
Not used: Ramsdale (g), Forster (g), Trippier, Guehi, Dier, Phillips.