EUROS WARM-UP: Key talking points from England’s win over Austria
PA - Lindsey Parnaby
We look at the key talking points from England’s win over Austria as the Three Lions warm up for the Euros with a 1-0 victory.
England saw off Austria in their first warm-up match ahead of the European Championships thanks to a goal from Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka. He scored early in the second-half after England had been impressive in the first but there were nervy moments at the end as Austria came close to equalising. Here are some of the key talking points from England’s win over Austria.
Grealish shines in midfield
Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish has shone as a left-winger all season for his club, earning a nomination for the Premier League Player of the Season. However, against Austria Southgate decided to play him as the CAM in a 4-2-3-1 formation and how it paid off.
From the first minute, he stood out with his direct approach. He picked the ball up between Austria’s defensive lines and carried it with ease. He carved out a chance for Harry Kane in the first half and would have provided more had Austria not decided the best way to stop him was to foul him.
Many pundits and fans had pinned him as an option at left-wing but Southgate may have found the perfect position for one of England’s most talented players.
Trent in trouble
A lot of the talk ahead of Southgate’s announcement of his 26-man squad was whether Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold would make it given England’s surplus of world-class players in that position and the fact he wasn’t included for the Three Lions’ World Cup Qualifiers back in March.
Southgate said he had in fact assured Alexander-Arnold of his place three weeks prior to the announcement and he was handed a start last night. There were hints of what a useful attacking outlet he can be for England and he came close to scoring himself with a shot from an angle.
However, he had to hobble off with just minutes remaining with Southgate telling BBC Radio 5 Live that ‘it’s not a good situation’. If the damage to his thigh is severe then he will be replaced in the squad and it will be either Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier or Reece James that plays at right-back against Croatia on the 13th June.
Midfield fitness worries
When Alexander-Arnold went off, Southgate chose not to bring another substitute on despite having three more outfield ones available and England therefore finished the game with ten men. The reason for this was because of the fitness of those still remaining on the Three Lions bench.
Jordan Henderson has not played since February and Southgate said he felt some discomfort yesterday morning which meant he would not play any part of the game against Austria whilst Kalvin Phillips injured his shoulder in Leeds United’s final game of the season so was also not risked. The other man left on the bench was forward Jadon Sancho who had been ill this week.
Even more worryingly, Southgate conceded that Declan Rice had missed some training so although he started the match, his fitness was also a ‘bit short’.
Another injury issue for England is that of Manchester United defender Harry Maguire. The centre-back missed this game regardless because of United’s involvement in the Europa League final as did John Stones who played for Manchester City in the Champions League final.
That meant the starting pair was Wolves’ Conor Coady and Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings. The latter was lucky there was no VAR in place as he body checked an Austrian forward in the first-half which would have been a clear penalty. When the subs came on in Ben Godfrey and Ben White (both of whom are on standby should Maguire not be fit in time), Austria found some momentum.
Godfrey almost put the ball in his own net as he misplaced a back-pass to Pickford before Sabitzer hit the crossbar with a shot from distance. Austria’s best chances were yet to come though as first Gregoritsch somehow headed wide when free as a bird in the six yard box before Ben White had to clear an effort off the line in injury time.
Another promising youngster
However, it would be wrong not to praise the goal scorer in England’s win over Austria as Saka showed what a versatile young footballer he is. Starting the game at left-wing he combined well down that side with the likes of Kane and Grealish and also showed a hunger to get into the box when he volleyed wide in the first half.
It was this hunger that rewarded him with his first England strike. Some neat combination play between Kane, Lingard and Grealish resulted in the ball falling to Saka with the goal at his mercy and he made no mistake. His game time at the tournament is likely to be limited but it shows a real strength in depth in attacking areas.
Watch the channel on TV