England's Latest Victory Gives Gareth Southgate Further Selection Headache

Oct 9, 2020, 11:45 AM GMT+1
Conor Coady, Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Calvert-Lewin and Coady both got their first England goals | Pool/Getty Images

The England national team played their first game of October against Wales on Thursday. And...it was actually somewhat positive for once, as the Three Lions cruised to a 3-0 victory. For the first time in what feels like forever, the general feeling around the result seemed to be "yeah, I enjoyed that. Good job boys!"

What was it that brought all this positivity from the most negative nation on earth?

Danny Ings, Conor Coady
Danny Ings scored the third in a 3-0 win over Wales | Pool/Getty Images

Well, it was refreshing to see some new faces come in and grasp their opportunity with both hands. With Gareth Southgate seemingly prioritising Sunday's UEFA Nations League game against Belgium, he opted for an unfamiliar side. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Bukayo Saka, Harvey Barnes, and Reece James all made their England debuts, while Conor Coady, Jack Grealish, Kalvin Phillips, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were featuring for just the second time.

Several of these players really made their mark on the game, and left the field knowing that they'd staked their claim for a place in future international squads. Their performances are sure to give Southgate more selection pain for the coming months.

1. Jack Grealish

One of the biggest criticisms of the England boss is his omission of Aston Villa star Jack Grealish from his regular starting XI. However, if he continues to put in performances like last night, then he surely won't go ignored much longer.

The 25-year-old produced a man of the match display, assisting the opening goal and running youngster Ethan Ampadu ragged. He's a different type of player to anyone else in the England setup, and offers a new option that could prove useful.

Competition for wing spots is high, with Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford seemingly already securing their place in Southgate's plans. Nonetheless, Grealish's quality and versatility make him an enticing option that surely cannot be disregarded.

2. Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Dominic Calvert-Lewin brought his Everton form to the international stage with his tenth goal of the season, nodding home Grealish's inch-perfect cross from close range.

The former Sheffield United man bullied the Wales backline all evening with a classic number nine's performance; holding the ball up well, winning every header, always moving, and getting into the right areas.

Unfortunately for the Everton forward, he's competing with captain Harry Kane for a place in the starting XI. The Spurs man is the first name on the team sheet when fit. However, given Kane's injury record in recent years, Calvert-Lewin could be ideal back-up if he continues to find the net.

3. Conor Coady

While there is a vast array of talent in England's frontline, the centre-back options are looking sparse. As such, the Three Lions have been crying out for a top class centre-back to emerge and nail down a starting berth.

Conor Coady once again looked solid at the heart of defence, keeping his second clean sheet in two appearances for the national team, as well as netting a rare goal in the second half.

He may not have the pedigree of other English defenders, but Coady could be the answer to Southgate's defensive woes.

4. Nick Pope

Nick Pope
Pope looked confident against Wales | Pool/Getty Images

It's safe to say there's been a fair few question marks over Everton's Jordan Pickford in the past year, with many calling for him to be dropped from the England side - and the performance of Burnley stopper Nick Pope will have done little to quell these shouts.

While rarely tested as a shot-stopper on Thursday, Pope looked like everything that Pickford isn't - commanding, confident, reliable.

Pickford will likely return to the starting lineup for the Belgium fixture on Sunday, and the pressure is certainly on him to perform.

5. Kieran Trippier

Kieran Trippier
Trippier showed his class once again | Pool/Getty Images

Contrary to the aforementioned names, Kieran Trippier is one of the more experienced figures in the Three Lions squad. In fact, he was the only one from the England side to feature at the World Cup in 2018.

With the much younger options of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, and Tariq Lamptey now available, Trippier's career as an England international could be coming to an end. On Thursday, however, the 30-year-old showed that he still has plenty to offer, whipping in a delightful free-kick for Coady's goal.

If he can produce more moments of magic like this one, then he could be in line for one final tournament next summer.