90min
Our 21

Jude Bellingham holds the key to unlocking England's frontline

Ross Jackson
Our 21: Jude Bellingham
Our 21: Jude Bellingham
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Heading into Euro 2020, every England fan on the planet was well aware of how good Jack Grealish was, yet after playing just 27 minutes of football he somehow seems to have become twice the player he was before.

Obviously that's not true, but given the clamour for him to be more involved you'd think it was the case.

There's no doubting the Aston Villa man's ability and having come off the bench against Scotland he definitely made a difference, but England's misfiring frontline problems run much deeper than the omission of Grealish.

Their midfield is way too passive and cumbersome, and the plaudits aimed at Kalvin Phillips after his stellar showing against Croatia are already looking to be massively premature.

The Leeds man was afforded space and time on the ball against a Croatian midfield not renowned for their intense work rate and high press, meaning he had time to pick his head up and spray the ball around.

However, against the much more combative Scottish midfield he was hassled and pressed, meaning he soon reverted to type and started playing backwards and sideways passes that were met with a bigger groan from the England fans with each passing minute.

Jude Bellingham could be key to England's chances at Euro 2020
Jude Bellingham could be key to England's chances at Euro 2020 / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

It seems harsh to single Phillips out because he certainly wasn't the only guilty party, though as England progress in the tournament they're going to be met by far more physical sides than the two they've played already and they desperately need a midfielder who is strong enough and cute enough to hold off players before picking out forward balls.

That's where Jude Bellingham comes in.

At just 17 years of age the Dortmund man looks a physical specimen and he proved during England's warm-up games to have the talent and the vision to play on the front foot with driving runs and progressive passing.

Even in his brief cameo at the end of England's opening game win over Croatia he looked a monster in the midfield and was singled out for praise by a lot of fans despite only being introduced in the 82nd minute.

Kalvin Phillips was too negative on the ball against Scotland
Kalvin Phillips was too negative on the ball against Scotland / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Thousands of column inches have already been written this tournament about England's blunt attack - and with some of the quality at Southgate's disposal it's hard to argue with said critics after scoring just once in 180 minutes of football - yet superstar frontman Harry Kane has taken the brunt of blame.

The England captain looks off the pace and has been hauled off in both of his side's games at Euro 2020 so far, but it really does feel unjust to level such criticism at him given the fact his midfield colleagues seem desperate to keep the ball in their own half to ensure he doesn't have more than three touches-per-game.

Adding Grealish to England's frontline would definitely make Gareth Southgate's side more of a threat, yet if their midfield and defence are content with just knocking the ball between themselves for the majority of the game without any urgency you could stick Lionel Messi up front and still get nowhere fast.

The modern-day fascination with pretty build-up play and passing stats is all a bit weird to be honest. Football's a simple game, and if you've got a plethora of attacking talents in your squad alongside a haphazard defence that always looks capable of a mistake, you get the ball into your forwards and keep it away from Jordan Pickford and co., right?

Jude Bellingham's forward passing could be a massive asset for England
Jude Bellingham's forward passing could be a massive asset for England / Robin Jones/Getty Images

You really don't need to be a football expert to work that out.

The addition of Bellingham to the midfield would not only add more of a physical presence who can break up play when England eventually meet one of the tournament's big boys who'll dominate the ball, more importantly it'll see urgency and drive in the midfield.

Anyone who knows anything about football knows how good Kane and the rest of England's forward options are, but if Southgate continues to play midfielders with a negative mindset then we're never going to see said forwards showcase their talents.


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