This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Aston Villa ran riot in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon as they picked up just their second win of the season against Norwich City.
Dean Smith’s men were surprisingly rampant, sticking five past an injury-stricken Canaries side with club-record signing Wesley doubling his tally for the season to four, and a trio of midfielders also getting their names on the scoresheet – including captain Jack Grealish.
Villa have been reaping the rewards from a key tweak the manager has made in playing the 24-year-old further forward over the past two matches.
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He’s started on the left-wing against Burnley and Norwich and has moved centrally into a number ten role when Matt Targett advances forward or when Smith throws on one of Trezeguet, Jota, or Anwar El Ghazi.
However, as good as this move is for Villa, it will seriously hinder Grealish’s England prospects from here on out.
There’s very much a changing of the guard going on with Gareth Southgate and his senior Three Lions squad – for instance, Kyle Walker, a mainstay over recent years at right-back having earned 48 caps, hasn’t been called up in back-to-back international breaks now while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have been.
Therefore, the opportunity for the 2016 Toulon Tournament winner has never been greater, yet it still seems like an impossible task ahead.
In the wing position, Grealish will now have to compete with Premier League winner Raheem Sterling, wonderkid Jadon Sancho, and maybe even Marcus Rashford – he wouldn’t start above any of those if they all played for the same club, so he won’t do so internationally either.
Then in the number ten position, it’s just as competitive. Mason Mount’s breakthrough at Chelsea has almost cemented his place as the front-runner for the role, scoring four already this season, but then there’s also his Chelsea teammate Ross Barkley, and Leicester star James Maddison.
Dele Alli can’t even get into the squad above any of these, so again, why would Grealish?
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His old central midfield position would give him a far greater chance of breaking into the team ahead of Euro 2020.
There is Jordan Henderson, who will be 30 by the time the tournament swings around, so his time at the very top of the international stage is likely to dwindle over the next few years.
There’s not much the 24-year-old can do, he’s massively helping his boyhood club out by thriving in a new role, but it’s one that is a hotbed for talent in the national team currently. He would have to really play out of his skin to be given a chance above any of the names as mentioned above.