Fabian Delph has enjoyed an impressive season for runaway title winners Manchester City but his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia was still something of a surprise.
The man valued at £13.5m by Transfermarkt had not played for the Three Lions since November 2015 before Saturday’s substitute appearance in the 2-1 win over Nigeria.
Furthermore, his resurgence at the Etihad Stadium came when he was pressed into action as a long-term deputy for left-back Benjamin Mendy, not in the central midfield role Southgate appears to have selected him to occupy.
Yet, as the former Middlesbrough manager made ten changes to his starting eleven for the visit of Costa Rica, Delph was handed the chance to shine as part of the midfield trio in front of the raucous fans at Elland Road, the home of his boyhood club, Leeds United.
Perhaps returning home inspired Delph because he produced a performance of energy, passing quality and creativity, bursting forward from his left-of-centre role and linking up expertly with Marcus Rashford and fellow Yorkshireman Danny Rose in particular.
He was the pick of England’s midfielders on the night, a constant menace to Costa Rica as he handed England fans and Southgate a reminder of what he can offer in his favoured position.
It has been expected that Delph will travel as a utility man, prepared to slot in in either defence or midfield but last night showed that he could force his way into the first-team plans.
As Jordan Henderson departed in the second half, Delph performed competently as a holding midfielder, where he matches the Liverpool man’s energy while his spell in defence has given him positional discipline to match Eric Dier’s.
Also, Southgate wants to start the tournament with just one pivot, but may opt for a more conservative midfield as the tournament wears on and Delph’s blend of discipline and endeavour may prove perfect – but what do you think?
Where is Delph most useful to this England team; left-back – more like left wing-back in this England setup – or in central midfield, where he shone last night? Let us know below…