Euro 2020 – Southgate’s dilemma
Jack Grealish and James Maddison. Two young English midfielders tipped for having brilliant careers. Playing for Aston Villa and Leicester respectively, both have had great seasons thus far in 2019/20. It’s therefore no surprise they’re both in the conversation for the Euro 2020 starting spot. I think it’s a given both are on the plane in the summer, a testament to how good the 24 and 23 year old have been respectively. It’s just a question of who’s the first name on that team sheet…
Gareth Southgate has an important decision to make. Having the next golden era of English talent at his disposal, he faces a selection dilemma in these final few months of domestic and European competition. Maddison and Grealish in particular, have been intensely debated on Twitter about who is better as well as who should start for the Three Lions. Manchester United fans are certain they’ll sign one of them in the summer. But based on their club’s transfer policy, who knows who the Red Devils will sign.
Goals, assists and external influences
So first off, we’ll go with the easiest statistics this season. The be all and end all for most people: Goals and assists. Birmingham born Grealish has made 23 appearances, whilst Coventry born Maddison has made 24. The former has managed 7 goals and 5 assists in those games, with the latter just behind on 6 and 3. The reason this has been such a debate online is because of how neck and neck they are, as shown here.
3 goal contributions more for the Villa youth product gives him the slight edge. What makes this even more impressive is considering the stark difference in the sides and therefore quality around them. Grealish of course is having to perform miracles for a relegation threatened Villa side. Of course not helped with injuries to Wesley Moraes and John Mcginn. Whilst Maddison is in a Champions League qualifying side with quality around him. Certainly helpful when you’ve got a Jamie Vardy up front to bury the chances you feed him. So based on that, surely Maddison should be performing better for the Foxes?
But then the flip side to this is that everything goes through Grealish in the West Midlands because of the apparent lack of quality. With the Leicester midfielder, considering there’s so much quality around him, the goals and contributions get spread out through the team. Tielemans has managed 8 goals contributions himself this season, helping supply Vardy. The other options for creativity and chances mean that the rest of the team isn’t only passing to Maddison, like perhaps Villa would do with Grealish. In that respect, his lower figures can be justified to an extent.
Grit and defensive duties
People argue that being in a relegation side means Grealish has more grit and tenacity than Maddison. It’s a British thing that we like our players to have fight, get in scraps and really show passion. Brexit FC you know. Anyway, let’s not get political. The fact is, defensive duties will be a part of their role, assuming this for a central midfield spot. Please don’t put one on the wing Gareth. Let’s see if the statistics back up this general idea:
If you think they help find a clear winner in this ‘grit’ category, you’re wrong. Once again, they’re so close. Grealish has made 13 interceptions in 2019/20 compared to Maddison’s 9. Surprisingly, the former Norwich midfielder has attempted a staggering 46 tackles, 20 more than his English counterpart. But then, if you look closer, Grealish has won 17 out of his 26 compared to Maddison winning just 21 out of 46. Quality over quantity it seems in the tackling department. Yet this just proves the idea of Grealish ‘working harder’ isn’t exactly true. Either way, again, no outright winner in this category.
Euro 2020 – Creativity and play making
Now let’s delve deeper into the statistics. Because sometimes the quality of a player can’t only be represented by their goals and assists. It’s neck and neck again for the two talents. Both averaging 2.7 key passes per game to emphasis what they will bring to an England team that was crying out for this creativity in the World Cup.
Maddison has created more big chances (7) compared to Grealish (4), despite having less assists. Another argument for the previous point. They have their own strengths and advantages over each other two. Which, may I emphasis, are marginal statistically. Grealish averages 2.4 dribbles per game compared to Maddison’s 1.8. However the Leicester midfielder averages 2.4 shots per game compared to the Villa midfielder’s 2.2.
Playing one out of position for the other?
It’s worth bearing in mind Grealish has mostly played on the wing (12 appearances out of 23), whilst Maddison has mostly played in central midfield (18 appearances out of 24). So of course these stats need to be taken into context. This is where I start worrying just to fit both in, Southgate may put Grealish on the wing and Maddison centrally. Playing players out of position just to fit everyone in is a fatal mistake made by managers of the past. Remember Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney on the wings, Gerrard and Lampard in a two?
“It was his choice, and it wasn’t my business to tell him where I should play.”Paul Scholes on playing on the wing for England
They’re both so good in their roles. Clearly based on what you’ve read above. So will the deciding factor be something like set pieces? On that front, Maddison wins. But then again, with Trent Alexander-Arnold in the team, does it even matter? It seems with every victory one has over the other, there’s always a contradictory point or evaluation. Hence why this decision is so difficult.
Euro 2020 comparison – My view
In my honest opinion, I would give the nod to James Maddison for the starting spot. Not an easy decision because, as I’ve said before, they’re so close. Now before you attack me Villa fans, here’s my reasoning. The Leicester midfielder has played more in central midfield this season than Grealish, who’s been on the wing. If we’re talking about the starting spot in the centre of the pitch, then I have to go with the player that’s played there more this season. Even if we know Grealish is perfectly capable of playing in central midfield.
Also the statistics show that Maddison has that grit and is willing to get stuck in, contrary to popular belief. Perhaps this point is slightly more pedantic, but it’s worth bearing in mind Maddison has spent time at an England camp during the international break and is probably more familiar with the set up than Grealish. Even if he only made one appearance, the 23 year old is more used to his surroundings and the players around him.
The fact I’m having to mention that is a testament to how difficult this decision will be for Southgate. Considering the attacking talent the England boss also has, it’s hard to see Jack Grealish starting on the left wing ahead of a Rashford, Sterling or Sancho at. So therefore, I think Maddison starts with Grealish on the bench at Euro 2020.
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