Analysis: Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka rescue uninventive England display
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths - The FA/Getty Images)

Three years on from the intangible excitement of the Russian World Cup, and England are back in action, applying the finishing touches before Gareth Southgate's Three Lions are set to burst into another major international tournament. 

While last time out saw disappointment relinquished in the semi-finals, an improved squad of players this around looks to impose a new lease of hope for England.

But a dismal creative display against Austria will quickly dampen the mood around the country. Having already been condemned for his negative management and lack of fluidity in possession, Southgate didn't help his cause when it took his side almost 60 minutes to break through their European opponents.

Despite winning the game, there was a lot to be concerned about with how England dealt with the time they spent on the ball. Failing to create too many clear-cut chances, Southgate will be keen to dart straight back to the drawing board in the morning.

It wasn't all bad viewing, though, because some players shone, unfortunately not very many, but those who did have staked an early claim to make the starting eleven for the Croatia opener.

  • Bukayo Saka scores his first international goal

After Mason Greenwood announced his withdrawal from the England squad ahead of the final selection for the European Championships, it all but confirmed that Bukayo Saka would make the cut.

The Hale End product, who plies his trade for Arsenal, has become a thorn in Southgate's selection conundrum. Because of his ability to play in any area of the left side of the pitch, Saka fits the manager's thirst for versatility. 

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Question marks were raised over what part the Arsenal livewire would play in the Euros. But scoring the only goal of the game and his first in a Three Lions shirt, the winger showed his coolness in front of goal to make a difference in an uninspiring England display.

The England attacking cohort is blessed with an overhaul of talent, with  Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden all giving their all to rival Saka's performances, but the Arsenal man was easily one of the best players on the pitch on Wednesday, proving worthy of being an integral component. 

  • Jack Grealish: First name on the team sheet?

As aforementioned, England were far from their creative best in midweek, but Grealish was another player - amidst the cautious outlay - who proved to be a key game-changer. 

Roy Keane dubbed the Englishman as 'brave', paying close attention to his potency to cause problems for the opposition, being a keen dribbler and intrepid space bearer for his teammates. 

Wherever the ball was, Grealish would be in pockets of space to receive it. Being the most fouled player in the Premier League for two consecutive seasons also made a welcome appearance at the Riverside Stadium, granting the Three Lions a plethora of golden opportunities from dead-ball situations. 

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Jack Grealish has long become a fan-favourite in England, most likely due to his gallivanting runs and chance creation expertise. In many ways, Grealish is England's most creative asset, being an absolute must for the summer. 

In an uncreative team performance, the Aston Villa superstar still played his football much like the beauty of an oil painting. The ball was the paint, and his notably kingsized calves were the brush. 

The consistency in Grealish's play makes him one of the first names on the teamsheet for the Euros, but players around him must get on his performance levels if England are to achieve silverware this time out.

  • Harry Kane's role needs to change

When Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jack Grealish are on either flank, it would usually only mean one thing, and that was that crosses were going to be England's most favourable weapon for the night.

However, confusion swept across the country like a river that sought the main, because Harry Kane's role was so deep-lying that the Premier League's golden boot winner was suppressed for most of the game.

Gareth Southgate seemingly got his attacking system wrong against Austria, with Kane struggling to have any impact on the result and Trent's creative ingenuity being wasted.

While the Tottenham Hotspur number nine enjoys his deep-lying forward role at club level, combining with Heung-Min Son to wreak havoc, a different approach would have suited him a lot better against Austria.

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Grealish seemed to be the only one in the box when Trent tried his trademark deep crosses, whereas Kane is the ideal player to receive the world-class delivery that the Liverpudlian offers from the right wing-back position.  

Although only playing for the last 28 minutes of the game, Dominic Calvert-Lewin provided more of a threat than his Spurs countryman. Playing on the shoulders of the last line of defence, the Everton target man did well to brush off challenges from the towering Austrian defenders, proving he had more to offer than the favoured striker on the night.

If Southgate is to utilise his creative sparks to the best he can, in the future, he must play Harry Kane in a more advanced role. Perhaps a deeper role would suit games where the opposition are better, but with smaller reputation countries, their deep defensive barrier poses problems for England's attacking endeavours. 

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