EPL

Grealish has 'learned a huge amount' at Man City, claims England boss Southgate

By Sports Desk June 10, 2022

Jack Grealish has "learned a huge amount" at Manchester City, according to England manager Gareth Southgate.

Grealish became the most expensive player in British football history last year when he moved to City from boyhood club Aston Villa for £100million, but only recorded 10 goal involvements in his first season at the Etihad Stadium (six goals, four assists).

He made 39 appearances in all competitions (31 starts) for Pep Guardiola's side, but did create more chances from open play (76) than every other City player apart from Kevin De Bruyne (94).

The 26-year-old came off the bench for England on Tuesday and impressed as the Three Lions were able to force a late 1-1 draw against Germany in Munich.

Speaking ahead of his team's next Nations League clash with Italy, Southgate told a news conference he has seen improvements in Grealish since his big money move to City, where he won the Premier League title.

"It's important for all of our players that they feel that they understand how we want to play," Southgate said. 

"We give them a structure and we prepare them for the games, but within that, with their own talents and their own, we want them to come out. That's what makes the difference in the games.

"Jack had a fabulous impact on the game when he came on [against Germany]. I know he enjoys his football with us, but he also enjoys his football with his club, so I think it's important to say that. He has learned a huge amount being part of a team that has won the Premier League, which is massively important to him.

"He's a player we love working with. He's got a great mentality, a great character and I think he is a really good guy to have around the group. He has that joy having a football at his feet, which adds so much when you see players in training every day."

England will face Italy in a rematch of the Euro 2020 final on Saturday, and Southgate said the fact the game will be played behind closed doors at Molineux thanks to a ban imposed by UEFA after crowd trouble at Wembley before last year's final is an "embarrassment".

"If it is an embarrassment, it is for England as a country," he said. "A lot of the people that caused the problems I'm not certain were football fans.

"We spoke enough about it, we spoke about it after the final and when the punishment was first given, what I will say is the vast majority of our fans who travelled to Germany on Tuesday behaved brilliantly, a big thank you to them because maybe people were thinking something different but there were a huge majority who were a credit."

The England boss is expected to rotate his team as he looks for his first win of the Nations League campaign, and Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse is hoping he can take his chance if he is one of those fringe players selected.

"The manager highlighted before about seeing certain types of players in different types of games and hopefully if that opportunity comes then it's a good opportunity for me to showcase what I can do against a high level of opposition," the free-kick specialist said. "It will be a good opportunity to hopefully get some minutes.

"Everybody here is in the squad because they perform well for their club - and you can see that in training. The level is so, so high and having missed out on the European Championship squad, that was a big hurdle for me to overcome.

"I see this as a new challenge now, a new opportunity and I think that has given me a bit more of an incentive heading into this World Cup announcement that I want to be there, I want to be part of this fantastic group and hopefully replicate the success we had."

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    Julian Nagelsmann is confident his side can beat the pressure of being the host nation as they prepare to kick off the tournament against Scotland on Friday.

    The 36-year-old is taking charge of his first major tournament with Germany after taking over from Hansi Flick in September and has lost just one of his eight games since taking over.

    Germany have struggled in recent major tournaments, getting knocked out of Euro 2020 in the round of 16 before crashing out of the 2022 World Cup in the group stages.

    However, Die Mannschaft are aiming to end that run, chasing a fourth European title and their first since 1996, with Nagelsmann confident his team can channel their nervous energy into positive performances.

    "I think we're a bit nervous, but it's an important point, we have to have a certain nervousness," he said. "There was such a buzz [in the camp], a bit like in school. It was really loud: 'Can everyone please calm down a bit!'.

    "I look in our players' eyes and see the belief and will to win. I want us to believe in ourselves: we have great players, good togetherness, home advantage, we've had great training sessions and a good mentality.

    "We have everything: we just have to show it tomorrow, and that's why belief is very important.

    "We can beat pressure, and we can beat Scotland as well."

    Scotland arrive as heavy outsiders and are making just their fourth appearance at the Euros compared to Germany's record 14.

    The Tartan Army qualified second in their group after a strong opening to their campaign, and Nagelsmann praised their performances under Steve Clark.

    "They don't have world stars, but that makes them very dangerous," he added. "They work very hard and have a classic mentality, but it's not a kick and rush team. They can do that, but they can play football.

    "We will have more pressure on us than Scotland, and they will want to capitalise on that."

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    Luciano Spalletti hopes Italy can use their title of reigning champions to their advantage when they open their Euro 2024 campaign against Albania on Saturday.

    The Azzurri secured Euro 2020 glory by upsetting England on home soil with a 3-2 win on penalties following a 1-1 draw to win their second European title.

    After Roberto Mancini's shock departure last year, Spalletti stepped into his shoes, qualifying for Euro 2024, and he is confident they have what it takes to win the tournament for the second time in a row.

    "It feels like heaven to be in situations like these," Spalletti told UEFA.com. "Matches come and go. These tournaments are really important, and this is why we need to be prepared for everything; as we say in our anthem, 'We are ready to die' for these matches.

    "In my opinion, coming into the tournament as defending champions is an advantage. But we need to understand straight away that we need to behave like defending champions. We will only see whether or not we are up to the task during the matches.

    "In a way, we are facing ourselves, not the outside world. We need to show what we are made of, to show what we have inside."

    Albania, meanwhile, are making just their second appearance at the Euros, and their first since 2016 when they were knocked out in the group stage.

    After topping a qualifying group including the Czech Republic and Poland, the Eagles have now been drawn into the 'group of death', also containing Spain and Croatia, but Sylvinho remains optimistic about their chances.

    "We do all of this together and understand what we're all after," Sylvinho told UEFA.com. "We've achieved things, we've made it to the Euros: that's some feat.

    "We've got this far, we know our size, we're improving. It's set to be a real challenge. However, we'll knuckle down to work.

    "The games will be fantastic but hard, and if we're able to overcome our opponents, we want to keep going. We're doing well, but if we can take another step forward, then even better."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Italy – Nicolo Barella

    Barella registered more assists than any other Italy player during Euro 2024 qualifying (three) and created seven more chances than any other Italian player (15). Barella also assisted two goals during Italy's victorious Euro 2020 campaign. The Azzurri will be hoping he can get fit in time to start the tournament.

    Albania – Jasir Asani

    Asani was Albania's joint-top goalscorer during Euro 2024 qualifying, scoring three times (level with Nedim Bajrami). All three of his strikes were scored from outside the box.

    MATCH PREDICTION: ITALY WIN

    This will be Italy and Albania's first encounter at a major tournament. Italy have won all four of their previous meetings with Albania (seven goals for, one against), which have all taken place since 2014.

    Italy have not conceded more than one goal in a match across their last two Euros participations, in 2016 and 2020: that is a total of six goals conceded across their last 12 matches in the competition.

    Italy's 45 matches at the Euros have produced 1.84 goals on average (52 for, 31 against) – it is the lowest ratio amongst any of the 25 teams to have taken part in 10+ matches in the competition.

    This is just Albania's second appearance at a major international tournament after Euro 2016 – their sole victory in this competition came against Romania in the final group match that year (1-0).

    Indeed, after losing their first Euro 2024 qualifier against Poland, Albania did not lose any of their next seven (W4 D3).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Italy – 66.3%

    Draw – 19.6%

    Albania – 14.2%

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    Willy Sagnol's side, who qualified via the play-offs after beating former champions Greece on penalties, are the only debutants in Germany, where they commence their campaign against Turkiye on June 18.

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    The Napoli winger, who helped the Partenopei to the 2022-23 Scudetto, scored four goals for Georgia during qualifying, in which he also completed the joint-most dribbles along with Belgium's Jeremy Doku (both 44).

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    "We are very focused and will do our best to succeed. It's a pleasure for me to play at Euro 2024. These are unforgettable moments and emotions which we will remember for the rest of our lives.

    "It was the greatest dream of every Georgian to become a part of such an important tournament, and it was the happiest day for all of us when we achieved it.

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    When they face Turkiye, Georgia will be aiming to become the fourth European Championship debutants since 2012 to win their maiden match at the finals after Ukraine (2012), Wales (2016) and Finland (2020).

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