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Euro 2020 Countdown: Is Jack Grealish currently England's best No.10?

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Standing at 5ft 9 and of slender build, Jack Grealish does not cut an imposing figure upon first glance. Because of this, those who may not be avid viewers of English football and have therefore not witnessed the 24-year-old in action all too often, may make presumptions about his ability to ‘cut it’ in the world’s most physically demanding league.

For those who do regularly keep an eye on the trials and tribulations of Premier League football, though, the story could not be more different when it comes to discussing the Birmingham-born midfielder’s seemingly endless talents. Grealish has represented boyhood club Aston Villa since the age of six and last night made his 172nd appearance for the West Midlands outfit, as they booked their spot in the Carabao Cup final following a 2-1 win over Leicester City. He is club captain aged 24 and was one of the main factors behind the team’s promotion to the Premier League last season - scoring six goals while chipping in with a further six assists in the Championship.

Grealish’s performances were rightfully lauded last season due to his consistently dazzling displays in the second-tier, but many were still left unconvinced about his capabilities in the top-flight; after all, the step-up in quality between the Championship and Premier League is extremely sizeable. Linked with moves to the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United in recent seasons, the price tag attached to a player who was still unproven in the first-tier seemed to deter potential new suitors who were not prepared to gamble on the young playmaker. Now, however, things have changed. 

Unlike many sides caught in the unforgiving ‘dog fight’ down at the bottom at this stage, Villa have a player at their disposal who is head and shoulders above the rest of the personnel found scrapping in the bottom half of the Premier League table. The 24-year-old has been a revelation this term, scoring seven goals and providing five assists for Dean Smith’s side and could well be the reason that Villa escape immediate relegation. He has silenced his critics in resounding style and is now making himself unavoidable to England manager Gareth Southgate ahead of selection for this summer’s European Championships.

With such a plethora of talented players in Grealish’s creative No.10 position, all vying for the same starting slot in England’s midfield, it is difficult to make a definitive decision as to who should line-up behind Harry Kane at Euro 2020. Indeed, strong cases can be made for at least three other ‘CAMs’ (central-attacking-midfielders) in Southgate’s XI this summer - but are any of them currently a better option than Grealish?

Chelsea’s Mason Mount enjoyed a fantastic opening spell to his debut season in the Premier League but now seems to have tailed off a little, perhaps due to a lack of rest from first-team duties. The 21-year-old is the first name on Frank Lampard’s team sheet each week, featuring in all but one of the Blues’ 35 games in all competitions this season. Mount has played a part in every single one of Chelsea’s 24 league encounters this time out but has now registered just one assist and no goals in his previous nine games. From the outside looking in, it seems as though Mount could be suffering from burnout and, because of this, does not currently deserve to start for the Three Lions.

Then there’s Leicester City’s James Maddison. The 23-year-old has taken the Premier League by storm since he joined the Foxes from Norwich in 2018, and this season has enjoyed another memorable campaign having scored six and assisted three goals. Many believe that Maddison - who has one senior England cap to his name - deserves his chance on the international main stage this summer and it is difficult to disagree with those claims. Maddison’s ability from set-pieces gives him an indisputable edge over the other players mentioned in this article; however, after failing to score or assist in his previous six games for Leicester, currently he still falls behind Grealish in the pecking order.

Finally there is the experienced Dele Alli, who started the campaign slowly but appears to have been gifted a new lease of life under Jose Mourinho at Spurs. The 23-year-old already has 37 England caps to his name and will almost certainly be included in the Three Lions’ squad for the Euro’s if he remains injury-free - whether he starts, though, is a different question. Alli is definitely viewed as the safest option to fill the No.10 role due to his international experience, but is he the most effective?

The former MK Dons midfielder has regained form since the arrival of Jose Mourinho (seven goals, two assists) in north London, but you’d argue that he still hasn’t been quite as impressive as either James Maddison or Jack Grealish this season. It is difficult to create a respectable case for Alli starting ahead of the aforementioned names at this moment in time, but that could easily change with still a large portion of the campaign left to play.

Depending on the formation Southgate plucks for this summer, Raheem Sterling could even be chosen to line-up in a more centralised position behind Kane - as he has done in the past - leaving all four of these players on the sidelines. That is a story for another day, however. Should a more old-fashioned approach be taken, requiring a more typical ‘No.10’ in central midfield, right now it is almost impossible to look past the Aston Villa captain. Grealish has been a breath of fresh air in the top-flight this season and now deserves his chance in senior international football. At the expense of who, though, still remains to be seen.

Currently, Grealish is 4/6 to make England's Euro 2020 squad (William Hill), which seems like an appealing price given his current form and how much hype he has behind him at the moment. From his club's standpoint, Aston Villa are currently evens to be relegated back to the Championship come the end of the campaign (Betway). However, their ultra-talented skipper could be the saviour they so desperately need in the remaining four months, and if you believe that they will avoid the drop with Grealish's help, you can get Villa at odds of 10/11 to remain in the top-flight next term with BetVictor.  

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