Chris Sutton thinks that Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish would be good signing for Arsenal after his good start to the Premier League season.

Grealish has three goals and four assists in 12 Premier League starts this campaign, including a wonderful strike in Villa’s 2-2 draw against Manchester United at the weekend.

And Sutton thinks the top teams in the Premier League will be sitting up and taking notice of his start to the season with speculation now linking him with United.

“Look, I think people will be scrutinising him closely now,” Sutton told the Metro.

“Last season he was very good in the Championship. I actually think the penny has dropped with him where a couple of seasons ago it was fair to say he was ‘Jack the Lad’ as such.

“You know, he’s captain of Villa now, he’s knuckled down as such. There was always that question mark over him where he was very, very talented on the ball but did he have the application and the work rate?

“He’s shown that this season and I think – obviously it was a brilliant goal the other day at United – eyes were being opened anyway with him and I do think that it’s one of those where if he carries on like he is and does it for a longer period then it’s only a matter of time because he’s always had the talent. Now we’re seeing the application week in week out.

“Which of the top-six teams would he fit into? I suppose it’s a difficult one when you think of the players City have at their disposal, the Silvas, De Bruyne… Arsenal would be the one where you think there’s a vacancy. Tottenham, Dele Alli seems to be having a resurgence.

“I think in many respects with Grealish he just needs to do it for a bit longer and, of course, Gareth Southgate must be watching him and scrutinising him closely. The disadvantage which he has on the likes of James Maddison is that James Maddison has done it for a longer period of time in the Premier League but there’s nothing you can do except sort of say with Grealish is praise him this season.”

 

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As ever, this represents our estimation of Gareth Southgate’s thoughts. And we feel like we know him well. Numbers in brackets pertain to this ladder from October…

 

1 (2) Harry Kane
Twelve goals and five assists in eight qualifying games. His goal against Kosovo saw him become the first England player to score in every game of a qualifying campaign and it also took him back to the top of this ladder, mostly because he has never grabbed somebody by the throat in a canteen. Or at least he has never been caught grabbing somebody by the throat in a canteen.

 

2 (1) Raheem Sterling
Oh you daft bugger. There is no defending that. He is still England’s second-best source of goals and best source of running really fast and scaring the sh*t out of full-backs, mind.

 

3 (5) Harry Maguire
The only player to feature in all 720 minutes of European qualifying. And yet he still looks about half a second from dropping a bo**ock and a full second slower than most strikers he faces.

 

4 (4) Jordan Pickford
His place is safer than his hands.

 

5 (6) Marcus Rashford
Three goals in his last three England games as part of a really encouraging return to form. We would be astonished if Rashford is not in every England squad for which he is fit until the end of the next decade at least…

 

6 (3) Jordan Henderson
Two victories in his absence have damaged his cause a little, but it still feels like Henderson + 2 in that central midfield.

 

7 (7) Trent Alexander-Arnold
Remarkably, that’s the first time he has started back-to-back England games. Even more remarkably, ‘he’s yet to produce a performance for his country which doesn’t look like this one did – distracted, inaccurate, lacking in the locked-in intensity which seems as standard at Liverpool’ (and I absolutely agree with Seb Stafford-Bloor).

 

8 (10) Ben Chilwell
Perhaps those three assists against Montenegro – and solid defensive performance against Kosovo – will put an end to Gareth Southgate’s lingering and needless flirtation with Danny Rose. Chilwell is and should remain England’s first-choice left-back.

 

9 (18) Harry Winks
Six England caps, six England wins. And a goal and a man-of-the-match performance against Kosovo. It might well be Henderson, Winks + 1 with Declan Rice hopefully sidelined until he learns some of the basics of defensive midfield play.

 

10 (13) John Stones
‘Needs to play football. Absolutely needs to play football,’ is what I wrote last month. Now back in the Manchester City side and an England recall duly followed. 

 

11 (16) Nick Pope
Confirmation that he is England’s No. 2. And a clean sheet is lovely.

 

12 (17) Joe Gomez
What has become very clear is that Southgate has picked his four centre-halves and Gomez is on that list despite not playing a great deal of Premier League football. Luckily for him, Liverpool have an awful lot of games coming up. He might still be the big man.

 

13 (8) Jadon Sancho
His form has dipped for Borussia Dortmund
and he failed to pad his stats against Montenegro; just one assist from 90 minutes on the wing is not a compelling return from a 7-0 victory. Right now, he has slipped some way behind Rashford.

 

14 (15) Tyrone Mings
And there’s centre-half No. 4, who has (slightly awkwardly) claimed another cap and another clean sheet. He is literally the big man.

 

15 (9) Ross Barkley
It’s telling that he has played more minutes in this qualifying campaign than any other midfielder bar Henderson and yet almost nobody thinks he should start for England. Will he eventually be ejected like a stockier Ryan Bertrand? The initials are a clue.

 

16 (11) Declan Rice
As I wrote last month: ‘He is only 20, so there are caveats, but right now he looks far from good enough to anchor that England midfield. Still, we persuaded him not to be Irish anymore, so his squad place is probably safe for the foreseeable.’ We wanted him to be so much better than Eric Dier; he isn’t.

 

17 (12) Mason Mount
He has played a part in England’s last six games so he is clearly integrated into this England squad. Unfortunately for him, he has started twice and struggled twice. Fortunately, he can do this from the bench…

 

18 (14) Kieran Trippier
Called up but then left on the bench. It could be worse; he could be Kyle Walker.

 

19 (20) Tammy Abraham
His first England goal and confirmation – were it needed – that he is Southgate’s first-choice back-up to Kane.

 

20 (22) Fabian Delph
Even grown men need a comfort blanket. Let it go, people, let it go…

 

21 (19) Danny Rose
Clinging onto a place in the squad but for how long? Until Luke Shaw gets and stays fit, you should think. Right now, Rose is holding off Aaron Cresswell and Matt Targett in the battle to be the left-sided fireguard with the thinner chocolate coating.

 

22 (32) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Back-to-back England starts for the first time since March 2018, when he was set to start in England’s World Cup midfield before injury struck. “We’ve a huge belief in him,” said Southgate. “Whether it’s as a midfield player – where he’s excellent with or without the ball, provides a goalscoring threat, works hard for the team and presses well – or a wide player or a forward player, we’ve got huge belief in him.” And that versatility might well be what keeps in this 23 ahead of more vaunted competition.

 

23 (23) Tom Heaton
The old man completes the 23. For now.

 

24 (21) Callum Hudson-Odoi
Reclaimed and then lost his Chelsea place, while his 59 wasteful, hesitant minutes against Kosovo suggested that he might be better getting some more England experience with the Under-21s this season while he searches for his form.

 

25 (24) Callum Wilson
Nobody takes three strikers for a one-striker system. Especially when the third striker on the list has stopped scoring.

 

26 (26) James Maddison
Most chances created by Englishmen this season:
Trent Alexander-Arnold (42)
Jack Grealish (25)
James Maddison (24)
Mason Mount (23)
Raheem Sterling (22)

Sorry James, but we don’t think Gareth likes the cut of your gib. Or the gib of…

 

27 (35) Jack Grealish
Though at least Southgate hinted that Grealish could be the next cab off the attacking midfielder rank. That’s progress.

 

28 (25) Kyle Walker
Sip sliding away. Slip-sliding a-way.

 

29 (31) Fikayo Tomori
They definitely didn’t bring him on for a few minutes to claim him from Nigeria (oh yes they did). But most importantly for this ladder, he was in the squad ahead of the falling Michael Keane.

 

30 (30) Dean Henderson
England’s…No. 4. England’s, England’s No. 4.

 

31 (29) Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Clearly, Southgate is not a fan of a 90s-style full-back.

 

32 (34) Dele Alli
Back in the Tottenham side at least. Shame it’s a really poor Tottenham side.

 

33 (27) Michael Keane
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

34 (28) Jesse Lingard
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

35 (33) Eric Dier
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

36 (40) Phil Foden
We will surely see him in a (senior) England shirt soon, but first Pep Guardiola needs to give him more than Carabao Cup football.

 

37 (NE) Aaron Ramsdale
The Bournemouth goalkeeper is making a compelling case for a long-term battle with Henderson.

 

38 (36) Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Love the player, hate the injury.

 

39 (37) Luke Shaw
Love the player, hate the injury. And the body type.

 

40 (42) Dwight McNeil

 

41 (41) Rob Holding
42 (38) Angus Gunn
43 (39) Ryan Sessegnon
44 (43) Max Aarons
45 (NE) John Lundstram
46 (NE) Harvey Barnes
47 (44) Reiss Nelson
48 (45) James Tarkowski
49 (47) James Ward-Prowse
50 (50) Phil Neville

 

Sarah Winterburn

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1) Eight months after winning at Stamford Bridge, Leicester returned emboldened by that result but aware that the public perception of them has changed. Brendan Rodgers has arrived to guide one of the most talented group of players in the country and with that comes expectation.

Ordinarily, a visit to Chelsea in August would be no kind of context, but Frank Lampard’s side are very much a work in progress. If Leicester are a credible threat to the top six, which should be their aim, then these are the days on which to prove that that’s built on something more than Rodgers’ frothy optimism.

 

2) Chelsea’s objective was simpler. Lampard could legitimately claim positives from that defeat to Manchester United and many more from the Super Cup on Wednesday night. But while it’s accepted that the club are now between eras and that this transition to something more organic will take time, the native expectations have been tempered rather than changed entirely. Leicester at home is a match to win and so, for Lampard, this was the first game with real pressure.

 

3) With that in mind, his selection of Mason Mount was significant. How refreshing to see a Chelsea head coach not just give cursory minutes to a young player, but to actually offer a proper opportunity. Mount will have good days and bad over the course of the season and most likely his potential will show as often as his naivety.

But that’s okay, because Lampard’s patronage means that he isn’t one bad game from the substitutes’ bench. Young footballers need that. Particularly one like Mount, who has to be expressive and cannot be inhibited by fear over how misplaced passes could impact his short-term career.

 

4) That faith instructed his performance; he didn’t look like someone making a home debut.

That first Premier League appearance at Stamford Bridge came with a first Premier League goal and swift vindication of Lampard’s decision. Mount might actually have scored earlier than he did, breaking between the Leicester centre-backs but choking his shot into the ground. When his goal came, though, it was really his own work, robbing Wilfred Ndidi and cutting a shot across and beyond Kasper Schmeichel.

Lampard will have been delighted. With the goal, of course, and Chelsea’s quick lead, but also because it showed the rainbow of Mount’s abilities and his capacity to follow tactical instruction. Modern coaches love a press, particularly when it’s led by technically gifted young players showing a determination to impose themselves on a game.

 

5) The opening 20 minutes saw Chelsea in furious mood; there was no Istanbul hangover. Key seemed to be Olivier Giroud’s inclusion. He has his limitations and he’ll never be a prolific goalscorer, but there are few Premier League forwards who play quite as selflessly.

An urgent tone was set right from kick-off – that was very important – but there was so much activity around Giroud, too. He smartly chested into Pedro’s stride for a volley which crashed into the side netting and, minutes later, it was his movement which allowed Mount to snipe in for his early chance. On 25 minutes, his cute, clever backheel might have created a rare goal for N’Golo Kante.

Maybe it’s a little unkind on Tammy Abraham, but at the moment there’s no debate about who should be Chelsea’s starting centre-forward. With Giroud in the side, the supporting players all look more potent.

 

6) About that frothy Rodgers optimism…

Leicester’s foundation wasn’t right here. In the 15 minutes before half-time, there were a few of the sharp exchanges you’d expect to see from this group of players, but not nearly enough to present a proper challenge. Jamie Vardy was barely involved, save for that strange Kepa moment, and neither James Maddison nor Youri Tielmans was much of an attacking presence. But that seemed tied to the more general problem of security.

Chelsea moved the ball up the field with little difficulty. Even when their opponents were in proper shape behind the ball, the ease with which they were able to fashion space around – and sometimes inside – the box was alarming. Maybe this is an early season problem, perhaps it’s a consequence of Harry Maguire’s recent departure, but it was still concerning.

 

7) There isn’t an obvious diagnosis for it either. Caglar Soyuncu looks a bit immobile – that’s probably not ideal – but Hamza Choudhury and Ndidi were equipped to protect their defence better than they did and, outside the centre-backs, Ricardo Pereira and Christian Fuchs are hardly security risks, even if the latter has seen better days.

The intensity was wrong. That’s woolly and tenuous, apologies for that, but this wasn’t a side determined to control the middle of the pitch and – clearly – that’s a prerequisite to competing at these grounds.

 

8) An observation, one obviously wise with hindsight: it was interesting to note the body language during Leicester’s warm-up. Lots of smiles, all very casual. When players are pointing and laughing at team-mates for slashing their shots over during shooting practice, maybe that’s not indicative of an appropriate focus.

There’s no value in going too far down this road, because it’s over-analysis based on very little, but it certainly tallied with what followed.

 

9) And another lurching, knee-jerk reaction: has James Maddison been over-estimated?

Originally, before the equaliser, this was a deeply frustrated paragraph bemoaning his inability to release the ball earlier and also his tendency to make bad decisions at important moments. Let’s be fair, though: he got a lot better and, by full-time, he had become a big influence on the game.

Some of the issues are still pertinent, though. There’s a lot to like about Maddison, not least that ebullient self-belief which allowed him to adapt so quickly last season. On Sunday, he also played predominantly from the left, which doesn’t seem to suit him. However, if he is to have a England future, then his ratios still need to change. He cannot waste four opportunities for every one he creates and, at the moment, that’s still the difference between what he is and how he carries himself.

 

10) The shame of Leicester’s start was in how well they began to play after half-time. Chelsea lost their way and while Ndidi’s (splendid) headed equaliser wasn’t exactly ‘coming’, it was reward for their significant improvement.

Suddenly, there were the slick interchanges between the attacking players. Tielemans became a factor, Vardy’s back-shoulder running began to frighten Christensen and Zouma and, at last, Maddison started to become much more productive.

Credit to Rodgers and his players for that: Stamford Bridge is one of those places where it’s easy to roll over and accept defeat. Leicester didn’t.

 

11) And Maddison should have won it for them. On reflection, his stumbling run across the box and wild finish over the bar was an encapsulation of the issues described above. He’s so nearly a very good player.

 

12) What is the difference between Giroud and Abraham? Probably that the latter has no one outstanding attribute. He’s quite skilful, but not very. He’s quick, but not exceptionally so, and his finishing is quite good, but not all the time.

Giroud isn’t an all-round forward in anyone’s eyes, but the reliability of his hold-up play is such that it gives Chelsea a constant base around which to build.

By contrast, Abraham’s contributions remain erratic. He can do some of what Giroud does, but not to a high enough standard to engender any real confidence. Without that, his supporting teammates are unable to play around him in a pre-emptive way and, as a result, Chelsea inevitably lose their attacking fluidity with him as their pivot. If he is to have a future here, then that has to change.

 

13) Whether Jorginho has a long-term future here is a different issue. After a year in England, his tendencies are well established: when Chelsea are secure in games, he looks composed and impressive. When they’re not, he doesn’t.

There are bigger issues at work in Lampard’s team, because the regularity with which Leicester were able to transition out of defence and into attack – and the space they enjoyed when they did – suggested a serious imbalance somewhere. Against a more ruthless opponent, this would almost certainly ended in defeat.

So while the more frequent debate is over N’Golo Kante’s role and whether his abilities are slightly misused further forward, perhaps the better way of framing the issue is to ask whether Jorginho is really suited to being the deepest man. Is he good enough defensively? Is he athletically capable of coping when counter-attacks develop?

We’re still waiting to find out.

 

14)  It’s in those Leicester transitions that Rodgers’ best work can be seen. With the advantage of having two or three players who can occupy a traditional No.10 role, the range of movement around the ball-carrier – particularly on the counter-attack – is hugely impressive. Those runners splay out in every direction and they create panic in a defence; it’s exciting to watch and, as and when the passes are attuned to exploiting it, the goals will follow.

It’s possibly why Maddison is subject to such scrutiny. When those options exist and there’s an obvious path to goal, the right decisions have to be made. Leicester aren’t capitalising on that at the moment, but the framework is at least in place.

 

15)  And what are they, more broadly?

A threat to the top six, but probably not more than that at this stage. It would be easier to assess if we knew what Chelsea were and what this point was actually worth. Nevertheless, some of the associations they grew under Puel clearly remain – not least that bizarre tendency to look like three different sides within the space of a single game.

That has to go. They need to be more efficient in front of goal, that’s a given, but the teams at the top of the table are typically very consistent and keeping pace with them requires a high baseline of performance. Leicester don’t have that yet; they still play well for periods, rather than for entire games.

 

16) And Chelsea?

Don’t underestimate the size of the project Lampard inherited or how many problems Eden Hazard’s form was able to disguise last season.

The defence has been rebuilt and remains without Antonio Rudiger. The midfield continues to be nebulous in definition. And the attack is having to compensate for the departure of the best player in the country without the benefit of investment. It’s difficult and it’s probably going to look unconvincing for a while longer.

 

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter.

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These are the 12 most expensive players who were uncapped when they made their big move…

 

12) Alex Pritchard (Norwich to Huddersfield, £12m)
The midfielder joined Town in January 2018 for anything between £10million and £14million, depending on who you believe. So we have split the difference. “I think it will be the right club for me,” Pritchard said at the time. “Just the way they play football and the togetherness of the team is a perfect fit for me.” Less than a season and a half later, the 26-year-old is heading back to the Championship – passing his former club on the way down – with a different manager who is clearly yet to be convinced by the midfielder.

Pritchard was an inconsistent presence in Town’s XI last season and Jan Siewert shifted him into a wide position for Town’s last few matches in the top flight as part of his experimentation for their next campaign. Pritchard did well on the right against Manchester United but, in fairness, this was his opposition…

 

11) Lloyd Kelly (Bristol City to Bournemouth, £13m)
The England Under-21 full-back became the sixth £10million-plus signing in the space of a year for little Bournemouth, who apparently fended off interest from Liverpool and Arsenal for the Bristol City academy graduate.

That’s presumably because Kelly has been promised a regular place in Eddie Howe’s first XI next season, either on the left or in the centre of the Cherries’ defence. City boss Lee Johnson, who has been very vocal in his praise for a ‘Rolls Royce of a player’ reckons the 20-year-old will become a centre-back in the long term but, initially, Kelly will fight with Charlie Daniels and Diego Rico for the left-back spot. “I genuinely think he’ll play for England at senior level,” said Johnson, though many thought that about Jordon Ibe. Speaking of whom…

 

10) Jordon Ibe (Liverpool to Bournemouth, £15m)
“It was a tough one but I needed to think what was best for me, which is playing, and when you scale it up, Liverpool and Bournemouth are fighting for the same things,” Ibe told The Times in 2016 in an interview which has not stood the test of time at all well. “Liverpool are not in the Europa League so would it really make a difference? And I would have more chances to play at Bournemouth than Liverpool so it doesn’t really matter.”

Three years later, Ibe has three Premier League goals while starting only nine Premier League matches last season. Liverpool are faring rather better…

 

9) Sam Clucas (Hull City to Swansea City, £15m)
The Swans signed Clucas for an eye-watering figure without really having an idea of where they might play him. The former Mansfield, Chesterfield and Hull utility player was a victim of his own versatility to a certain extent but justification of his fee was barely evident in his performances – unless Arsenal were the opponents – during one miserable season at the Liberty Stadium.

Upon relegation, it seemed like Clucas might stay in the Premier League with a move to Burnley on the cards until the Clarets refused to budge over personal terms. Swansea eventually clawed back £6million of their investment when Stoke took the 28-year-old off their hands. Once he recovered from knee surgery – by which time a third of the season had passed – Clucas became a Potters regular in the Championship, but he seems to have most to lose should Nathan Jones sign Nick Powell from Wigan.

 

8) Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough to Burnley, £15m)
Joe Hart was Burnley’s headline signing last summer but Gibson was the most expensive. Neither worked. Hart is desperate for another move this summer while Gibson just wants a taste of the action.

The centre-back, once called up for the England senior squad in 2017, currently has a goal-a-game record with Burnley owing to his strike in a 5-1 defeat at Everton on Boxing Day, his only Premier League appearance so far for Burnley. A hernia problem at the start of the season didn’t help but Dyche obviously saw nothing in training from his joint-record signing to tempt him to break up the Ben Mee-James Tarkowski partnership.

 

7) Calum Chambers (Southampton to Arsenal, £16m)
Half a decade after the then-19-year-old joined Arsenal, we still don’t know if he fits into the Gunners’ plans. Probably not. For two of the last three seasons, he has been shipped out on loan to Middlesbrough and Fulham with both sides being relegated. Which is probably just a coincidence.

Moving to Arsenal was enough to earn Chambers an England cap – three in fact – under Roy Hodgson. Three years after his senior debut, Chambers was playing for the Under-21s at the 2017 Euros.

 

6) Harry Maguire (Hull City to Leicester City, £17m)
It seemed steep at the time but, two years later, Leicester are set to make close to a five-fold return on Craig Shakespeare’s investment. That is if they sell Maguire, which they should only do if they receive an offer too good to turn down. And if that comes from Manchester United, would the 20-cap England defender be better off staying where he is?

The Foxes could finish above United next term…

 

5) Andre Gray (Burnley to Watford, £18.5m)
‘If you want a striker to score some – but not many – goals against bad defences but look worrying blunt against other sides, Gray’s your man. For £18.5m.’ we wrote upon the striker’s big move to Watford in 2017.

Two seasons on, not much has changed. Gray netted five goals in his first season at Vicarage Road and seven last term, most of which he watched from the bench amid only 13 starts. Troy Deeney is more likely to win a full cap than the former England C striker.

 

4) Alfie Mawson (Swansea to Fulham, £20m)
The centre-back was considered something of a bargain when the Cottagers won the race for a 24-year-old who four months previously had been called up by Gareth Southgate without getting on the pitch against Italy. But like the rest of his Fulham team-mates, Mawson had a stinking 2018-19.

Injuries offer the former Barnsley and Swansea defender some mitigation. But the fact Mawson has had surgery on the same knee twice in the space of a year, the last occasion after injuring himself while changing his boots, will caution some Premier League clubs who might be looking to rescue him from Fulham’s sinking ship.

 

3) James Maddison (Norwich to Leicester, £22.5m)
Leicester are pretty good at this. Maddison might not fetch quite as much as Maguire but the attacking midfielder would still earn the Foxes a three-fold return. Not that they want to sell or that he wants to leave after only a year at the King Power Stadium.

But what a year! The 22-year-old was the only player in the Premier League to create 100 chances so it is no wonder half of the Big Six are sniffing. Gareth Southgate is rather harder to impress, evidently.

 

2) Jordan Pickford (Sunderland to Everton, £25m)
Everton’s record signing had yet to win a senior cap when Everton made him their record signing in 2017 but two years later, Pickford has 19 of them, having established himself as Southgate’s undisputed No.1.

That doesn’t mean he’s everyone’s cup of tea. ‘There’s just too much going on,’ wrote Winty last week. ‘While Gareth Southgate is trying to engender an era of calm, smooth, possession football – and failing, because of various reasons outlined below – Pickford is getting his rave on. Every game. All game.’

But Everton would still double their money if they took Pickford to market and the England gloves look to be his for the foreseeable future.

 

1) Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace to Manchester United, £50m)
Here comes Wan-Bissaka, blowing everyone out of the water with his big move to Old Trafford.

When a young player moves to United or any big club, a first cap rarely follows far behind. But Wan-Bissaka has a lot of competition for the right-back spot in Gareth Southgate’s senior squad, with Kieran Trippier being squeezed out by Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold this summer.

Wan-Bissaka went instead with the Under-21s to the European Championships, where he did his cause little good on Aidy Boothroyd’s watch. A 95th-minute own goal in the opening defeat to France led to Boothroyd dropping the 21-year-old, claiming the United target had “had his head turned”. Which the manager apparently didn’t spot before the defeat… just another thing to add to Boothroyd’s charge sheet.

Ian Watson

 

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