Chelsea maintained their position at the Premier League summit as they thumped sorry Norwich City 7-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Manchester City remain two points behind after cruising past Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 at the Amex Stadium.

Watford produced a stunning comeback to thump Everton at Goodison Park, while Leeds United left it late to snatch a point against Wolves.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the fixtures from the day.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-4 Manchester City: Foden inspires City's latest win over Seagulls

Phil Foden was at the heart of City's big win at the Amex Stadium as Pep Guardiola's side sealed an eighth win in nine Premier League games against the Seagulls.

Ilkay Gundogan put the visitors ahead before Foden scored just his second brace in the Premier League, previously doing so against Burnley in June 2020.

Alexis Mac Allister pulled one back for Graham Potter's side to became the first player to score a Premier League penalty as a substitute for Brighton.

Riyad Mahrez added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time, though, after being teed up by Foden. The Algerian has scored more goals in all competitions (16) than any other City player so far in 2021.

The result meant Brighton conceded four goals for the first time in 43 Premier League games, since a 4-2 loss against Everton in October 2020. Indeed, the Seagulls conceded as many goals as they had in their previous seven league games combined.

Chelsea 7-0 Norwich City: Mount puts Blues in seventh heaven

Chelsea made light work of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner's absences, winning a Premier League game by seven or more goals for the fourth time and the first time since an 8-0 win over Aston Villa in December 2012.

Mason Mount was the star man, the England international becoming the 20th different player to score a Premier League hat-trick for Chelsea. Only Arsenal (21) have had more hat-trick scorers in the competition.

Ben Chilwell was on the scoresheet as well, the former Leicester City left-back becoming the first Englishman to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances for Chelsea since Frank Lampard in February 2013.

The defeat was Norwich's joint-heaviest in Premier League history, the Canaries also losing 7-0 to Manchester City in November 2013.

Their haul of just two goals after nine league games this season is the joint-lowest tally ever at this stage of an English league campaign, and just the third time a team has registered such a low return at this stage in the Premier League (Crystal Palace in 2017-18 and Everton in 2005-06).


Everton 2-5 Watford: King comes back to haunt Toffees

Watford scored four times in the final 12 minutes to complete a remarkable fightback at Goodison Park.

They were indebted to a superb hat-trick from former Toffees striker Josh King, who became just the third player to score a Premier League hat-trick against a side he has previously played for in the competition, after Andy Cole (for Manchester United vs Newcastle) and Marcus Bent (for Wigan vs Blackburn). 

It was just the second time Watford had scored five goals in an away Premier League game (also vs Cardiff in February 2019), becoming just the seventh newly promoted side in Premier League history to score five or more goals in an away game.

The result also marked the first time the Hornets had come from behind to win an away Premier League game since January 2019 vs Crystal Palace, having lost each of their previous 21 such matches in the competition.

Leeds United 1-1 Wolves: Rodrigo leaves it late for Bielsa's men

Despite earning a late point thanks to Rodrigo's stoppage-time penalty, seven points from nine games marks Leeds' worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1981-82 (six points), a season in which they were relegated to the second tier.

Wolves had looked destined for all three points thanks to another goal from Hwang Hee-chan. The South Korean has scored four goals from just four shots on target in the Premier League this season, the best such 100 per cent conversion rate in the competition so far this term.

Rodrigo stepped up late on to salvage a point, though. His equaliser from the spot was just Leeds' third penalty goal scored in the final minute of a Premier League match, after Gary McAllister against Coventry City (October 1995) and Ian Harte against Derby County (December 1999).

Thomas Tuchel wants Chelsea's players to continue proving their quality after watching them run riot against Norwich City.

Shorn of the injured Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, Chelsea made light work of lowly Norwich at Stamford Bridge, with Mason Mount scoring a hat-trick in a 7-0 win.

It was the fourth time Chelsea have won a Premier League game by seven or more goals and the first time since December 2012 against Aston Villa (8-0), with only Manchester United netting seven or more goals in more Premier League games.

Mount opened and rounded off the scoring, with strikes from Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Ben Chilwell and an own goal from Max Aarons wedged in between.

Chelsea's win lifted them four points clear at the top for at least a few hours, and though pleased with the display, Tuchel wants the same level of performance when the Blues take on Southampton in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.

He told BT Sport: "Yes, a good performance, we were sharp, put in a lot of effort.

"High-pressing, [we] played a high rhythm and created a lot of chances and we were very precise. It was a deserved win. To score seven you need a bit of luck and momentum, but a good game.

"This will not stop, this is only one game and the next one follows on Tuesday here, up for a challenge again and they will have to prove it again. All the credit, but it's only one game."

Mount had not scored since netting in a 2-0 Champions League win over Real Madrid in May, but he was the star of the show against the hapless Canaries, who also had Ben Gibson sent off.

He had more shots (five) and efforts on target (four) than any other player, while his tally of three key passes trailed only Mateo Kovacic (six).

Tuchel said: "It's good, because no matter what the coach says and how many good opportunities you have, how satisfied the coach is, the offensive guys need goals to feel fully happy, full confidence.

"He waited long, too long, and it was good that he got some goals today."

Tuchel had concerns about fatigue with Mount, and he added: "I don't think it was a matter of now he is fresh and yesterday he was tired. For now it's a process, we are still in between international breaks, I think it's normal. It's a status that will not change from one game to the other.

"I agree that today he looked fresh and it was good to put him on the pitch. We need to be careful with these players ... who play important roles in their national teams and have a lot of competitions."

Mount added: "Before the game I was putting pressure on myself to get on the scoresheet because it's been quite a long time since I did, and then three come around in the same game.

"I don't think I've ever scored more than one in a game for Chelsea, so it's obviously a massive moment for me to get three, I'll remember this for a long time.

"You put pressure on yourself. I was always getting in the positions to score, but I just wasn't putting it in the back of the net, and I just thought there'd be a game where it was going to come off and today was the day.

"It was my luck today, and obviously the team as well, not just me. The way we played today, I spoke before about intensity, an early kick-off, being at it from the beginning and we were like that today."

Mason Mount says going through the experience of missing part of England's run to the Euro 2020 final after being forced to isolate played a part in his decision to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

The 22-year-old and team-mate Ben Chilwell were deemed close contacts of Scotland's Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus after a stalemate with England at Wembley and had to sit out the Three Lions' final group game with the Czech Republic.

He was back on the bench for the last-16 tie with Germany, but Gareth Southgate did not feel the Chelsea playmaker was fit enough to play a part and he was an unused substitute in a famous 2-0 win.

Under current coronavirus protocols, which have changed since June and July, those who have been fully vaccinated no longer have to isolate after coming into contact with somebody that has tested positive for the virus.

And amid fresh scrutiny about the vaccination rates within football, with a number of England players unwilling to disclose their status, Mount has confirmed he has received both doses.

"Going through that experience, missing the game, a top, top game kind of did have an effect on my decision," he told reporters ahead of England's World Cup qualifier with Hungary on Tuesday.

"But I think for players, personally it's down to someone and it is down to their decision how they feel about it.

"I don't think you can force anyone to get it but, for me, going through that experience, it did make me want to get it and get it quite quickly."

Mount started five games for beaten finalists England at Euro 2020 and has already featured eight times for Chelsea this campaign.

He did take some time to get up to full speed, which he puts down to a hangover on the back of England's memorable Euros run.

"After an experience like that and how far we got, it does take some time to get over it and reflect," said Mount, who has been included on the 30-man shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

"But as soon as the next season starts, that's go to be behind you. Maybe physically there can still be a toll, even though you've had a break.

"So it's natural that happens and after playing many games in the normal season, then to go to the Euros and play games, and then after a short break go straight into pre-season, it can take a toll. 

"Maybe I've felt that a bit this season. I missed a week with a little injury at Chelsea but to get back and be in the England squad, that little break makes you feel more energetic and gives you that little boost. 

"I don't want to miss any game but it does help sometimes to take a step back and let yourself recover."

England manager Gareth Southgate is unconvinced by the idea of having the World Cup every two years, questioning the feasibility of continuously adding to the football calendar.

The idea of a biennial World Cup had been floated in the past, but in recent months it seems to have become a much more likely next step for the competition.

Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger publicly backed the idea back in July and, as FIFA's head of global football development, the Frenchman has argued a revamp of the international football calendar is both "what the fans want" and a necessity for the improvement of player wellbeing.

FIFA has been carrying out a feasibility study on the prospect of a World Cup every two years and last month held an online summit to discuss plans.

But FIFA's Wenger-backed proposals have been met with antipathy from many key stakeholders, such as confederations, officials, leagues, players and clubs.

UEFA has been particularly scathing in its response to the idea, with president Aleksander Ceferin openly in opposition and vice-president Zbigniew Boniek rather callously questioning the mental sanity of such a proposal.

Southgate was less forthright but still expressed a hint of disagreement.

"I don't know how far things have progressed. There seemed to be a lot of things not in the original proposal I was shown; it is hard to keep track," he told reporters on Monday ahead of England's World Cup qualifier against Hungary.

"We all want high-level games; the Nations League showed the quality and that is exactly what we want to be involved in, but you can't just keep adding to the calendar."

England midfielder Mason Mount was in attendance with Southgate and agreed with the idea that players should be consulted when such proposals are being drawn up, though he seemed to be open to playing a major tournament every year.

"I'd love that, but after the Euros and everything we went through, it [recovering mentally] probably did take longer than anything else," he said.

"You reflect on how it went – it was obviously such a big heartbreak to go all the way then fall at the last hurdle was difficult."

On player consultation, he added: "To have the players' input would be positive, I think.

"We want to play in as many top tournaments and games as possible, we want to be involved. To speak to us would be positive and help shape the future."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says Manchester City remain the benchmark for his side in their pursuit of the Premier League title ahead of Saturday's meeting at Stamford Bridge.

The sides will face off for the first time since May's Champions League final at Estadio do Dragao in Portugal, which Chelsea won 1-0 through a Kai Havertz goal.

The Blues have now won their last three meetings with City, doing so in three different competitions in the space of six weeks at the end of last season.

Chelsea have carried that form into the 2021-22 campaign with seven wins and a draw to their name in all competitions.

They are joint-top of the league and are three points better off than City, but Tuchel believes the reigning champions remain the side to beat if they are to finish top this term. 

"It's a six-pointer between two teams who are rivals for the top four or the best outcome possible," Tuchel said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Any team can, of course, steal three points from a direct competitor. Does it change anything? No, but there's no need to play it down.

"We could play a draw, though. Things will be tough and I mean that. They are the benchmark for many years now and I am very happy we're able to produce this kind of performance and result consistently. 

"We need to prove we can deliver with the same consistency. City remain the benchmark. We have to stay hungry and close the gap. This is what we have to do for 90 minutes. It's a marathon, not a sprint."

None of the last 12 Premier League meetings between Chelsea and City have been drawn, with the Blues winning five to their opponents' seven.

Another victory for Tuchel's men this weekend would move them six points clear of City, but Tuchel acknowledged the title race still has a long way to go regardless of Saturday's result.

"We are aware of the situation but I don't think it will provide any extra motivation for us," he said. "If it was three games before the end of the season, maybe.

"We need to be at our best, best level and that does not change. This is what I feel and it's what is important. 

"In the last three matches against them, we isolated the situation and if we wanted to compete with them in a 50/50 match, we needed out top level.

"It doesn't matter how many points we have and they have. Tomorrow against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, it's on. And we need to be fully on."

Tuchel added: "Let's be honest, if we win tomorrow we will not be champions and if City win tomorrow we will not be champions and we won't be in depression.

"It's an important match, a big match that we like to be involved in, and the situation we face this match is a good one because we feel ready for this kind of competition."

Tuchel confirmed he will be without Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount, the latter – who set up Havertz's winner in the Champions League final – sustaining a minor injury in the midweek EFL Cup penalty shoot-out win over Aston Villa.

"He is very disappointed and I didn't feel it during the last match because it was the second half and he played through the injury," Tuchel said.

"He finished the game, was confident to take an important penalty. So it was a surprise.The steps he is taking are huge. Maybe it was possible if the game was one day later. 

"So it's a minor injury but there is disappointment for him and us because he is a player that we count on. But no matter the importance, no matter how we rely on him, the task is to find solutions without him and bring him back as soon as possible."

Tuchel still has a number of other players to call upon in midfield and attack, yet arguably more intriguing will be the team opposite number Pep Guardiola fields.

The Catalan coach, often accused of overthinking his team selection in big matches, has failed to win all three encounters with Tuchel in English football.

Chelsea could become the first team to win four successive games against Guardiola in all competitions, though Tuchel has the utmost respect for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

Asked if he believes he is a better coach than Guardiola, Tuchel said: "This question does not even exist for me and I can't answer it. 

"It's a question for you guys and you can endlessly debate. I am a huge admirer for the impact he had from his first day of his professional coaching.

"The impact at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, he has my biggest respect. 

"There is not reason to ask myself if I am a better coach. I do the best I can, I am in a place I am very happy, and I am a better coach today than yesterday."

Bernd Leno's future at Emirates Stadium is up in the air.

Aaron Ramsdale's arrival, on a deal that could reach a reported £30million, put Leno's first-choice position in jeopardy.

The 29-year-old German joined Arsenal in 2018 and has been number one since.

TOP STORY - ARSENAL CONSIDERS LENO SALE

Arsenal are contemplating selling German goalkeeper Leno next year following Ramsdale's arrival, claims the Daily Mail.

Ramsdale was selected ahead of Leno in Arsenal's 1-0 win over Norwich City on Saturday after the German had an indifferent start to the season

The report claims there is little chance Arsenal will sell Leno in January but that the Gunners signed Ramsdale believing he may usurp the German by the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- As Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid circle, Paul Pogba is leaning towards extending his stay with Manchester United claims The Athletic. The report cites Cristiano Ronaldo's impact at United on Pogba's thinking.

- West Ham United have placed a £100 million price tag on in-demand Declan Rice with  Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all jostling for his signature according to Football.London.

- French midfielder Thomas Lemar is expendable following Antoine Griezmann's arrival and could be sold by Spanish champions Atletico Madrid claims Todo Fichajes. Atletico wants to raise transfer funds to bolster their squad.

- Football Insider claims that Bayern Munich are already working on signing Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner next year, with a January move not ruled out.

- Chelsea will open talks with England international midfielder Mason Mount on a new long-term deal according to 90min.

- Arsenal target Houssem Aouar will not leave Olympique Lyon mid-season reports Todo Fichajes.

Gianfranco Zola has claimed England boss Gareth Southgate was "too conservative too soon" in the Euro 2020 final and suffered the inevitable consequences.

Italy's penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley on Sunday has been followed by reports that Southgate could soon be knighted.

That is despite his team falling short when they had home advantage, failing to build on Luke Shaw's second-minute strike that was the earliest goal scored in a European Championship final.

Roberto Mancini's impressive Italy had 19 shots to England's six over the 120 minutes, while also enjoying 65.4 per cent of possession. The Azzurri finished with an expected goals score of 2.16 compared to England's meagre 0.55, underlining their dominance of the chances.

Leonardo Bonucci's second-half equaliser was followed by Italy edging a nervy battle on spot-kicks to land the trophy for the first time since 1968, and Zola sensed England retreated too quickly into their shell.

"Maybe Southgate was a bit too conservative because England boast important players at the highest level," Zola told Stats Perform.

"They were doubtlessly advantaged and having scored after just two minutes gave them further advantages. But especially in the second half, they started defending the goal cushion too early, defending so deep – as they say in England – enabling Italy to find their pace and plays and the equaliser was a natural consequence.

"So Southgate was too conservative too soon.

"Mancini on the other hand was so good. All the subs proved him right. When he subbed [Nicolo] Barella I was expecting more [Manuel] Locatelli than [Bryan] Cristante, but he got that right too as the team kept their pace high, producing quality."

 

Former Italy forward Zola, who won 35 caps for the Azzurri, was surprised by how little influence England's Mason Mount had on the final.

Mount has been impressive in the Premier League for Chelsea, the club where Zola was such a favourite in a seven-year spell from 1996 to 2003.

But in 99 minutes of action against Italy, before being substituted, Mount had only 36 touches of the ball and completed just 15 of 22 passes for a 68.2 per cent success rate. All of Italy's starting XI had a higher percentage than Mount achieved, with Federico Chiesa's 77.8 per cent their lowest mark.

Chiesa was far more threatening than Mount, who was given an advanced midfield role by Southgate, operating just behind Harry Kane but barely having any influence on the game.

In 54 games for Chelsea last season, across all competitions, Mount scored nine goals, had eight assists and created 109 chances. The 22-year-old had one assist in 464 minutes of action at the Euros, creating eight chances over the tournament.

"For sure after what he had shown in the Premier League, in the Champions League and even in the friendlies ahead of the Euros, he didn't shine," Zola said.

"He is young and the long season with Chelsea where he always played may have had an impact on his sub-par performance. Yet, he is a very skilful player and this experience will help him become better and stronger.

"As I am told, he is a level-headed kind of guy so this experience will help him for sure."

Fifty-four passes. In two minutes and 41 seconds of unbroken possession during the closing stages of their Euro 2020 semi-final win over Denmark, England moved to the brink of a 2-1 win in beautifully assured fashion with a 54-pass move. Over the course of the entire additional half hour, they completed 198 passes – more than the Three Lions managed in the entirety of the 1-0 Euro 2000 win over Germany.

Thirty-eight passes. Five days later in the final, Gareth Southgate's team could only manage 38 successful passes in the entire first half of extra time against Italy. That ticked up to 47 during the final 15 minutes of the 1-1 draw but still stood in stark contrast to the supreme example of modern, pro-active game management from the preceding midweek.

Southgate has overseen a period of unprecedented progress during his time in charge of international football's most maligned underachievers. A final for the first time since 1966, back-to-back semi-finals for the first time since 1968. As a major tournament force, England are stronger than they have been at any time over the past half a century by some distance.

But large chunks of Sunday's final defeat to Roberto Mancini's brilliant side felt like they had been transplanted from the bad old days, long before a penalty shoot-out concluded a tale of heartbreak. The lack of control and accompanying slow, sinking feeling could have belonged to any era.

By the final whistle, Italy had completed 820 passes to England's 426. As well as being common to England setbacks of yesteryear, there was also a repeated pattern from two of Southgate's previously most notable defeats in charge. Dictating the terms against elite opponents and being able to wrestle back control during moments of high stress represents something of a final frontier with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar a little over 16 months away.

Verratti and Jorginho torment England like pass masters Modric and De Jong

Leonardo Bonucci scrambled in Italy's equaliser after 67 minutes at Wembley, Luke Shaw having given England a second-minute lead.

When Southgate's team went down to a 2-1 semi-final defeat against Croatia at the 2018 World Cup, Kieran Trippier's free-kick put them ahead in the fifth minute before Ivan Perisic equalised in the 68th and Mario Mandzukic won it in extra time.

In between those two games, England faced the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League. Marcus Rashford put them ahead from the penalty spot – yes, he's normally excellent at those – before Matthijs de Ligt equalised in the 73rd minute and the Dutch pulled clear in the first additional period.

First-half leads cancelled out by 67th, 68th and 73rd-minute goals can, of course, just be a coincidence. But England gradually ceded control in each match, conceded and never truly reasserted themselves.

 

On Sunday, Italy had deep-lying playmaker Jorginho and the masterful Marco Verratti calling the tune, while two years earlier the Netherlands had Frenkie de Jong and in Moscow, Luka Modric was at the peak of his powers. Each time, there was a level of midfield expertise to which England had no sufficient answer.

Raw passing statistics can sometimes be misleading. If a central defender racks up more passes than his team-mates – as Bonucci did at Wembley – it does not mean they are the best passer on the field, more that they have a higher frequency of simple passes to make due to their position.

But in the heat of a midfield battle, a player being able to compile pass after pass suggests they might be dictating terms.

At the Luzhniki Stadium, Modric made 71 passes, slightly fewer than his colleagues in the Croatia engine room Marcelo Brozovic (87) and Ivan Rakitic (84). England's starting midfield three – admittedly not a trio who matched up entirely with Croatia in a positional sense – of Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard managed 48, 47 and 38 respectively.

If Modric led an ensemble performance, De Jong conducted England all by himself in Guimaraes a year later. The Barcelona midfielder made 104 passes over the course of 120 minutes, with England's starting midfielders Declan Rice, Fabian Delph and Ross Barkley managing 54, 24 and 56. Only Barkley saw the final whistle, while De Jong's passing accuracy of 96.2 per cent was almost identical to Rice (96.3) at nearly twice the output.

Paired with Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips, Rice had another tall task when taking on Jorginho and Verratti. Once again, it was a case of England chasing around after accomplished technicians.

Paris Saint-Germain's Verratti was in majestic form as he turned the contest in the Azzurri's favour. Of his 118 passes, 111 were successful and 72 came in the England half. Chelsea's Jorginho was similarly efficient with 94 out of 98 completed. Even allowing for Rice's 74th-minute substitution, the Opta statistics for himself (33 passes, 25 completed) and Phillips (39 passes, 30 completed) tell the story of their and England's night.

 

No passing, please, we're English

Despite the weekend sense of déjà vu, it is only fair to credit England with progress when coming up against technically superior midfields.

They gained a measure of revenge against Croatia, who they also beat en route to their Nations League date with the Netherlands, during the group stage and similarly shackled Germany – Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz and all – in a 2-0 last-16 win.

As he did against Die Mannschaft, Southgate switched to a 3-4-3 for Italy and the formation initially overwhelmed Mancini's men, who were attacked repeatedly down their flanks.

This served to remove Italy's midfield superiority as a major factor in the contest until after half-time. Some have criticised Southgate for not being pro-active when the tide began to turn, failing to send on attacking threats such as Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish to give the Azzurri new and different problems.

While those suggestions are valid, it is also fair to ponder whether England would simply have had fresh-legged spectators to the Verratti-Jorginho show. Studying data from the Premier League and across Europe's major divisions this season, it can be concluded that changing formation, funnelling play out wide and pressing judiciously are all work-arounds Southgate and his coaching team have developed for a problem to which they don't have a direct remedy.

 

In England's top flight in 2020-21, Manchester City's Rodri averaged the most passes per 90 minutes of midfielders to have made 20 or more appearances with 91.24. Next on the list were Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic (87.23), Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara (83.32) and Manchester United's Nemanja Matic (83.05), with Jorginho rounding out the top five on 79.68.

Considering players who featured at least 25 times in all competitions across the big five leagues, Verratti comes in second with a fairly absurd 96.86, from Sergio Busquets (94.63), Rodri and Kroos (88.37).

Miralem Pjanic's debut season at Barcelona was an utterly forgettable affair and one that could not be saved by him tiki-takaing himself to a standstill with 104.29 passes every 90 minutes. High passing numbers do not always mean a stand-out performer but illustrate a certain type of player – a type not readily available to Southgate.

Discounting Henderson's 92.85 per 90, given he played so often in 2020-21 at centre-back (meaning he was also ruled out of the Premier League rankings, having finished top at 95.69 from 21 outings), you have to scroll a decent way down this Europe-wide list to find some English representation.

The Premier League supplied three of last season's four European finalists and all of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United boasted brilliant English players who were pivotal to their success. But in each case, overseas players were entrusted with the midfield duties that generally undo England.

Yet, in some respects, Qatar 2022 is further away than it might seem. If Euro 2020 had actually taken place in 2020, it is more likely Shaw, Kyle Walker and John Stones would have missed out on the squad rather than made up three-quarters of Southgate's first-choice defence. Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Reece James, Conor Coady, Jude Bellingham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phillips and Grealish had not made their international debuts this time last year.

A lot can change between then and now, so who might emerge as a king of control for Southgate?

 

A nudge from Winks? Skipp to it?

The highest ranked English midfielder on the top-five leagues list is Tottenham's Harry Winks, who averaged 71.47 passes every 90 minutes over the course of 28 appearances.

Only 15 of those were in the Premier League and nine were starts. Getting regular football, largely due to a succession of injury problems, has been a problem for the 25-year-old, who is now being linked with a move away from Spurs.

However, Southgate is a fan and is responsible for giving Winks all 10 of his England caps to date. A Shaw-style renaissance is certainly possible.

One factor that might cause him to seek pastures new is Oliver Skipp's return to Tottenham from a successful loan spell at Norwich City.

While helping the Canaries to promotion from the Championship, the 20-year-old averaged 58.52 passes per 90. Nowhere near the towering numbers posted by Europe's best but the third highest among midfielders to have played 30 or more times in a competition of a very different nature.

Skipp has represented England at under-21 level and the pathway from there to the seniors is clear in the Southgate era.

Winks was the only English midfielder to average above 70 passes per 90 on our European list, although Curtis Jones (68.04) – hoping for a more prominent role at Liverpool this season – and provisional Euros squad member James Ward-Prowse (64.75) are other options who might treat the ball with a little more TLC.

 

Can the men in possession be better in possession?

It might seem perverse to say England need to vastly improve their control in midfield, while claiming Rice and Phillips each had fine tournaments, but both statements are true.

Southgate is not averse to hard-nosed selection decisions but whatever the formation or opponent, the West Ham and Leeds favourites started each match in central midfield. Rice's 12 interceptions were only bettered by Jorginho (25) and N'Golo Kante (14), while the Italy lynchpin recovered possession 48 times – shading Phillips (45) and lying behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (51).

With the ball, they did not perform their deep-lying roles like Jorginho or De Jong – even allowing for some of Rice's ravishing first-half dribbles in the final – because they were not asked to. Which leads to the obvious question: could they do it?

Plenty of good judges certainly seem to hold Rice in that regard, as evidenced by persistent links to Chelsea and Manchester United. He averaged 47.7 passes per 90 minutes last season and, for all that they enjoyed a brilliant season under David Moyes, West Ham's average possession figure of 42.53 was the sixth lowest in the division.

To understand the full range of Rice's prowess and potential to be England's metronome, it might be necessary to view him on a weekly basis in a different setting.

The same need not be said for Phillips, who did not pick up his "Yorkshire Pirlo" nickname on account of interceptions or recoveries. Control is not always the primary aim of Marcelo Bielsa's high-intensity and ravenous pressing style, all whirring parts and thrills, but Phillips averaged 52.02 passes per 90 last term in the Premier League.

Again, this is not up there with the elite distributors in Europe, but it is a useful return at odds with his 39 passes over the course of 120 minutes versus Italy.

 

Bridging the gr-8 divide

At Leeds, Phillips will generally have more forward passing in closer proximity than those that were granted to him at Wembley on Sunday. This is where the configuration of Southgate's midfield is worth consideration.

It will be intriguing to see whether he returns to a 4-3-3 with two number eights as opposed to a 4-2-3-1 with two holders and a 10 when England resume World Cup qualifying in September.

The defeat to a De Jong-inspired Netherlands and a wild 5-3 Euros qualifying win over Kosovo later in 2019 were influential in the England boss choosing a more cautious approach for Euro 2020, shelving an expansive 4-3-3.

A run to the final without conceding a goal from open play means that decision cannot really be disputed. But perhaps this newfound defensive solidity means the shackles can be loosened once more, allowing more attack-minded players to operate centrally.

The control that eluded England in the matches discussed above was not simply as a result of metronomic passing. De Jong (16) was second only to Raheem Sterling (20) for dribbles completed at Euro 2020, while Verratti had three carries resulting in a chance. Five from Hojbjerg, Lorenzo Insigne and Gareth Bale topped the list in the competition.

Ability to carry the ball, both to ease pressure through linking the play along with creating chances, sounds like quite a good description of Foden. The Manchester City youngster's injury absence felt more regrettable as the final pressed on.

In pre-recorded introductions for ITV's Euro 2020 coverage, Foden described himself as a central midfielder. It is where he played the vast majority of his youth football for City and during most of his early first-team outings.

But in a 2020-21 campaign when it was hoped he would step forward as David Silva's playmaking replacement, he in fact filled the void left by Leroy Sane and turned in electrifying performances on the left wing.

 

"Phil just needs time to improve playing inside," Pep Guardiola said when discussing Foden's positional change earlier this year.

"When you play as a winger you have to play at one tempo and when you play inside you have to play in another one. When he gets this balance he will be 10 times more extraordinary as a player. It’s just a question of time."

Southgate will have an eye on that ticking clock and also how Mason Mount is used by another esteemed tactician. The Chelsea youngster has played as an eight for club and country but was used almost exclusively in the front three after Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge and plotted a path to Champions League glory.

There are few English players more elegant and effective when it comes to running with the ball at his feet than Grealish. In 2020-21, international team-mate Harry Maguire and Leeds full-back Luke Ayling were the only English players to have more than his 172 instances of carrying the ball towards goal for 10 metres or more. Mount (138) came seventh on that progressive carries list.

But, like Foden and Mount, most of Grealish's best recent work has come in the forward line. The likes of Verratti and De Jong are masters of their craft because they play in their position every week.

Still, dropping one of his twinkle-toed playmakers a touch deeper might become an irresistible work-around, especially if paired with a Henderson back to his talismanic best in central midfield for Liverpool. In 2019-20 he was the heartbeat of the side that won the Premier League, averaging 74.44 passes per 90 into the bargain. Suffering against Modric and Croatia before failing to stem the tide when short of match fitness versus Italy should not cloud perceptions of the 31-year-old's supreme qualities.

Then there is the tantalising prospect of Bellingham's next stage of development under the highly regarded Marco Rose at Borussia Dortmund. The 18-year-old could be frighteningly good by the time the 2022 World Cup rolls around. If Southgate can hit upon a formula for midfield that can both dictate and create, we could be able to say the same for England.

Gareth Southgate has urged England to grasp the opportunity to put the Three Lions' poor Euros knockout record behind them but does not feel the omens will have a negative impact on the team.

England have never won a Euros knockout match in 90 minutes, with four of those six games going to penalties – only one of those (v Spain, Euro 96) ended in a victory for the Three Lions.

It is a damning indictment of England's underachievement in the tournament throughout its history.

While Southgate believes his young team have a great chance to overcome such a poor record, he also feels the players should not feel any extra pressure because of it.

"It's an incredible record really," Southgate told reporters on Monday. "I think it's something we've talked a lot about as a team over last four years – this team has that opportunity [to buck the trend].

"In previous eras we've spoken about the past and baggage. There's no reason for these players to feel that way, as most weren't born when those games happened. It's an irrelevance for them.

"But it's a fantastic game to be involved in and great opportunity to progress to a quarter-final."

 

A key area for consideration before Tuesday's game is whether Ben Chilwell or Mason Mount will be involved.

Both have been isolating after being identified as close contacts of Scotland's Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus, but they will be allowed to mix with their team-mates again from midnight on Monday.

Southgate accepts the situation certainly has not been ideal, but he thinks either player could cope if needed to start.

"They're having to travel separately to the team," Southgate added. "They have had individual training programmes this week. The only sessions they've been able to join in with is when there's not full team training. That's the basis on which we have got to make a decision.

"Clearly, it's really complicated because there's the physical periodisation that you would want for a game like this. Then there's the tactical training.

"The meetings we've had, they have to be in a separate room and dial in on Zoom. The whole experience for them, including travelling down tonight is very, very difficult.

"But they are young players who can get on with things pretty well. It's a decision I've got to take when we're looking at how they've been able to train and everything else. There's a lot wrapped up in that call."

Southgate will surely be hoping star striker Harry Kane can finally have an impact at Euro 2020, with the Tottenham forward struggling to make his mark in the group stage.

He has managed just five shots in total and only one of those was on target, with Kane on zero goals from an xG value of 1.4.

His 11 touches in the penalty area are one fewer than Che Adams of Scotland, who finished bottom of England's group – but Kane insists his performances are the least of his worries if the Three Lions continue in the tournament.

"I've always said as a striker, you go through spells, sometimes spells don't go your way," he said. "The most important thing for me is we are winning games. The first objective was to qualify, which we've done, the second is to reach the quarter-finals.

"Whether I'm scoring, the most important thing is winning. That's all I'm focusing on at the moment. However we get it done, that's our main objective and we'll do everything in our power to get through."

Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell were "gutted" to be missing out on England's final Euro 2020 Group D game against the Czech Republic.

Mount and Chilwell are self-isolating for 10 days after coming into close contact with Billy Gilmour, their Chelsea team-mate who was man of the match for Scotland in their 0-0 draw with England at Wembley last Friday before testing positive for coronavirus.

The England duo have since returned negative PCR and lateral flow tests but are isolating in line with advice from Public Health England.

Gilmour has had to miss Scotland's decisive group clash with Croatia at Hampden Park on Tuesday, but no other member of Steve Clarke's squad has been ruled out despite their bubble being compromised, indicating none of the party have breached tournament protocols by being in sustained proximity to the 20-year-old midfielder.

Sky Sports reported that Gilmour, Chilwell and Mount spent 25 minutes in conversation in the Wembley tunnel after the match.

"I'm absolutely gutted to have to miss tonight’s game. I'll be cheering on the boys as usual and ensuring that I'm ready to go again when called upon. Come on @England!," Mount tweeted on Tuesday.

In a similar post, Chilwell said: "It's a tough one to take and I'm gutted but I want to wish the boys all the best tonight in the game, I'll be cheering you all on. I will make sure I am ready for when I can rejoin the squad. Lets go @England!"

Left-back Chilwell is yet to feature for England at Euro 2020, with Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier starting the tournament in the 1-0 win over Croatia before Manchester United's Luke Shaw was handed the position against Scotland.

Mount, by contrast, has established himself as an integral part of Gareth Southgate's plans, starting both games in an attacking midfield role.

He has had more shots than any England player (four), with the expected goals (xG) value of his attempts (0.66) second only to captain Harry Kane in the squad.

The Athletic has reported Southgate will satisfy a huge clamour for Jack Grealish by selecting the Aston Villa playmaker in Mount's absence, while Harry Maguire is set to make his first appearance of the tournament – replacing Tyrone Mings as John Stones' centre-back partner.

If England beat the Czech Republic, they will top Group D and play their last-16 game at Wembley next Tuesday, the day after Chilwell and Mount's stipulated period of self-isolation ends on June 28.

Although that would make both players' participation in that match doubtful, they would definitely be unavailable in the event of any draw or defeat against the Czechs that leaves Southgate's men as runners-up, as that would mean England face a knockout match at Parken Stadium in Copenhagan on Monday, June 28.

If England were to lose to the Czech Republic and a victory for either Croatia or Scotland resulted in enough of a goal-difference swing to leave Southgate's team third, Chilwell and Mount would have to wait and see which best-third place slot their team end up with, given England's last-16 match in that instance could take place on June 27 or June 29.

England duo Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell will miss the match with the Czech Republic and must self-isolate up to and including June 28.

It was confirmed on Monday that the Chelsea players had begun isolating after being deemed close contacts of Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus after Scotland's 0-0 draw with England at Wembley last Friday.

The Football Association said the precautions had been taken after consultation with Public Health England, despite both players returning negative PCR and lateral flow test results.

On Tuesday, the FA said Chilwell and Mount will train individually in private areas of England's St. George's Park base, where the rest of the squad will return after their final Group D match with the Czech Republic.

It means that, should England win and top the group, Mount and Chilwell will miss the last-16 match, which takes place on June 29.

If Gareth Southgate's side fail to take three points, they will finish second in the group behind the Czech Republic, meaning their first knockout match will be on June 28.

England said via Twitter: "We can confirm that Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount must isolate up to and including next Monday [28 June]. This decision has been taken in consultation with Public Health England.

"The pair were confirmed overnight as close contacts of Scotland’s Billy Gilmour after his positive test following last Friday's match.

"Chilwell and Mount will isolate and train individually in private areas at England’s training base St. George's Park, with the rest of the squad returning there after tonight's fixture against Czech Republic at Wembley.

"We will continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols and the UEFA testing regime, while remaining in close contact with PHE.

"The entire England squad and staff had lateral flow tests on Monday and all were again negative, as was the case with Sunday's UEFA pre-match PCR tests. 

"Further tests will be carried out as and when appropriate."

Gareth Southgate once again found himself preaching calmness after coronavirus uncertainty hit England's plans for their concluding Euro 2020 Group D game against the Czech Republic.

Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell are self-isolating after interacting with their Chelsea team-mate Billy Gilmour, who featured for Scotland in last Friday's 0-0 draw at Wembley before testing positive for coronavirus.

The FA announced Mount and Chilwell had returned negative PCR and lateral flow test on Sunday and Monday respectively but, after then training with the England squad, they were advised to isolate following consultations with Public Health England.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, where Mount had initially been slated to join him, Southgate conceded both players were major doubts for the Czech Republic clash, which England need to win to top the group.

He will wait until Tuesday morning before making a final decision on his starting XI, by which point further advice on Mount and Chilwell's case is likely to be forthcoming.

But, as he did in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing performance against Scotland, Southgate again urged composure under pressure – citing Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets testing positive for COVID-19 and Christian Eriksen's shocking cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark as examples of the unexpected difficulties that can arise during tournaments.

"Spain had a similar situation, they've ended up drawing their two games. Denmark have obviously had a tragic situation," he said.

"This is tournaments, you have to adapt, you have to respond. It's why the depth of the squad is so important and calmness around whatever's going on at any given time is critical.

"We don't have all the information so we're going to take our time to see exactly where we stand in the morning."

Southgate also pointed out there was a wider context to be acknowledged when it came to football players being ruled out of matches against the backdrop of a global health crisis.

"It's obviously a massive disappointment for players to miss any matches but we are in the same situation as everybody else in the country," he said.

"Other people, their working lives and ability to earn money have been affected. In a more serious sense, the deaths we've had.

"Of course, at this moment in time, ours is a high-profile situation and it's not ideal. But, in context, it's just one we have to adjust to."

Two players who will be available are Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson, with their recoveries from respective ankle and groin injuries having restricted them to watching briefs so far.

Southgate praised their influence on the squad over recent weeks and the return of two experienced heads could come as a timely boost.

"Both are training very well and both will be involved tomorrow," he said.

"We're happy with their progress. Already, without being on the pitch they've had a massive impact around the training sessions and the squad.

"I couldn't be happier with the influence that our senior players have had. Of course, they want to get on the pitch and are hoping they can play a big part in this tournament for us."

Harry Kane's form and the omission of Jack Grealish from Southgate's starting line-ups have dominated recent discussion around the England side, although Jadon Sancho's negligible role at Euro 2020 to date is also a curiosity.

The winger, who scored 16 goals and supplied 18 assists in all competitions for Borussia Dortmund this season, was an unused substitute against Scotland after missing out on the matchday squad for the 1-0 win over Croatia, where Raheem Sterling scored the only goal.

"We just have so many good attacking players. Raheem, Phil Foden in terms of wide players who can play in those area and come inside," Southgate added.

"We have Jack Grealish, we have Marcus Rashford, we have Bukayo Saka and we have Jadon.

"If you weren't asking me about Jadon, you'd be asking me about one of the others. That's the nature of it."

England players Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have been forced to self-isolate after coming into close contact with Billy Gilmour – the Scotland midfielder who tested positive for coronavirus.

Gilmour was named man of the match in Scotland's 0-0 Euro 2020 Group D draw at Wembley on Friday but it was confirmed on Monday he would have to isolate for 10 days, forcing him out of Tuesday's crunch clash with Croatia at Hampden Park.

England also conclude their group campaign with a match against the Czech Republic at Wembley, although manager Gareth Southgate has now had his plans disrupted after Mount and Chilwell interacted with their Chelsea team-mate.

"We don't know at the moment," Southgate said when asked at a pre-match news conference whether the pair would be available to play. 

"There's got to be quite a doubt but there's still a lot of discussions and investigations going on behind the scenes,

"At the moment they are isolating, we just have to find out over the next 12 hours or so."

The duo returned negative lateral flow tests on Monday and trained with their international colleagues but, on the advice of Public Health England, they will now be kept away from the rest of Southgate's squad and backroom staff until further advice is received.

"As a precaution at this time and in consultation with Public Health England, Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount are isolating after interaction with Scotland player Billy Gilmour at Friday's match," a statement published on England's official Twitter account read.

"The pair will be kept away from the rest of the England players and wider support team, pending further discussions with Public Health England.

"The entire squad had lateral flow tests on Monday afternoon and all were again negative, as was the case with Sunday's UEFA pre-match PCR tests.

"We will continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols and the UEFA testing regime, while remaining in close contact with Public Health England."

In the event of a 10-day isolation period, beginning from their contact with Gilmour, Mount and Chilwell would be ruled out of facing the Czech Republic – who are level on four points with England at the top of the group – but would be available to return for a potential last-16 encounter on Monday or Tuesday of next week, providing they do not return a positive COVID-19 test in the interim period.

Left-back Chilwell is yet to feature for England at Euro 2020 and did not make the matchday squad for their opening 1-0 win over Croatia.

Mount, who had been due to take part in the news conference alongside his boss, has been an integral part of Southgate's side for some time, however, starting both Three Lions' matches at the tournament so far.

England's performance in the draw with Scotland was heavily criticised and if Mount has to sit out against the Czechs, it would only further increase the clamour for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish to be handed a starting berth.

Mason Mount is relishing pitting his creative wits against the great Luka Modric when England take on Croatia in their Euro 2020 opener on Sunday.

Real Madrid playmaker Modric was influential as Croatia came from behind to beat Gareth Southgate's side 2-1 after extra time in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

A generation of exciting young talent will try to help England right that wrong at an expectant Wembley, with Chelsea star Mount one of the leading lights.

No Englishman created more goalscoring opportunities than the 22-year-old's 87 in the Premier League in 2020-21. Mount ended the top-flight campaign with six goals and five assists before laying on Kai Havertz's winner in the Champions League final against Manchester City.

Chelsea secured their place in the continental showpiece with a 3-1 aggregate semi-final win over Madrid, and Mount enlisted the help of club team-mate and Modric's international colleague Mateo Kovacic to secure a prized possession – the Ballon d'Or winner's shirt.

"Ever since he was in the Premier League with Tottenham, I have watched him quite closely," Mount said of Modric.

"Playing against him, it was weird because I had watched him so much. I kind of knew his moves and what he was going to do."

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, Modric reprised the row over Croatia's impression of English arrogance at Russia 2018 in the form of the "It's Coming Home" slogan – the chorus line from the Euro 96 song Three Lions, despite it largely being used in self-deprecation by England fans.

"That arrogance is not so much related to the players but the people around them, some of the journalists and commentators," he said.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England – Raheem Sterling

Southgate looks set to keep faith with Sterling, who only scored one of his 14 Manchester City goals this season after the end of February. If he sees off the claims of Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish for a starting berth, it will be because of his fine form in international colours. Since Russia 2018, no England player has scored more goals from open play than Sterling's 11.

Croatia – Ivan Perisic

Perisic netted the equaliser when the sides met in Moscow and tends to revel on the big stage. The experienced Inter winger is one of three European players to have either scored or assisted in the past for major tournaments since Euro 2012, alongside Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- England are taking part in their 10th European Championship finals – no team has played as many games in the tournament without ever reaching the final (31).
- Croatia have lost against the eventual winner in three of their past four major tournaments: Spain at Euro 2012, Portugal at Euro 2016 and France in the final of the 2018 World Cup.
- England have never won their opening game at a European Championship (D5 L4). Croatia, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their five Euro openers (W4 D1).
- Harry Kane was the top scorer in Euro 2020 qualifying, netting in every one of England's eight matches (12 goals), becoming the first player to do this in a single qualification campaign for the Three Lions.
- Since the start of 2019-20, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (25) has scored more Serie A goals for Milan than Ante Rebic (22).

Manchester City have four players in the running for the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Men's Footballer of the Year award.

City cruised to Premier League success this term, with Ruben Dias, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne all key to their triumph.

All four have been named on the PFA's six-man shortlist for the prize, which is voted for by the players.

Portugal centre-back Dias – winner of the Football Writers' Association gong – is seen as arguably the favourite after a stellar first campaign at City following his move from Benfica last year.

While City only conceded three goals fewer (32) than in 2019-20 (35) when they finished second to Liverpool, many have compared his quick adaptation and influence to that of Virgil van Dijk after he joined the Reds from Southampton.

Admirers have also credited Dias' steadying of the City backline with playing a major role in the improvement of John Stones alongside him, the England international finally reaching a level many suspected he may never find despite his potential.

For a while earlier in the season Gundogan looked as though he would probably be the frontrunner for end-of-season prizes, as he embarked on a remarkable scoring run that ultimately helped him finish with 13 in 28 Premier League appearances – more than double his previous best for a domestic season.

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) can better that among midfielders, though nine of his were penalties – none of Gundogan's were, with the German deployed in a more advanced role as City largely played without an out-and-out striker.

De Bruyne's nomination did not come as a surprise either, the Belgian having laid on 12 assists this term, a haul bettered by only Harry Kane (14).

Foden is the youngest of the six nominees and it is likely to be the first of many for him, with the 21-year-old having a hand in 14 goals (nine scored, five assisted) in what was a breakthrough season – his 1,611 minutes played not far off double the 892 he managed in 2019-20.

Fernandes and Kane are the two non-City representatives up for the award – they are also the two players with the most goal involvements in the 2020-21 season.

Tottenham star Kane took home the Golden Boot thanks to his tally of 23, while he also topped the assist charts.

Fernandes netted 18 times for Manchester United and equalled De Bruyne's assists haul of 12.

They are two of just nine players across the top five European leagues to reach double figures for assists and goals in 2020-21.

Foden is also up for the Young Player of the Year award with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mason Greenwood, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka – an all-English shortlist.

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