England player ratings v Bosnia: Eze, Palmer, TAA and Grealish stake claim but Watkins struggles

Dave Tickner
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jack Grealish celebrate England's second goal in a 3-0 friendly win against Bosnia
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jack Grealish celebrate England's second goal

It was a game that was only ever going to viewed through the prism of how Gareth Southgate trims 33 to 26. There were conspicuous winners in that regard in the 3-0 win over Bosnia, but not everyone took their chance on a night England came through with no new injury concerns.


One loose early pass brought to mind the Belgium error from the last international break that left the tiniest of dents in his “Never let England down, though” record. No such worries this time, and his status as England’s No. 1 remains as unchallenged as it ever has been. Had the square-root of f*** all to do here, frankly.


Actually looked more comfortable in his brief spell at left-back after Trippier had made way. Had looked a little uncertain in possession at right-back despite limited workload, but the specific make-up and shortcomings of England’s squad mean the versatile Konsa, who started the game at right-back before moving to left-back and finishing it at centre-back, has outsized value.


Didn’t look entirely convincing on a night when England centre-backs should not have been overly exercised. A lack of cohesion in such a makeshift back four can be easily forgiven, but this was a night to remind England fans precisely why he still favours John Stones and Harry Maguire and why we should all be very, very afraid. Did make a nuisance of himself at set-pieces in the Bosnia box but if we’re going to be brutal he’s some way short of the quality required or at least desired.


Not a brilliant hour given how straightforward Bosnia made life for England’s defence. Like Dunk he looked unconvincing, but unlike Dunk came into this game as the presumed next cab off the rank among England’s centre-backs. That looks slightly less clear now.


Captain for the night – or the first hour of it at any rate – on his home ground and did what we all know he can do. He isn’t a natural left-back and never will be, but on his tenth England appearance in that position he showed again that against opponents of limited ability and ambition he can do a perfectly adequate job there. England can probably deal with that at the start of the Euros, but they really do desperately need Luke Shaw to be and remain fit.


Took 60 seconds to attempt a long quarterback pass for Watkins. Overhit that one but did find Eze two minutes later. Spent much of the first half attempting those kind of on-brand passes with mixed results but looked much, much better in the early stages of the second half when both he and Conor Gallagher took up noticeably more advanced starting positions to try and pressure Bosnia higher up the pitch.

Finished the night at right-back and England really did look far better for the presence of a natural full-back operating in their natural position. Still popped up centrally on occasion, but we like that about him. We still think he looks better and more dangerous when doing that from a right-back starting position.

At half-time he looked in trouble, but that much-improved second-half performance highlighting the range of his talents will have given Southgate pause. One crossfield effort in particular that he placed perfectly onto the moving target of Jack Grealish’s right foot from fully 60 yards away was utterly delicious, while the precision if not necessarily the cleanliness of the strike for his goal was top-class.


A very Conor Gallagher performance full of energy and endeavour and some well-timed tackles and some not-so-well-timed tackles. Never going to be the most progressive on the ball and the sense remains that there is a coming generation about to leave him behind, but right here right now we would still pencil him down as Declan Rice’s likeliest starting partner on June 16.

Like TAA, much better in the second half when making a concerted effort to start and stay higher up the pitch. He has many defensive midfield qualities, but he’s never going to be a holding DM in the strictest sense. He’s too busy for that. It is tiring just watching him. He might not quite be the ideal link between Rice and Bellingham, but he probably is the best one available to England right now.


With England’s main attacking thrust in the first half coming from the Trippier-Eze axis on the left, Bowen cut a rather peripheral figure. Better after the break, but his night was rather summed up by Konsa inadvertently denying him a first England goal and instead creating one for Harry Kane, who already has absolutely loads.


Marked his first England start with a goal from the penalty spot just before he departed on the hour having done enough to suggest his place on the plane should be reasonably secure. Most of England’s best football in that first hour – and it’s true there wasn’t absolutely loads of it – went through Palmer. Set-piece and specifically penalty ability doesn’t do him any harm either as a potential substitute in knockout games…

Gareth Southgate still had a pop though.

On the plane? Let him fly the plane. If this was a night of opportunity for England’s second and third stringers then here was the man who took it. A clear and obvious point of difference, strong enough to ride the robust challenges that came his way and quick-footing his way into space that never appeared to exist. Operating primarily from the left but with licence to roam, Eze always looked the likeliest to make something happen here. And it always appeared likely to involve Palmer somewhere.

Faded slightly in the second half before making way for Jack Grealish, a previous recipient of The Clamour. Before tonight we might have considered the two in direct competition for one squad place marked ‘tricky maverick’ but we’d definitely leave out any one of the assorted unconvincing spare centre-backs to get them both on the plane now.


Stayed on his feet to get a shot away after being cleverly found by Palmer. Definitely a penalty if he went down, but perhaps he knew he wouldn’t be taking it because he is rubbish at them. Don’t want to be drawing attention to that. Still, shame that we were denied the spectacle of an undignified squabble among team-mates before Palmer took it.

Alas for Watkins, his own almost complete non-event of a performance in the first hour was duly marked one minute before its end by England getting a penalty on VAR, a penalty which he would never be taking. Unfortunately for Watkins, for all his brilliance with Villa this season, his occasional England performances have tended to look too much like this one, the game passing him by as he struggles to get anything like as involved as he does week in, week out for his club side. The fact is that Ivan Toney was somehow one of England’s big winners on the night without setting foot on the pitch. Watkins offered no positive answer to one of the key questions facing Gareth Southgate this week.

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HARRY KANE (for Watkins, 62)
Is it harsh to compare Watkins to Kane? Yes. But we’re going to do it anyway, because that’s kind of the point. Within 10 minutes Kane had done more than England’s starting striker on the night and finished up by poaching himself another goal. There remains an edgelord minority among England fans who like to pretend that Kane no longer has a place in England’s strongest attacking line-up, but we refuse to accept these people are even convincing themselves. Stop being silly.


JAMES MADDISON (for Palmer, 62)
Looked like someone short of form trying too hard to make an impression. Which is exactly what he is. Made an unfortunate b*llocks of a good chance created for him by Jack Grealish, which was bad news for Maddison on two counts. Involved in the third goal and would’ve had an assist for it but for Konsa’s unwitting involvement. But even then, Grealish’s contribution was more eye-catching.

The final selection of England’s attacking players remains impossibly tight but on a night when others conspicuously staked a claim, Maddison did not.


England were fully dominant by the time Branthwaite was introduced, making this about as gentle and relaxing a debut as one could wish for. Didn’t really get a chance to make any kind of impression, but the uncertainty of the starting centre-backs means he’s in a better place now than before this game.


ADAM WHARTON (for Trippier, 62)
A tremendous story for a player still playing Championship football in January. And he certainly didn’t look out of place in England’s midfield.


JACK GREALISH (for Eze, 62)
Significant. Gave England a definite spark after an hour that had tended toward the dreary. Involved in the second and third goals and a constant threat. His struggles this season and England’s wealth of attacking options mean he remains inevitably on the bubble for the final 26, but this was a reminder that he can offer something a bit different and that when he’s on it he can do things others cannot.

And the one undeniable boon of his City season is that if selected he hits this tournament nice and fresh.

READ MORE: Jack Grealish to Euro 2024 in the name of maturity despite Eberechi Eze brilliance


JOE GOMEZ (for Dunk, 73)
How many versatile centre-backs-by-choice-who-can-do-a-solid-enough-job-at-full-back do England need and what side of the dividing line does Gomez sit? Don’t know. Not sure Gareth does either. Don’t have to decide for a few days yet, anyway.