Gareth Southgate took his under-21 team to Switzerland hoping to take one step closer to qualification for the UEFA European under-21 Championship tournament next year. Although Hull City loanee Isaac Hayden withdrew from the squad earlier in the week due to injury, two other Arsenal players featured in the team – Calum Chambers and Chuba Akpom.
While Chambers could be termed a veteran of the under-21 squad, he certainly didn’t play like it. In fact, the ex-Southampton defender looked a bit nervous throughout the first-half.
Chambers is usually quite talented and comfortable on the ball, but early on in the game he didn’t play that way. The most obvious example of his poor touch came when he picked the ball up from the goalkeeper, and on the edge of his own box, tried to pull off a Cruyff turn, only for him to lose the ball. In terms of defending, the Arsenal man didn’t look great either. He often seemed overpowered by the Swiss centre forward, and was seemingly not up for the battle.
The 21-year-old’s versatility seems to be his downfall – he plays in so many positions that he’s unsure where to act most comfortable. Overall, it was not the best night for the defender.
Chuba Akpom, on the other hand, had a better game than Chambers. In the first 45 minutes however, was relatively quiet. England struggled to supply Akpom with any balls, and he was quite ineffective. The striker only had one half-chance in the first half, but it was easy for the ‘keeper to see off.
Akpom has been underused by Hull in recent weeks, and it seemed to show as the striker really couldn’t get involved in the game. Immediately after half-time, however, he finally broke into the game. After a superb piece of skill from Demarai Gray, Akpom darted to the near post and slid the ball in. From then on in, the Arsenal centre forward was much more active and finally began to trouble the Swiss defence.
England controlled the game in the second period, and Akpom had another chance in the 75th minute, only to have his shot cleared off the line. The striker was substituted in the 86th minute after a good, but not outstanding performance.
England drew the game 1-1, after a late goal, but Southgate’s men still sit top of their group.