Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe have earned a couple of starts for the England u21s at the European Championships, but the team are underperforming.

Emile Smith Rowe on England duty
Emile Smith Rowe on England duty

One of few reasons for Arsenal fans to get excited about the current international break was the possibility that Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe might get a chance to impress at the u21 Euros.

Nketiah has been absent from the pitch for the Arsenal first-team for a while now, despite being fully fit. Smith Rowe is playing senior football regularly, but he’d never made an England u21 appearance before the current break.

The two of them have been given opportunities in the tournament so far, starting against both Switzerland and Portugal, but England have massively underachieved.

Against Switzerland, Smith Rowe lasted 66 minutes whilst Nketiah lasted 76, but neither had a particularly big impact on the game. They simply struggled to get involved as the Swiss set up well and effectively shut down England’s timid tactical approach.

The 1-0 defeat on the opening day left England needing to get their campaign back on track against Portugal, and Smith Rowe was much improved individually in the opening 45 minutes.

Whilst wingers Ryan Sessegnon and Noni Madueke struggled badly, Smith Rowe looked sharp and was one of the better performers. So it was bizarre to those watching when the Arsenal man was the one substituted at half-time.

It didn’t help England, as they went from 0-0 at the break to 2-0 down by the final whistle.

As for Nketiah, it’s not even that he’s playing badly, he just hasn’t had a single decent chance made for him across both games. He’s had a few nice moments beating players when he went out onto the wings himself, but he had no one to square the ball to.

England now have to hope they can beat Croatia by two goals (to get the head-to-head advantage) and that Portugal beat Switzerland on the final day.

It’s possible, but it’s a scenario that this talented group shouldn’t have been allowed to end up in by their disappointing head coach.