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Goals from Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin carried England to a 3-0 win over a lackluster Ireland in a match that proved to be ideal preparation for the Nations League fixtures ahead of them. Largely unquestioned by a visiting side devoid of attacking spark, England came through without significant injury concerns and with several young players making an impressive case for their places in Gareth Southgate's Euro 2020 squad. 

You can catch up with all the talking points below:

Southgate goes back to what works

If the back three England deployed at the 2018 World Cup felt like one of necessity, keeping the team solid at a time when no particular center-back pairing really convinced, then there seems to be something more deliberate about Southgate's decision to abandon a 4-3-3 in recent months and return to a 3-4-3. Certainly if he is going to stick with this formation for an experimental friendly against Ireland it seems unlikely the Three Lions boss will change it at least over the coming months.

"We should always be open-minded to tactical change and we've always done that over the four years, played various systems that we think suit the players as best we can," Southgate said earlier in the week. "But there is also a benefit to working with a system and reviewing it, improving it, working out the nuances of it. We've seen that in the last four matches, how we're able to progress our attacking patterns and you don't have long to work with the team.

"The best teams, teams that win leagues and tournaments, have a set way of playing that everybody understands and everybody knows."

There are still fair questions to be asked about whether England could deploy a convincing center-back partnership, particularly with Joe Gomez's lengthy lay off, but there are reasons to gravitate toward this system. For all that it looks more defensive on paper with an extra center-back behind them, Reece James and Bukayo Saka had far more license to push forward than they ever could if they were full-backs in a two. The benefits of that were apparent as early as the 15th minute when the Chelsea wing-back crossed to his Arsenal counterpart in the penalty area for a great close-range chance.

Whichever pairing you place on those flanks -- and there is remarkable strength in depth in those positions for England -- the likelihood is you will be picking two players who are more effective on the front foot than the back. It is utterly logical to deploy a system that allows them to do more attacking.

A fair criticism leveled at Southgate was the makeup of the midfield two. Pairing Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson is a recipe for safety and not much else. In those games late in tournaments where England are on the back foot, it makes sense to deploy the pair. Thursday's match showed that adding a Mason Mount, or perhaps Jack Grealish or Ross Barkley in future games, can add a little more attacking thrust to overcome lesser opposition.

Ireland need no reminding what their major issue is

For a time it looked like Ireland were going to prove to be more than just a cakewalk for England. On several occasions they got in behind Saka and James. Their problem was what happened when they got into those crossing positions.

At times Norwich striker Adam Idah was the one delivering the ball, if not he was all too isolated in the area. Ireland could advance to a position where they might threaten England's area but neither Nick Pope nor Dean Henderson were tested much in the England goal. Indeed it took until the 72nd minute for Ireland to register so much as a shot on goal.

Stephen Kenny won't need reminding that his side's big issue is up top. His side has not scored a goal in its last five games, but he is no nearer solving it after the friendly vs. England. 

In his defense there is no obvious solution in the medium-term with his alternative options to Idah in the squad all plying their trade in the Championship. Aaron Connolly missed out with injury but is still yet to consistently find the net in the Premier League. Troy Parrott, on loan at Millwall from Tottenham, is probably only one for the future. As for Shane Long, Ireland know what they get and what they don't from the 33-year-old.

Grealish's cult hero status is secure

The fearlessness, the skill, the composure, but most of all it is the impudence that makes it impossible to do anything other than adore watching Jack Grealish in full flight.

This was yet another invigorating display from the Aston Villa man, who brought the swagger he displayed with such effect against Arsenal last week and indeed throughout this Premier League season. Southgate had challenged him to provide end product, with an assist for Sancho he offered exactly that.

Critics of Grealish -- and their numbers are shrinking by the day -- point erroneously to his lack of defensive work rate but he was energetic in the press and diligent in tracking Cyrus Christie on the overlap. Best of all, he brings England with a crucial measure of unpredictability. Defenders can't game plan for England's No. 11 because they simply can't know what he will do.

The same is no less true for those watching Grealish from afar. It is the rush of the unknown, the promise that you could never expect what is coming next, that has made the 25-year-old a neutral's favorite this season. Long may he continue to surprise us.

Notable performances

Mason Mount: Slotting into central midfield Mount put in an impressive display in attack and defense. His creativity in central areas is well known to Southgate and Chelsea but both ought to take pleasure in his energetic pressing of the Irish midfield. RATING: 8

Shane Duffy: The 28-year-old has struggled since going on loan to Celtic and those difficulties didn't ease when he swapped one white-and-green kit for another. Duffy should have offered far more resistance to Harry Maguire, whose header broke Irish resolve midway through the first half. RATING: 4

Bukayo Saka: His Three Lions debut was a remarkable moment in Saka's career largely because it seemed to be the only occasion so far when the moment has got to him. This was the Arsenal man at his best, diligent in his defense but explosive in attack, constantly overlapping into dangerous positions and whipping in a string of dangerous crosses. RATING: 8

Up next

England travel to Belgium and host Iceland in their remaining Nations League fixtures, needing six points and for Denmark not to match their tally if they are to reach the finals.

Ireland, meanwhile, are a point off Bulgaria in the relegation zone in Group B4. They face Wales in Cardiff before hosting Bulgaria in Dublin.