England v Iceland: Duo can solve goal problems

Andy Schooler has two picks in the goalscorer markets for England's Nations League clash with a weakened Iceland on Wednesday night.

England v Iceland
Wednesday 18 November, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Little at stake at Wembley

England started this international window with a friendly and they will end it with a glorified friendly.

Yes, technically this is a Nations League encounter but whatever the result, England will finish a pretty-meaningless third in the group and Iceland will finish bottom, thus being relegated to League B for the next campaign in 2022.

It's therefore a good opportunity for both sides to experiment, particularly England, who have just three games after this before Gareth Southgate names his squad for Euro 2020 (or 2021, if that's your bag). All three are World Cup qualifiers too, hardly the best time to tinker.

Not that Southgate will have much choice. He's pretty much without a whole team. Reece James is suspended, while there's now a lengthy injury list - Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Danny Ings, James Ward-Prowse and Jordan Henderson were all in the squad at some point. With Conor Coady isolating, Southgate is now down to 22 players.

How will Southgate experiment?

Whoever he picks, it will perhaps be more interesting to see where he plays them.

Southgate has often spoken of the need to have more than one formation option but he's stuck steadfastly to 3-4-3 during the current Nations League campaign despite the evidence that it's making his side less of an attacking force.

A side which scored 37 times in qualifying for the Euros has now netted only three goals in five NL games - two were penalties, the other a deflected shot.

Of course, the level of opposition has been higher and they did receive plenty of praise for their attacking efforts in Belgium on Sunday. But it felt over the top - for all the vibrancy of Jack Grealish, did Thibaut Courtois make a save of note?

This match looks a perfect opportunity to give something else a try.

It also looks a perfect chance to improve that goal tally.

Iceland stars get night off

Iceland, who have lost all five matches in the group so far, have taken up the experimental option, allowing their star players to return to their clubs.

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson, Burnley's Johan Berg Gudmundsson and Bundesliga star Alfred Finnbogason are three of six to depart the squad early. Five of them started last week's Euro play-off in Hungary. In addition, defender Hordor Magnusson is suspended.

Five under-21 players have come into the senior squad and it could be a baptism of fire for them at Wembley.

1280 Gareth Southgate Denmark.jpg

It would be unfair to suggest those left in the Iceland squad will simply be making up the numbers - it should be remembered they were without several of their best players for the reverse fixture in September and England could only labour to a 1-0 win. They wouldn't have won at all had their hosts converted an injury-time penalty.

Yet that game came in what was pre-season with Southgate admitting his players were well short of full fitness. He was happy with three points at that stage; this time he'll be demanding more. I'd expect him to get it.

For all those missing, there is still plenty of attacking quality at Southgate's disposal - Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin could play together, while Jadon Sancho is hardly a shabby wide option.

England heavily odds-on

However, with England just 1.22 to win the game - Iceland are out at 17.5 to repeat their stunning Euro 2016 victory - value looks thin on the ground.

The layers clearly expect goals, presumably from England, with over 2.5 at 1.69.

The hosts are shorter than that (1.62) to cover a one-goal handicap and in the -2 market, they are only 2.6 - that's beginning to look risky business when you do consider they've had goalscoring problems.

Back deep-lying duo for goals

Instead the best option looks to be to turn to the goalscorer markets.

Kane is 8/13 in the anytime scorer list, with Southgate's other forward options all around even money.

However, the men who like to play a little deeper are at more attractive prices and it could be their runs hold the key to unlocking what is likely to be a packed defence - Iceland defended in numbers in the reverse fixture but did it well.

The two best options look to be Grealish, lauded for his display on Sunday, and Phil Foden.

Many pundits have described Grealish - 3.6 in the anytime market - as undroppable after his efforts in Leuven. Given how Southgate likes to set up, I'm not so convinced in the long term but, for now, it looks hard for him to be left out.

His desire to take on players can open up shooting opportunities and he hasn't been shy to fire off a shot - he's had six across the two games in this window so far. Remember he's already scored five goals in eight games for Aston Villa this season.

The problem for Grealish backers is he started against both Ireland and Belgium so he seems highly unlikely to play the full 90 minutes.

That's why I also want Foden on my betslip at 3.0.

He's got three in 10 for Manchester City this term, three in eight if you only count appearances of 45 minutes or more.

The youngster is another who can make runs from deeper areas and he's been getting plenty of shots away in for his club this season.

There looks a good chance he'll start and given he's yet to do that in this window, if he does there's every chance he'll get the full 90 minutes.

Opta fact

Iceland are the only side to have lost 100% of their UEFA Nations League games (9/9), conceding 26 goals in the process.

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