Gareth Southgate clearly has an issue with Jack Grealish, claims Gabriel Agbonlahor, with an Aston Villa star of the past baffled as to why one in the present is being overlooked by England.
Calls for a West Midlands native to be handed a prominent role by the Three Lions have been growing in intensity for some time.
Southgate, though, initially left Grealish out of his squad for the September round of fixtures, only to then draft him in once injuries depleted his plans.
The 25-year-old was called upon from the off in the October international break, and was handed a first start for his country in a friendly date with Wales.
Grealish caught the eye in that contest, earning Man of the Match recognition, but was left on the bench as England battled to a 2-1 win over Belgium and slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Denmark with 10 men.
Southgate has sought to brush off accusations of favouring an overly-defensive mindset and questions regarding the lack of minutes given to his most creative talents.
Agbonlahor feels the England boss needs to start offering better explanations for his decisions, with it baffling how Grealish has not become an integral part of an exciting young squad.
The former Villans and Three Lions forward told Sky Sports: “Forget about the 10 men, I think even if England had 11 men on the field it still wasn’t the right side to be playing.
“You hear everybody on social media, every pundit is calling for a certain player that we all know – which is Jack Grealish.
“He should be starting in this England team because even before the red card, England are missing that player who can take the ball up the field, move defenders and make space for the other attacking players.”
Agbonlahor added: “I feel like he should have started the game. Even when you go down to 10 men, you need someone in that team who can take the ball up the field, who is fresh and it was the perfect scenario to bring Jack on.
“I don’t understand the players that he brought on before Jack. I feel like is there a deeper issue there that we don’t know about?
“Gareth Southgate has to come out and explain because I feel like everyone was in shock. The game against Belgium, you understand that you want to be a bit more cautious if you’re playing two sitters.
“To be playing two holding midfielders, no disrespect to Denmark, with the quality that England have got, we should be playing our attacking players and beating Denmark by three goals.
“You have got the likes of [Jadon] Sancho on the bench, the likes of Grealish on the bench, I don’t understand it and there must be a deeper issue there with Southgate and Grealish. Whenever reporters ask him the question he seems to bring up someone else’s name, which is quite shocking to me.
“It was a not a game where you needed Declan Rice and [Kalvin] Phillips in the team. I would have had Phillips playing as a sitter and [Mason] Mount and Grealish in front as two No.8s with a more attacking feel to the team.
“If you’re not going to play attacking players against a team like Denmark, when are you going to play attacking football?”
Grealish, who helped Villa to stun Liverpool 7-2 in his last outing at club level, will be back in domestic action against Leicester on Sunday looking to build on the impressive return of four goals and three assists that he has already recorded this season.