New and old questions facing Wales ahead of UEFA Nations League

The UEFA Nations League has been brought in with the overall aim of improving the quality of international football in Europe. In theory will give Wales the chance to compete against similar quality opposition on a regular basis, rather than play friendlies.

The convoluted Euro 2020 qualification process gets underway for Giggs and his men with a home clash against the Republic of Ireland this evening, before a trip to take on Denmark on Sunday.

Ahead of the double-header lets take a look at the main talking points

The Old Guard

There is no doubt that some key members of the squad are ageing and finding suitable replacements will be an ongoing project for Giggs and his staff. Right now, the biggest concern is over the form of captain Ashley Williams who has struggled since his move down to the Championship with Stoke City.

Williams has been at the heart of the ‘golden generation’ and has, for now, been backed by National team manager and will captain the side. The biggest threat to his starting place right now is Brentford’s Chris Mepham who has featured twice under Giggs. But with only Bristol Rovers’ Tom Lockyer as the other centre back in the squad, Wales do not have the option of not picking Williams to play alongside James Chester.

Elsewhere Joe Ledley’s place in the starting XI is under threat, but having featured four times for Frank Lampard’s Derby, Giggs is likely to give Ledley a chance. Ledley faces serious pressure from the likes of Matthew Smith and Ethan Ampadu who competing for starts in the defensive midfield slot.

Surprisingly Hal Robson Kanu opted to retire from international football last week and joining David Edwards in opting to call it a day since the end of the last qualifying campaign. Finally, Neil Taylor has lost his place in the squad and faces a battle to be in consideration long-term.

It’s fair to say that just after two years since Euro 2016 Wales are now moving on with only 12 of the 23 players that went to the competition in this latest squad. Giggs is prepared to back youth and it’s a bold move but for me it’s the right move.

The New Generation

Giggs has blooded a number of youngsters during the three friendlies he has overseen since his appointment back in January.

Despite the obvious talent available to him, former manager Chris Coleman was reluctant to try out many during the last campaign, as he opted to stick with experience. The introduction of Ben Woodburn late on in the campaign to reach Russia breathed new life into the squad, but ultimately came too late in the day.

Woodburn repaid the faith shown in him and now the likes of Matthew Smith, Connor Roberts, David Brooks and Mepham will look to earn themselves full international recognition during the Nations League and the subsequent Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, having featured in only friendlies so far.

Leeds United’s Tyler Roberts and goalkeeper Adam Davies are the only uncapped members of the squad. Currently 13 of the 25 players selected have 7 or fewer caps, and Giggs will need to continue playing the youngsters he has available to him, as the squad has a lopsided look to it when it comes to international experience.

Paul Dummett

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitiez has described Dummett as one of his most important players and has recently backed this faith up by giving him the armband. After a self-inflicted hiatus, he has now returned to the fold having held talks with Giggs.

Dummett’s positional flexibility gives him a huge advantage, as he now looks to build on a career that has only seen him play for Wales twice both in friendlies against Holland with his last appearance coming in 2015.

Dummett is now fully engaged, and his return to the fold will be intriguing. One would fully expect him to feature in the starting XI against Ireland in Cardiff.

For me, Dummett has to feature regardless of the past, Wales simply cannot afford to risk losing a player of his talent, but if he isn’t given playing time I can see him permanently removing himself from international consideration.

The Author

Niall Owens

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