Handing Turkey their first defeat for 18 months isn’t a bad way to start preparing for a major tournament and Roy Hodgson will certainly be pleased with England’s 2-1 win over Fatih Terim’s side at the Etihad.
However, this wasn’t the impressive sort of display that was on show for the recent victory over Germany. In a scrappy outing, there were positives and negatives to mull over:
Reasons to be cheerful:
The benefits of playing club teammates together were in evidence when Dele Alli and Harry Kane, two of five Tottenham starters in Manchester, combined to create the hosts’ opener.
Cliches about replicating a domestic atmosphere are easy to find during an international tournament, but there were clear attacking examples to support fielding as many teammates as possible, both from the Lilywhites quintet and Danny Drinkwater’s interaction with Jamie Vardy.
The Foxes pair displayed their telepathy in the second half when Drinkwater hoisted a first-time lofted ball over the Turkish backline, safe in the knowledge that Vardy would scamper after it. The striker hadn’t had that kind of direct service before his midfield teammate entered the fray.
If Vardy and Kane are to be paired together through the middle, then picking a supporting midfield cast that has a deeper understanding of how they operate will be key.
Prior to kick off, Roy Hodgson spoke about having the option to change between 4-3-3 and a diamond 4-4-2 without needing to switch personnel.
He demonstrated that ability in the second period, moving Raheem Sterling into a number 10 role from his position on the right flank and allowing Vardy to operate alongside Kane as a central striker.
Having often criticised a lack of Plan B, C or D in previous tournaments, England fans are being treated to a heady blend of attacking alternatives with this squad. There should be no excuses for failing to break down stubborn opponents this summer.
Reasons to be fearful:
The lack of set-piece specialists
In an interview with ITV for one of their pre-match packages, Joe Hart was asked what he’d learned from the previous tournaments he’d been to. “Win the tight games” was his answer.
Often, the difference in those niggly nail-biters comes from dead-ball situations. In the past, England were lucky enough to have one of the best ever standing over their set pieces.
In David Beckham’s absence, the Three Lions appear to have turned to a striker. Although there was nothing wrong with Harry Kane’s delivery, his role as taker means the side are without a deadly finisher to slot those deliveries home.
The Arsenal man logged 66 minutes in his bid to prove his fitness ahead of the Euros, but was largely a side-part in proceedings.
It was his lack of defensive cover that lead to Turkey’s equaliser, as he allowed his man to run into space in the box. He was notable in not pressing opponents in the first half, while Alli, Eric Dier and others teared past him to do so.
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