Roy Hodgson’s reversion to a rigid 4-4-2 system ensured the intended reinvention of a youthful England side ended up producing a pretty turgid display, though there were at least some positives to take from the 1-0 win over Norway.
The game against a very limited Norwegian outfit was the dress rehearsal for the Three Lions’ Euro 16 qualifier against Switzerland next up, where Hodgson’s side are narrow outsiders for the three points at 17/10.
So what did we at home weeping into our laps in front of the box and the barely half-full Wembley crowd glean from the performance?
1. 4-4-2 is not the way to play during qualifying
There was more than a degree of bafflement surrounding Hodgson’s decision to deploy a straight-batted 4-4-2 which not one player in the England side now plays for their club.
Wayne Rooney kept taking up Raheem Sterling’s space in the left channel, while both the latter and Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain forced out wide as conventional wide midfielders drifted inside to look for the ball.
It was no surprise that when the changes were rung and Sterling was shifted inside as a number 10 as part of 4-3-1-2, some much needed invention returned to the attack.
2. The central defensive partnership should be built on
OK, Gary Cahill and Phil Jones were hardly stretched to capacity by a Norway frontline containing one bit-part Blackburn striker but the pair covered each other well and the Manchester United man should continue in place of Phil Jagielka.
3. Rooney should definitely be the penalty taker
— UtdLens (@UtdLens) September 3, 2014
Being the skipper meant no arguments over who would take England’s spot kick and to Wazza’s enormous credit it was one of the most emphatic you’re ever likely to see.
4. The search for a true defensive midfielder goes on
Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere are effectively the same sort of box-to-box midfield player and it’s obvious to every man and his canine that England need to find a new marshaller of the defence.
5. Raheem Sterling is the main man
The Liverpool teenager’s two-goal start to the Premier League season carried over into another lively display which involved winning England’s penalty.
Constantly unafraid to run at opponents and impressive in some of his balls through to Reds teammate Daniel Sturridge, even at his tender age he looks like being the one to build around – preferably in a diamond.
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