In Gareth Southgate’s first game as England’s caretaker manager, his side secured a comfortable 2-0 win over the Maltese minnows, thanks to goals from Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli. However, the Three Lions failed to score in the second half and were thoroughly unconvincing for large periods of the game. Their performance leaving the 80,000 or so home fans uninspired at full-time. In such fixtures, it is hard to learn a lot but Southgate will have made some observations, as England prepare for a trip to Slovenia tomorrow evening.
Wayne Rooney shouldn’t play in midfield
This topic has been debated so often that it is now beyond boring. However, after another strange performance from the England captain, it must, unfortunately, be discussed again. Perhaps I am being a little harsh but, Rooney, despite getting on the ball many times, failed to impress me. His passing was slow and predictable, and occasionally sloppy.
Jordan Henderson won the Man of the Match award due to his willingness to play forward, adventurous passes. Rooney, though, would simply spray the ball from side to side more often than not. Although it may look impressive playing Hollywood style cross-pitch passes, he created little. Against a team such as Malta, a player of his supposed class should have been shining, but instead, he was outshone by the young Liverpool captain. Questions will once again be raised over his ability to play in the centre of the park.
Jesse Lingard fits into this England team like a glove
Such is the mediocre level of the English national team nowadays that playing in this team was probably a step down from the Manchester United side he plays in week in, week out. However, your England debut at Wembley is a big occasion and he handled the challenge well. In a game of very few outstanding individual displays, the United man was probably the second best player on the pitch, behind Henderson.
The thing likeable about Lingard was his sharpness and willingness to make something happen – unlike many others in a white shirt. His brave runs and clever ball distribution ensured he was one of England’s slickest players on the day. He and his United teammate, Marcus Rashford, could well feature at the heart of England team in the future.
England may be an insomniac’s dream during performances like this, but most supporters of the Three Lions will have felt disappointed at their team’s showing, once again. I understand that when playing opposition such as Malta, it is hard to produce a game of thrills. The men in red simply sat in their own half, in an attempt at damage limitation. The problem is that England showed no urgency and played with alarmingly little creativity.
The passing was so excruciatingly safe and predictable, that you wonder if Southgate had instructed them to not take any risks and simply distribute the ball slowly. However, if that was the plan, he might have told us all before we watched such dross! The only men who displayed sufficient urgency were Lingard, Henderson, Rashford and Jamie Vardy – 2 of whom came off the bench.
Opta stat: Jordan Henderson completed 165 passes for England. Malta managed just 160.