The young lions are maturing
Much was mentioned about the England injury crisis and whether the fresh faces around the squad would be able to stand up to the task of international football. Gareth Southgate’s men fired back at those critics in front of a sell-out Wembley crowd. We mustn’t forget, before tonight, the trio of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham and Joe Gomez, who all excelled at youth level, were barely established Premier League players before the start of this season. They were thrown in at the deep-end, against Germany, the World Cup holders, with the world watching and they were arguably three of England’s most comfortable looking players on the pitch.
Pickford’s the pick of the bunch
England boss Southgate had Jordan Pickford to thank for keeping the Germans at bay with a string of wonderful first-half saves, but he won’t thank the Everton goalkeeper for giving him a serious first-team selection headache. With Joe Hart seemingly rested and Jack Butland proving unfortunate with injury once again, breaking his finger in training, the responsibility rested on young Pickford’s shoulders who was tasked with preventing the likes of Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil from running riot. The Sunderland-born stopper has had a torrid time in the Premier League this season with Everton but he has largely been blameless for the goings on at Goodison Park. Pickford stood up exceptionally well to the challenge of a world-class, albeit a much-changed, German front line and certainly gave Southgate something to think about.
Stones reigns supreme
Rewind eight months and John Stones’ confidence was on its knees. A string of high profile errors for both club and country led to many questioning the defender, who showed so much early promise and labelling him an underachiever. Fast forward to now and he’s flying high in the Premier League with the unstoppable steam train that is Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and putting in utterly assured performances at Wembley. Yes, England were caught out defensively on at least two occasions in the first half, but this was a defence that had never played together as a unit before this evening. Mistakes were made both positionally and communicationally but Stones marshalled his back five with aplomb and looked every inch the player the nation has come to expect.