England may have lost their second international friendly match at Wembley in four days, but there was plenty to learn from defeat against Germany, says Will Unwin.
1) Joe Hart is still England’s No.1
After 38 untested minutes, the Manchester City keeper finally got to show his quality, with two reaction saves. First he reacted superbly to parry a header from Per Mertesacker away and immediately prodded the follow-up wide with his feet. This was, admittedly, in vain, as the Arsenal centre-back scored from the resultant corner, but Hart’s confidence will have taken a mild boost from the first incident. He was quickly out to meet Marco Reus on the edge of the area, narrowing the angle for the German, which allowed him to repel his shot with ease. Hodgson also gave him some reassurance by sending the captain’s armband his way once Wayne Rooney had departed.
2) Hodgson rolling with the winging times
Hodgson has modernised England’s wide play. With the influence of Andros Townsend during the latter stages of qualifying, the manager has seen the merits of having men cut in from the outside and shoot, which is useful due to the striking issues the nation has faced. This is one of the main reasons for both Jay Rodriguez and his Southampton team-mate Adam Lallana being tried on the left-wing in the recent friendlies. The Spurs winger’s pace allows him to go down the outside too, offering crosses on his sadly somewhat weaker right foot, a capability that could mean Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being utilised on the opposite flank once fit. Lallana swapped with Rooney constantly, as he tried to have a greater impact on the game, but with little joy. Townsend almost showed his worth in the 57th minute, but his trademark shot struck the post and went wide.
3) Jagielka is the main man
Phil Jagielka has become England’s indispensible centre-back since the retirement of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. He led by example alongside his partner for the night, Chris Smalling, who has generally been used as a full-back for both club and country this season, which showed during the game. Experience within the central pairing will be key in Brazil for Hodgson, especially as his players generally lack experience at the highest level of club football. Their calm early work was undone on the Germany opener, as both gave Mertesacker space in the area, allowing him to leap to meet the ball, and head home, with the two England defenders jumping mercifully late to compete. It’s now up to Gary Cahill and Phil Jones to battle it out for the slot beside the Everton skipper.
4) A fit Jack Wilshere is a must
The England midfield had a tendency to go AWOL, allowing the German second string a relatively clean run at the defence throughout the game. In order to quell this, Hodgson will need to find someone to sit alongside Steven Gerrard in the centre of the park - Michael Carrick has performed admirably in that role in recent games, but the ideal man for the position is Jack Wilshere. A performer with a history of injury, forcing him to be repeatedly absent, much like the England midfield on the night, but if fit Wilshere is capable of coping with the best opposition in the world, a rare asset in the England squad. The combative Arsenal man entered the fray after 65 minutes, when Hodgson realised the well-meaning energy of Cleverley and Henderson was insufficient to duel with the Germans. Wilshere kept things calm for the Three Lions during that period, and his forward thrust also pushed England high up into the German final third
5) Tom Cleverley is a must not
Rarely does a man with so many appearances for his country and a top level Premier League club look so repeatedly out of his depth on the international scene. The Basingstoke born midfielder has reached such heights by having Manchester United on his CV, but ultimately he has profited from the lack of competition he has faced both with his club and England. If Jack Wilshere could maintain his fitness, Cleverley wouldn’t get a look in with the likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick around. Admittedly, the latter three are all ageing and Hodgson needs to consider someone from the next generation, but he should be looking elsewhere sooner rather than later. Cleverley is at his best when he plays instinctively, as his desire to overcomplicate things is always yearning to get out, meaning he repeatedly loses the ball when playing bizarre passes from space, and he leaves a lot to be desired defensively.
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