Liverpool Target Lallana Pick Of The Bunch As England Effortlessly Declawed By Chile
It was a pedestrian affair from the Three Lions, who were effortlessly declawed and dispatched by Alexis Sanchez and friends, Chile. Yes, it was a friendly. Yes, it was an opportunity to look at England’s less popular faces. No, that’s not an excuse for a pitiful performance against a team that England should be challenging if they want to be taken seriously. Instead of dissecting that dreary excuse for a team, let’s stay positive and look at the new blood Hodgson threw to the wolves.
One of the brighter attackers in the first half, Liverpool-linked Adam Lallana looked comfortable in possession, and wasn’t afraid to take on his man. While I wouldn’t advocate a permanent berth on the right wing, Lallana illustrated England’s depth in the final third, in the absence of high-flying wingers-cum-strikers Theo Walcott and Daniel Sturridge. With Wayne Rooney the only guaranteed starter up top, Hodgson has plenty of room to tinker with the way England attack their opposition. However, given the glut of tricky wingers breaking into the team, I’m not sure playing Lallana behind Rooney is tactically sound. I see his wide position as a counterbalance to the centrally inclined nature of players like Rooney, Lampard, Wilshere, Gerrard, et al. I’m not sure losing physicality in the box for a lower chance of being smothered by more disciplined teams is worth it, but only time will tell.
I’d rather see England be threatening from the flanks, while Rooney and Lallana interchange in the box, and surrounding areas. Lallana needs to assert his dominance in the box if he wants a ticket to Rio. Rooney is the spearhead for the simple reason that currently, no one has demonstrated their abilities as a focal point of attack better than Wazza. It’s unfortunate, because as we’ve seen over the years for Manchester United, Rooney is much more suited to the number 10 role, just off the shoulder of a no-nonsense finisher. If Lallana can make better use of his body and improve his awareness off the ball, England will have a strike force to be reckoned with. Keep in mind, this is without Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ashley Young, Jermain Defoe, and Daniel Sturridge in the equation.
Lallana is a versatile and dependable player. Competent on the ball, and very responsible without it, he will be more of a threat when England can get Rooney into the match more by cycling possession. The team as a whole improved as the second half went on, Townsend creating the width from the right, leaving Lallana to make runs into the box. With Townsend’s introduction, England finally had their attack set up properly: Rooney, Wilshere and Townsend responsible for dragging men around, with Lallana up front to bundle in whatever combination of aimless dinks and flicks the aforementioned trio could muster.
Not the first impression he was hoping for, I’m sure. Rodriguez had a very quiet first half hour. So quiet that I had to double-check that he was part of the first XI. You get the feeling that as a self-conscious debutant, he doesn’t trust himself to make a mistake quite yet. It’s no bad thing to be conservative as you build confidence in a stressful environment, but not to the point where you’re only comfortable doing one thing. Having spent most of the first half grappling with a much stronger Isla, Rodriguez didn’t allow himself to play the game his way. Sticking to a pre-determined squad role is not the way games are won. Picking up on the good work ethic of Lallana, Rodriguez started dropping deeper to contribute defensively, as well as offer another option in transition. We began to see his growing confidence by the 30 minute mark, but didn’t do enough to affect the flow of the match; Rodriguez finished the half with the joint lowest amount of passes - 12, the same as Forster and Wayne Rooney - but a decent amount of touches, with 21. Hodgson, who recognized the need for a threat from the left flank, instructed Leighton Baines to start the second half as the wide outlet, leaving Rodriguez to drift into the centre of the pitch. Before he was able to manipulate his newly discovered space, he was subbed for Andros Townsend in the 57th minute. An ineffectual performance overall, but certainly not a defining one either.
Joe Hart’s form has made Forster’s first cap for England a long time coming. The Hoops keeper combines imposing height with impressive reflexes and agility. For such a young head, his reading of the game is exceptional, and has no problems dealing with physical strikers.
You may be wondering what match I was watching. I can’t blame Fraser Forster for either goal - at least not entirely. In his mind, he was in the right position for the first. You can see his thought process clear as day on the slow motion replay. He slightly overcompensated in sliding to the left along his goal line when the cross came in. As a result, the header looked like it was going wide, as Forster thought he was still hugging the post, hence the right arm tucked into his body to avoid giving an unnecessary corner. Other than picking the ball out of from the back of the net, Forster didn’t have much to do. It’s far too early to have any opinion on him just yet. Hopefully he’ll have more help from his defenders next time around; nobody’s perfect, but Gary Cahill and Phil Jones provided as much protection as a wet tissue, and it certainly didn’t help Forster’s cause. Sadly, such is life as an English goalkeeper. The back four have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with the best.
A laboured performance from England that leaves me scratching my head equally in bewilderment and shame. Why, with the talent at their disposal, do England exert so much energy just to string five passes together? How can you have a side of players all playing for top English sides struggle so greatly against a Chilean side with such obvious flaws? It’s a question for the manager, who looked dejected and disinterested by the final whistle. The problem I have with Hodgson is his rigidity; he’s too concerned with putting the right peg in the right hole; ignoring what players are capable of, in lieu of making them do what others say they should be good at. Hopefully Roy can sort out this mess before a much stronger side come knocking.