Liverpool Target Lallana The bright Spark In Drab England Display
On the face of it last night’s game was exactly what we should have expected from a clash between England, 30/1 outsiders for the World Cup and Denmark, a side who won’t even be appearing at the finals, shorn of their talismanic playmaker.
It was a dull affair, highlighted by the fact that Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling managed to take home the man of the match award despite missing an open goal in the first-half and contributing little of note throughout the game. Even those players who were quite clearly playing for their spot on the plane mostly struggled to make an impact in far more favourable conditions than those they will find themselves playing under in Brazil. Of course it was nice to get the win, and a clean sheet for any defence featuring Chris Smalling at its heart is never something to be sniffed at, but when the most interesting debate from the night revolves around who is set to be the reserve left-back it’s clear that this wasn’t a performance to strike fear into the heart of the tournament favourites.
It was disappointing to not see any of the players auditioning for a spot in the front six really show the drive to make any spot their own and even more disappointing to again see little sign that England’s most dangerous strikers, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, are capable of forming a cohesive partnership. Both players look far more dangerous when stationed through the middle as a lone forward without the other looking to occupy the same areas. Sturridge’s remarkable club form for Liverpool has been aided by his strike partner Luis Suarez’s willingness to drift wide, run the channels and free up space in the centre, however we know playing a similar role will curb Rooney’s effectiveness. It is a dilemma Roy Hodgson now has until June to ponder.
Of the other starters Sterling’s man of the match award illustrates that he at least was willing to run at defenders and try to take on his man, however he is a player who will always be more effective using his pace to run in behind a defence. Against a Denmark side who sat deep and allowed England to play in front of them the youngster was less able to get into the wide areas beyond the full-back and cause any real damage. The fact that Sterling was afforded 86 minutes before being replaced by the man he looks to be in direct competition with, Andros Townsend, is a reflection of the two players’ form for their respective clubs and probably points to who Hodgson will prefer come the summer. However Townsend’s performances at the back end of the qualifying campaign will not be forgotten in a hurry and although the Tottenham man wasn’t really given a chance to show it tonight, he certainly has the potential to leapfrog Sterling in the pecking order if he can string together a similar run of performances in a Spurs shirt.
Perhaps the player who did the most to enhance his international credentials was Southampton’s Adam Lallana. There were already 5 Liverpool players on the pitch when he came on and if the Red's have their way this summer his introduction would have made it 6. It was a shame that the 25-year-old was not handed a starting berth ahead of Jack Wilshere to really be given a chance to show what he can do, but upon his introduction Lallana looked at ease at Wembley, showing the invention and creativity that will be sorely missed if he is dropped in favour of a more pedestrian player like James Milner or Tom Cleverley. His place in the squad for Brazil was probably secure even before he clipped in the ball for Sturridge to head home the winner but a spot in the starting line-up is now definitely up for grabs if he can stay fit and in form for the Saints.
Any onlooker contenders for the big trophy won’t have seen anything to fear from England last night, if indeed they didn’t decide to turn off at half-time. It will still be a huge ask for Hodgson’s side to even make it out of a difficult group if they play like this so let’s try not to get our hopes up this time, shall we?