At 18:55pm Sunday night when England’s Adam Lallana scored his first international goal and won a World Cup qualifier for country with the last kick of the game; my overriding emotion was not of joy, but relief.
I’m sure everyone felt the same way I did watching the match last night. So much was promised to change but so little did so. When appointing Sam Allardyce most England fans were relieved that the FA were willing to try something different after Roy Hodgson’s style of play did not thrill. On the evidence of last night, a lot more has to change.
There were some positives last night, individual ones however. Adam Lallana looked incredibly sharp, buzzing around the opponent’s box making a nuisance of himself and thoroughly deserved his goal at the end. Manchester City’s John Stones was excellent too and he exhibited some promise bursting into midfield areas without fear and frankly was one the only players to have attacking on his mind.
One player who should have been thinking more attacking and did not seem to until the last 15 minutes was Wayne Rooney. It was difficult to tell whether Rooney was supposed to play just behind striker Harry Kane or as part of a midfield three with Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier. What resulted however was another case of the captain becoming the scapegoat for the team.
Many fans were relieved to hear rumors last month that Rooney would no longer be captain of his country. Surely less pressure would mean the talismanic forward could pull the midfield strings and show the class that he possess. The only problem was who do you replace him with?
My personal pick would have been Joe Hart who could command his defence as well as respect in the dressing room. However he lost his place at Man City and has had to go out on loan to Serie A’s Torino.
Other options were Jordan Henderson, Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling but all of them are either not starters for their teams or don’t display the leadership skills necessary. So the armband stayed with Rooney which was the just the start of the new promise unfolding.
I among other England fans were very pleased to see West Ham’s right-wing Michail Antonio being selected for the England squad for the first time in what looked to be Sam Allardyce starting to put his mark on this national squad. The problem wasn’t with Antonio not being used as a substitute so much but its was the realisation 48 hours before the game when Allardyce announced his starting line-up that he looked to be playing the same as Roy Hodgson did.
Now it would be desperately unfair to judge a manager on his first line-up; he is only picking the best team he feels the country has.
Surely England will play a little more direct than under Roy; maybe not only long balls but less passing around the box and more putting balls into the box. Unfortunately that was not the case. England continued to pass the ball around the Slovakian box allowing them to get men behind the ball and frustrate the away side. Don’t forget that Slovakia played 35 minutes with 10 men after Martin Skrtel got sent off for a horrible stamp on Harry Kane.
Playing against a team with less men surely means that the side should start being more direct; make the Slovaks run, wear them down with the speed of play the Premier League is famous for. But no, England continued with the slow build up play, with very little movement which always allowed Slovakia a chance to catch their breath and re-organise.
Enough of my moaning, let’s think about what can be done. First of all, Slovakia look to be the toughest team in England’s group (either them or Scotland) so getting a win of any kind away from home is a great result. Sam Allardyce and his England coaches also have over a month to perfect tactics against another team that will surely choose to ‘park the bus’ against a side the calibre of England. In my opinion something does have to change.
A lot of hope was lost when England crashed out against Iceland and although the re-building process will not be quick the fans do have to see that the side are trying something different and do have a Plan B if initial tactics are not working. The large criticism of Roy Hodgson was that he didn’t seem to know his best team and what to do when it isn’t going to plan. Big Sam was lucky last night but I guarantee that if Lallana hadn’t scored, the papers would not have been kind.
There is a lot to learn from last night’s match but luckily the Three Lions got the result and that is what is most important.
On a side note I will be speaking at the London E-Sports Expo on the 23rd of September. It will be an opportunity to hear from big name and founders of many sporting and gambling companies like Draft Kings and William Hill. I will be on the panel of UK and European DFS Statistics Options i.e. Fantasy Sports.
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More details for the event can be found here: http://esports2016.com/
images: Daily Mail