England v Malta takeaways

1. Hart is still number 1…for now

Like a lot of fans I’m disappointed Southgate didn’t pick Jack Butland, but not entirely surprised. Southgate has just lost 119 caps with Rooney retiring so he’s probably reluctant to shed another 70 from such an inexperienced side and he does have a point saying 3 games isn’t enough to judge a players form.  He also offered encouragement to all his keepers suggesting this arrangement will only last until Octobers qualifiers. This will run and run.

2. Southgate remains a cautious manager

It was frustrating to see England pick a defensive midfielder alongside Jordan Henderson against a side who’s only objective was not to concede goals. But this might prove a better route than what he saw from his predecessor. England played 4 forwards against Italy of all teams in the tropics at the start of the last World Cup, and then Rooney and Alli in a 3 man midfield at Euro 2016.

3. Captaincy saga will continue

This feels like the manger handing his critics a stick to beat him with. I really don’t think the captaincy is important, a view most ex players seem to agree with. Drawing it out is only adding fuel to the critical fire and no doubt there’ll be an army of cab drivers jamming the phone ins saying it’s critical. Southgate should just pick his man and have done with it.

4. Forward options not a problem

Harry Kane realised by half time August is over and he can get back to Shearer-esque goal scoring statistics. Vary came off the bench and looked useful, Rashford turned the game with his pace and intelligence and Welbeck chipped in with his 14th goal from 35 caps. Daniel Sturbridge looks settled and in good nick and Defoe Will always get you a goal. As it stands England without Rooney are just fine up front.

5. Age group strategy to continue

Southgate has made a point that England should send strong sides to youth tournaments and part of that should be keeping players in the youth sides as long as possible. Nine of the starting lineup against Holland under21s were from the victorious U20 World Cup side with nine fast tracked straight into the senior side. Most previous England managers would have selected Calvert-Lewin for these games. Southgate’s approach seems more sensible, had Calvert Lewin  been in the senior squad he’d probably have got a few minutes as a sub, instead he will get two starts for the under 21s. Which do you think he’ll get more from?

6. Critics are OTT

Friday wasn’t great and 4-0 flattered England. But some of the criticism has been over the top. Last night France only managed a 0-0 with Luxembourg! Let’s keep some perspective.

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