- I think it was Sir Alf Ramsey who stated you wear your boiler suit for the qualifiers and your dinner suit for the finals. Gareth Southgate has followed th first half of that statement (not literally). This was an awful performance, it never quite reached Iceland levels of awfulness but it did remind me of Algeria af the 2010 World Cup.
Of course we should bare in mind as that statement suggests most qualifiers are tense but poor partly because of the lack of preparation time (4 days). last night Argentina failed to beat Peru whilst last time out France couldn’t beat Luxembourg, another big name will cock things up tonight and or tomorrow- England are not alone in struggling to find a performance in the qualifiers. Germany who’ve had the same manager for a decade and the spine of the team in place since 2010 and Spain who’s cast reads like an a-z of Champions League finalists have been consistently good in this campaign.
One final point on this- England’s best World Cup in living memory (Italia 90) was preceded by the dullest qualification campaign I can remember (and required the late intervention of a crossbar in Poland) whilst England’s best qualifying campaigns were the perfect 10 of Euro 2016 and the rampant performances of Capello’s England enroute to South Africa- and we know how that turned out.
2. Gareth Southgate’s priorities between now and next summer are- sort out the midfield, try some different midfielders and rejig the midfield. Dier and Henderson just aren’t a pairing, Dier needs partner who can find a quick and questions remain over his international class whilst Henderson has only ever looked International class when partnered with Jack Wilshere. Wilshere is inevitably becoming better in our heads through absence but must get a run of games to be an option. Elsewhere it would be wise to give Harry Winks the start against Lithuania and Fabian Delph must play In November if he can retain his current form. It looks like Nat Chalobah will have to wait for the spring internationals. One thing we’ve learned for sure; Jake Livermore isn’t the answer.
3. Joe Hart is repaying his managers faith (sort of). Hart made a splendid double save when Slovenia created their best chance deep into the second half. Some took this to be Hart guaranteeing himself the job next summer. They forgot to mention he gave away a stonewall penalty which the referee happened to miss. Hart had a good game that keeps him number one for now but with the friendlies likely to see others given a shout he’s not home and dry but at least he isn’t turning into David James or Rob Green. Butland and Pickford have been good this season but neither has made a watertight case for the start as yet, that and his own competence is keeping Hart at the front of the queue.
4. Rashford is brilliant- he really is! Rashford was again dynamic and exciting with a confidence and freedom not seen from an England forward since Rooney in 2004
5. Jesse Lingard has earned a start- picking winners out of last nights performance (other than Rashford and Kane) is a biggest Pygmy in the village contest but Lingard (who came on after 63 minutes) certainly advanced his case by simply being willing to run and not being Oxlade-Chamberlain (more on him below) A certainty to start on Sunday.
6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain won a lot of credit with Southgate by scoring a fine goal at Hampden Park. It’s fair to say he’s spent the lot over the last 4 games. He was absolutely rank in central midfield against France and contributed next to nothing in 3 successive games on the wing on the grounds Lallana and Welbeck were unavailable- once they’re both back he’s gone unless he secures a regular start at Liverpool.
7. Some major team surgery is required- in the ITV commentary team. The loss of key players has seen Mark Pougatch over promoted to team captain whilst the team continues to struggle after the transfers of Roy Keane (who provided the hard knocks) and Gareth Southgate (who provided calm analysis). Now we have Ryan Giggs still struggling to find his feet at this level and Ian Wright who provides a fans perspective (media speak for being banal, obvious and occasional moronic). The World Cup is still 8 months away and the upcoming friendlies give the editor the chance to experiment, much more of this and said editor might resort to lighting a large Tactics Truck beacon in the sky over Wembley for Andyman to return- things are that bad!