It’s strange how a narrative around a football team can change so quickly, back in July Football was coming home but in September all the talk coming into this game was of a record equalling three straight defeats.
Gareth Southgate talked in the build up about needing to give his second string players minutes on the pitch and developing the style of the team as more important than getting the result. Having got the result the England manager erased much of the negative talk that surfaced after Saturday’s loss to Spain.
England sported nine changes from the weekend with only Leicester home favourite Harry Maguire and Saturday’s goalscorer Marcus Rashford retained.
England started promisingly with England pressing and knocking the ball around with confidence.But then Jack Butland made a mess of a routine back pass and nerves shuddered through the entire England team. Switzerland took control with Granit Xhaka controlling the game from midfield as England sat too deep and looked too casual as the early press disintegrated. Another poor pass out of defence from James Tarkowski saw Xherdan Shaqiri find himself clean through, only to hit a snap shot onto the outside of the post.
Ricardo Rodriguez then had two great chances, first he dummied Danny Welbeck to make space for a shot he hit straight at Butland and then a fine passing move put him through only to be denied by an instinctive Butland save. At the other end England struggled with Ruben Loftus-Cheek particularly guilty of playing too slow and struggling to get involved. England’s best chances came from successive free kicks knocked over the bar first by Rashford and then Trent Alexander-Arnold. England went in for half time fortunate to be on level terms.
But Southgate tweaked the formation at halftime with Loftus-Cheek moving closer to Xhaka and Fabian Delph joining Eric Dier in a defensive midfield position as England upped the tempo. It paid a swift dividend as they made the breakthrough on 54 minutes. Danny Rose’s overhit corner found Kyle Walker on the right who delivered an inch perfect cross as the Swiss defence moved up leaving Rashford free to steer his shot home 1-0.
England continued to press Switzerland high up the pitch and with half an hour to go Southgate started introducing his preferred eleven (Kane, Stones, Trippier, Henderson) and England assumed control.
But Switzerland weren’t finished and Shaqiri looked set to strike but for a brilliant challenge from Stones. The closing stages saw local hero Ben Chilwell brought on for his first cap and England dominate the final phase of possession. It finished 1-0 and handed Southgate is first win over a side in the World’s top ten.
Butland 5- A clean sheet but some awful distribution illustrated he’s not the sweeper keeper England need (he was on the bench).
Alexander-Arnold 6– Solid and worked the flank well but still learning the wing-back role.
Walker 7- Excellent on his recall, made the goal with a superb cross and played the ball around with assurance.
Tarkowski 4- Poor, Tarkowski struggled badly in possession and looked a little out of his depth. England looked more assured when he was replaced with Stones.
Maguire 6- Passive in the first half (copy and paste most of the team) but improved after the break with some trade mark forays forward and assured passing.
Rose 8- Man of the Match. Rose was the only England player in the first half to pose a constant threat to Switzerland on an undercooked first half. Rose continued to push forward in the second and looked much improved in defence.
Dier 5- An underwhelming night from the captain. Dier looks better suited to the back 3 than midfield trio. Solid enough but little else.
Delph 6- Started well and combined neatly with Rose, his movement is excellent but struggled to impose himself on the game.
Loftus-Cheek 5- A sluggish night from player who looks distinctly rusty. Loftus-Cheek needs games at club level to develop his obvious talent. Nothing quite came off for him and he struggled to provide the energy Lingard brings to the same role.
Welbeck 5- A missed opportunity, Welbeck worked hard but provided little incision. The calls for Callum Wilson may well get louder.
Rashford 7- Two goals in a week! Rashford worried the Swiss defence with his willingness to run at them and looked a threat in the final third. Still a work in progress but his potential to be world-class is real.
Kane 6- Linked well with Rashford but little in the way of chances.
Lingard 6- Provided energy off the bench. Now a nailed on starter.
Stones 7- Far more assured than Tarkowski and one crucial tackle on Shaqiri.
Tripper 6- A huge cheer for the Burnley Becks.
Henderson 6- Solid off the bench.
Chilwell 6- A huge night for the local lad!