England overcame Lithunia 2-0 in their World Cup qualifier at Wembley. Matt Law assesses how England continued their fine qualifying form under Gareth Southgate.
Age is just a number
Jermain Defoe proved that international football is not just a young man’s game by scoring on his England return.
Aged 34, Defoe had been written off as being too old to earn an international recall, but the Sunderland man looks as fit and sharp as ever.
Manager Gareth Southgate has already made it clear that he will pick horses for courses and Defoe is the perfect poacher to play when England expect to dominate possession.
With Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Dele Alli around him, Defoe does not need to worry about not getting the service. It had been four years since Defoe played and scored for England, but he could well be on the plane to Russia next year.
The Ox brings his club form to the international stage
Gareth Southgate either hadn’t been watching Arsenal this season or he simply ignored the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he picked him in the team to face Lithuania.
While Ross Barkley, one of the Premier League’s in-form players started on the substitutes’ bench, ‘the Ox’ was given the job of acting as England’s playmaker.
The problem was that, in the first half in particular, Oxlade-Chamberlain routinely gave the ball away and ran into dead ends. The midfielder is clearly short on confidence, as are many Arsenal players, and this performance will have done little to lift him. Meanwhile, Barkley must be wondering what he needs to do to get an England chance.
Statistics can be misleading
England are the last team in European World Cup qualifying not to concede a goal, but that should not make anybody think that Gareth Southgate’s work is done at the back.
Lithuania looked threatening against England’s makeshift backline on occasions and only a John Stones clearance off the line stopped them from scoring.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart is undoubtedly an excellent shot-stopper, but his decision making and distribution can still be questionable and better teams will punish Southgate’s men.
Ryan Bertrand had a chance to stake a claim for the starting spot at left-back in these two games, but did not really make the most of it. Danny Rose will make England stronger when he returns from injury.
Man of the match - Adam Lallana
The Liverpool midfielder has emerged as a key man in Gareth Southgate’s England regime and he was the most influential player on the pitch against Lithuania, providing a superb assist for substitute Jamie Vardy.
What England have learned
These two games, against Germany and Lithuania, have proved that England can move forward without Wayne Rooney as part of the squad. Unless his club form at some point demands it, there is no reason for Southgate to go back to the 31-year-old.
READ MORE ABOUT:
- Jamie Vardy
- Gareth Southgate
- Danny Rose
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
- Ross Barkley
- Russia World Cup 2018
- Dele Alli
- Wayne Rooney
- Adam Lallana
- England Football Team
- Ryan Bertrand
- Show more