Last night England played pretty well. Roy Hodgson picked a fairly balanced team. He made some very unremarkable yet understandable substitutions. ITV’s punditry team didn’t have too much to say afterwards. Yet, today there has been an abundance of analysis and scrutiny that just feels unwarranted.
I turned on Sky Sports News for fifteen minutes this morning. My eyes and ear
s were assaulted with a handful of absolutely pointless non-talking points.
First non-talking point: Wayne Rooney.
The press have been questioning whether or not playing Wayne Rooney in midfield was a risk. After all he’s never played there for England. He has however been playing there for Manchester United pretty regularly. When he plays for Manchester United he plays in a three, just like he did last night. Michael Carrick will hold, and Marouane Fellaini will tend to be the player making runs into the box. Last night Eric Dier held, while Dele Alli made the majority of runs into the box. If you’ve watched Manchester United recently you could’ve made a pretty good guess at how Rooney would play, and he played pretty much like he has been, which is pretty well. No risk, and nothing much to talk about.
Second non-talking point: Wayne Rooney gets subbed.
Wayne Rooney was replaced late on for Jack Wilshire. Jack Wilshire offers a similar authority on the ball, and provided slightly fresher legs. He did his job and there isn’t really much more to say.
Third non-talking point: Harry Kane took corners.
Harry Kane is pretty good at kicking the ball. Over the years I’ve seen Didier Drogba and Thierry Henry take corners for Arsenal. He took the corners. England have plenty of other players who are pretty good in the air, including Wayne Rooney who could’ve also taken the corners. It’s not as if Chris Smalling was taking the corners.
Fourth non-talking point: Raheem Sterling gets subbed.
James Milner replaced Raheem sterling towards the end of the game. He’d done a lot of running, and James Milner is a competent and experienced footballer. That’s that.
Fifth non-talking point: Raheem Sterling is under pressure now apparently.
Jamie Redknapp is now telling us that Sterling’s position is under threat. If it is under threat, who is going to replace him out wide? Roy Hodgson didn’t select Andros Townsend, and with the exception of Lallana and Milner there aren’t any other players who have much experience playing wide. Raheem Sterling actually played quite well. He keeps width, carries the ball and covers a lot of ground. His end product isn’t always great, but that is to be expected (it’s Raheem Sterling). The truth is that Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff probably think he did pretty well, and the only pressure he faces for a starting spot will be from the British media.
A possible talking point: Roy Hodgson was too pragmatic.
Thoughtful Football’s previous article was all about how the England manager avoids any real criticism by making middle of the road decisions. His starting line-up was balanced and sensible. His substitutions made sense, and Russia’s equaliser was just one of those things at Lee Dixon et al continually tried to explain to the ITV presenter.
The only thing Roy Hodgson might’ve done is replace Harry Kane with one of the three more dynamic strikers he left on the bench. Russia looked immobile defensively and would’e surely struggled with Vardy/Rashford running in behind, or Sturridge’s unorthodox pace, power and skill.
However, removing Kane would’ve changed the balance of the England side and therefore could be interpreted as a risk. If it didn’t pay off it wouldn’t reflect well on Roy. Luckily Eric Dier scored a free-kick which allowed him to make a couple of less risky changes.
One final non-talking point: Changes for the Wales match.
As the Wales game edges closer, press and pundits alike will undoubtedly turn up the heat and bang the drum for their preferred starting line ups. Wales are a different team from Russia, and will pose a couple of different challenges (Bale and Ramsey). England played well against Russia so I don’t suppose Roy Hodgson will feel a need to change much.
This article has probably spent a little too long speaking about not very much. For that I apologise, but if you do happen to read this then hopefully it’ll save you wasting your time watching, reading or listening to anything else England related for the next few days.