It may have only been a friendly but there were some key points that need to be raised after last night’s game.
The old cliche of football being a game of two halves was inherently true last night. England’s 4-1-2-1-2 diamond formation in the first half was simply not effective and here’s why;
Phil Jones. The young man doesn’t belong in midfield. He looked like a player out of position, and to be fair he was. He is and should be an out and out center back, but unfortunately for him, he is a versatile player which leads him to being thrust into midfield positions. His range of passing was the issue last night, he just couldn’t seem to play the right pass, constantly giving the ball away needlessly. He was moved back to the heart of the defense after Smalling’s injury which saw Carrick come on in that defensive midfield anchor position (we will get onto Carrick’s influence later on)
Formation. The formation deployed by Hodgson aimed to stop Italy’s playmakers from the dictating the game ( as Pirlo did so well during their world cup in Brazil). In theory playing this formation allowed a 2vs 1 situation on the wings as well for England, however inspite of this, Mateo Darmian seemed to find himself free countless times during the match and did have the beating of his opposite number Clyne on more than one occasion last night. When England did have the ball they found in extremely difficult to create any chances, with Italy dropping very deep throughout the game. Especially in wide areas England found it very difficult in the first half, with wide players having to cut inside only to run into the congested midfield and give the ball away with sloppy passes.
Sloppy Midfielders. England’s midfield was not on point last night, and that made things very difficult from the get go. Delph was misplacing passes left, right and center, Henderson couldn’t replicate the sort of form that has made him Liverpool captain in recent weeks, and Theo Walcott didn’t seem comfortable playing at the top of the diamond (after switching with Rooney). They were ineffective throughout the first half, and it allowed Italy to sit back, soak up the pressure and pick off the sloppy passes and counter attack quickly.
However the second half saw a change of fortune for England, and they dominated large majorities of the it. The introduction a few players aided this change of fortune.
Micheal Carrick. Was brilliant last night after coming on for the injured Smalling. His mentality of passing forward and picking the right pass got England ticking in the second half. He looked calm and composed all night long and he ran the midfield expertly. He looks to be a key player for England and will be in the upcoming games.
Substitutions. England’s second half substitutions made a big impact and none more so than Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend. Their athleticism and positive running was something England lacked in the first half and changed the game entirely. Townsend who many were surprised to see selected in the squad repaid his mangers faith with a stunning right foot finish from the edge of the box 10 minutes from time.
This game will not be remembered for much, just another friendly between two top footballing nations, however it was a learning curve for both teams and it will be interesting to see how both continue on the path of European qualification for 2018.