Gareth Southgate’s biggest call of this international break was nailing his colours to Joe Hart’s mast. I’m pretty sure that mast would have made a better effort to save the Slovakian opening goal than Hart himself. If England are to win back a very doubtful public, they need to pick players in form and err on the side of youth. I can’t be the only one bitterly disappointed not to see a minute of Jack Butland or Jordan Pickford in the last week. They can hardly be worse that the current incumbent, even if neither of them reached the final of the world chest-beating championships.
One of England’s better players in the first half, but was incredibly fortunate not to give away a foul two minutes before the break, which would have at least led to a yellow card. Still, excellent going forward. Nathaniel Clyne challenging him for the position feels a long time ago.
When I see Bertrand on the England team sheet, my first thought is still “oh, who’s missing?”. Luke Shaw is probably just about still an answer to that question, but for now Bertrand is Southgate’s main man. A solid enough option defensively and adventurous enough in attack for that not to give us all kittens.
There’s always one player who gets no notes before the 75th minute, and Jones is the winner of tonight’s award. Tried his best to score a comedy own goal in the second half, but you know what you get with everybody’s favourite gurner.
We never end up making any notes about central defenders, and the first time I touched the keypad was when Cahill made the last-ditch, must-take-the-ball sliding tackle that John Terry made his forte. The difference is that Terry would generally win the ball. Other than that, nothing negative to report.
A 25% passing accuracy in the first 20 minutes and that had still not reached 70% by half-time. That’s partly because Henderson feels the need to play the same Hollywood ball that Steven Gerrard frustrated with during the final two years of his England career. I’m in danger of getting repetitive strain injury here, but we still haven’t seen Henderson play really well for England, and this is cap No. 34 and he’s the bloody captain.
Every time I watch Dier against supposedly weaker teams, I’m left with the sinking feeling that he will be exposed against high-class opposition when we arrive in major tournaments. Nothing about watching him against Slovakia has changed my mind. Booked.
There was a moment in the first half when Oxlade-Chamberlain broke free from his man. He beat another defender with quick feet and surged towards the penalty area. As the opportunity to shoot presented itself, Oxlade-Chamberlain opened up his body. The resulting shot went six yards over the bar and 15 yards wide. And so you have the perfect distillation of a career into five seconds. Improved markedly in the second half, but still the worst of the front four. Adam Lallana is the answer.
Not his greatest night, but Alli’s lesser games still contain at least three moments that remind you why we are lucky to have him. The biggest frustration is when Alli drifts out left and ends in an almost identical position to Rashford and therefore leaves Kane isolated, but if those are the pitfalls of handing him the free role Mauricio Pochettino allows him, it’s fine by me.
This site will drone on about the treatment Raheem Sterling gets until several herds of cows come home, but if he had committed the same mistakes as Rashford did for Slovakia’s opening goal, the ‘footie idiot’ headlines would have been prepared in anger. Not only did Rashford lose the ball on the edge of his own box while attempting a nutmeg, he then failed to track his man.
That’s the negative stuff done, now the positive. For all the skill of Alli, there is nobody more exciting to watch in an England shirt than Rashford. He streams forward, beats his man and scores goals, and yet the most pleasing moment of the game was his delicious back header to Alli from a Henderson forward ball. Intelligence and adventure is not a combination we’ve seen in many England players over the last five years. Ten years? 20 years?
He’s really bloody good, y’know. Kane doesn’t see as much of the ball as we would like on England duty, but he makes something of nothing at least five times a game, and takes his chances when they come along. Quite simply, there is not a player in the same postcode as Kane in the England striker queue. Now wrap him in cotton wool from now until Russia.
RAHEEM STERLING (for Oxlade-Chamberlain, 83)
When was the last time England waited so late to make their first sub?
DANNY WELBECK (for Rashford, 83)
Go on, tell me…
JAKE LIVERMORE (for Alli, 90)
Presumably bringing on Livermore in the last seconds of a game is the closest Southgate comes to lively banter.