Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana starred for England in their win over Estonia, but it’s difficult not to worry about Harry Kane. Ross Barkley was good, but worthy of such high praise?
Joe Hart: It’s difficult being Charles Joseph John Hart. Mind you, the Manchester City goalkeeper had only 10 touches fewer than Harry Kane. He played a part in some delightful route one football for Raheem Sterling’s goal, and he remains firmly head and shoulders above his rivals for the No 1 jersey.
Nathaniel Clyne: Afforded more licence to roam without Luke Shaw bombing forward on the opposite side, and combined with Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana in particular to great effect on a number of occasions. One hopes that Roy Hodgson is finally starting to recognise the importance of playing a right-back at right-back instead of Phil Jones.
Gary Cahill: Congratulations to the Chelsea man for captaining his country, first and foremost. I say first and foremost as there isn’t much else to add. He made the most clearances (seven) and joint-most interceptions (two) of any England player, and even treated himself to a shot (it was a Friday, in all fairness).
Chris Smalling: A performance to encapsulate just how far Smalling has come. The sixth minute saw the 25-year-old fire a cross-hit 40-yard ball straight to the feet of Walcott, while the Manchester United man displayed his awareness and defensive improvement by cleverly turning away a dangerous first-half cross with the outside of his foot. His main weakness remains in possession, but he’s quickly rectifying that, too.
Ryan Bertrand: An obvious downgrade on Luke Shaw, but this was only Bertrand’s third start of the season for club and country. The 26-year-old did not look out of place on the left and linked well with Sterling. With Shaw indefinitely sidelined, Bertrand has a chance to stake his claim for that left-back spot on a permanent basis; Friday night was a good start.
James Milner: Had the most touches of any player on the field (108), but it’s difficult to recall much of what he actually did. He wasn’t afforded much protection from midfield partners Lallana and Barkley, but he shouldn’t really need it against players from Estonia and Poland’s top flights. Only Raheem Sterling (24) lost possession more times than the Liverpool man (16), which isn’t exactly what you want from the base of your midfield.
Adam Lallana: A certain Northern Irishman will be wondering why this version of the man he signed for £25million has so rarely performed at club level. The standard of opposition must of course be taken into account, but Lallana provided guile from midfield with some clever flicks and intelligent movement. Jurgen Klopp must have been wondering what all the negative fuss was about.
Ross Barkley: Ranging from a poor flick in the very first minute to England’s brightest attacking outlet the next, all via some terribly sloppy passing. Grew into the game after a shaky first 10 minutes, and provided a sumptuous pass for Walcott’s opener. Early in the second half saw the Everton midfielder complete the most ‘Ross Barkley moment’ ever, with a blistering drive from deep ending in him forgetting what those things were at the end of his legs before he collapsed to the ground in a confused heap. Man of the match and worthy of the media fawning? No.
England need to build their team around Barkley. By far their best central midfielder.
— Chris (@ChrisW93_) October 9, 2015
Barkley has to be one of the most overrated players in the many that England has.
— . (@WBA_Dyl) October 9, 2015
Polarising. Frankly, it’s possible that both views are somehow correct.
Raheem Sterling: England directed 46.8% of their attacks down the left-hand side, providing Sterling with plenty of impetus. The Manchester City winger is still not at his imperious best after an inconspicous spell at club level, but his deserved late goal will surely boost his confidence. No player had more shots on goal than the £44million man (six).
Harry Kane: The Spurs striker’s dedication to replacing Wayne Rooney was not limited to solely taking his place in the starting line-up, but also to replicating his anonymous performances. Something is still not quite right with the 22-year-old. At least three times he found himself in the right position, only to be let down by either touch or technique. His hold-up play was fine, but with all those around him enjoying promising games in attack, one can’t help but feel Kane’s international future – in the short-term at least – is as an impact sub. It’s where each of his three goals for Roy Hodgson’s side have come from so far.
Theo Walcott: Not quite the central striking berth he so craved on the international stage – although he drifted inside on many an occasion to great effect. Clever runs, a constant threat, and an excellently-taken goal – his 10th in his last 15 games for club and country (with four assists). A man in form, but the increased competition for England in comparison with Arsenal is likely to render him a perennial wide man for the Hodge.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (On 73, for Lallana): Attempted eight passes, completed eight passes. Arsene will be delighted.
Jamie Vardy (On 83, for Walcott): The inexplicable rise of Jamie Vardy continues. Within a minute of his entrance the Premier League’s top goalscorer reprised his role as a rather large nuisance to defenders, helping to assist the second goal.
Dele Alli (On 87, for Barkley): The sight of him trying to slip in Vardy late on was very strange. Just over a year ago he was starting in a victory over Yeovil in League One, so good for him.