Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling impressed most for England in their win over Switzerland, but Jonjo Shelvey took at least two steps backwards. And what of Wayne Rooney?
Joe Hart: For the second game in succession, relatively little to do for Hart, but came out to smartly thwart Xherdan Shaqiri in the first half. Dealt impeccably with everything asked of him, and overtakes David James in the list of England’s highest-capped goalkeepers. Hart’s distribution has also notably improved at international level. Which is nice.
Nathaniel Clyne: The problem with playing both Clyne and Shaw together is that, against better sides, only can stream forward at will, particularly when the most defensive midfielder is withdrawn after less than a minute played. With Shaw given the licence to roam, Clyne was forced to stay back. That takes away at least half of what the Liverpool full-back does well.
Luke Shaw: ITV made Chris Smalling their Man of the Match, but I’m calling Shaw as England’s best player. Given the opportunity to move forward at will, and did so with style. Assisted England’s first goal with a pull-back cross. Shaw’s average touch position was beyond the halfway line, an indication both of his own endeavour and England’s dominance. As Sarah Winterburn wrote on Saturday, he could be England’s left-back for the next 12-13 years.
Chris Smalling: Another night on which Smalling continued a redemption which has been mirrored at club level. Was unfortunate to be booked for a fine challenge with 15 minutes remaining, and dealt calmly with everything asked of him. There are still doubts about his distribution from the back (good teams will just close off the options and make him knock it long), but quite possibly England’s first-choice centre-back at next year’s Euros.
Gary Cahill: Had one of England’s two shots on target in the first half, but otherwise a quiet evening for a man restored at the expense of John Stones. How long he remains ahead of the Everton central defender remains to be seen, but we’re pessimistic for his chances in France.
James Milner: Normally useful, like a spatula, but there were occasions against Switzerland where Milner let things through like a sieve. Created two chances in the first half (more than any other player), but that is where the praise ends. Gave away the ball with a quarter of his passes in the opposition half. Not helped by Delph’s early substitution, mind. Ross Barkley’s introduction made him have to effectively carry out two roles.
Fabian Delph: Whether Delph failed to warm up correctly or was still bearing the remnants of his recent hamstring injury, leaving the pitch after a minute is never a good look. With Fernandinho seemingly back in form at the Etihad, another injury is the last thing Delph needed to kickstart his Manchester City career. Hodgson too will be wary of trusting pesky muscles in his tournament squad.
Jonjo Shelvey: Emphatic evidence for why you shouldn’t lavish too much praise on the basis of a performance against San Marino. Shelvey lost possession four times in the opening exchanges when moving forward, and seemed hampered by a loss of confidence. At that point he began passing the ball backwards rather than moving forward. That’s not enough to keep him in this team.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Didn’t create a single chance in the first half when 57% of England’s attacks were down the left flank. Improved during the second half when he did beat his man to create a chance, but a chance to impress Roy Hodgson against meaningful opposition went missing. We’ve said that too often in this qualifying campaign.
Wayne Rooney: The cynic could say that it is fitting Rooney reached and surpassed Bobby Charlton’s record with two penalties, but, for now, let’s stop the negativity. To score 50 international goals is a wonderful achievement – just ask Stern John. Away from his goal the problems don’t go away, and the rustiness continues, but let’s give him his night. Stung the palms with a second-half strike, but the Swiss goalkeeper displayed his quick hands. Sommer’s glovin’, happened so fast.
Raheem Sterling: Won the penalty with quick feet and linked up well with Shaw, but suffered from being doubled up on by Switzerland. With Rooney no longer taking two men out of the game as in his pomp, Sterling will have to get used to such treatment.
ROSS BARKLEY (On 2, for Delph): Very hard to judge a player who is forced to come on after mentally preparing to be a substitute, and Barkley was used in a deeper role immediately following his introduction. We cannot stress this enough: That is not his bag. Either play Barkley as an advanced midfielder, or not at all.
HARRY KANE (On 57, for Shelvey): A fourth goal in three international appearances and a smart left-footed finish; maybe this will all be fine after all. May well struggle to alter Hodgson’s 4-3-3 Plan A, but provides the perfect option from the bench if we want or need to switch to 4-2-3-1. Only 46 to go to his half century of goals.
JOHN STONES (On 68, for Clyne): Played at right-back. As with Barkley, play him in his best position or not at all.