How England’s players rated v Lithuania

Date published: Monday 12th October 2015 10:30

JACK BUTLAND: Having played as a goalkeeper in matches my team was dominating, I can guarantee that Butland was a) daydreaming about his tea and b) hoping Lithuania broke through at least once. So he will have been pleased to warm his gloves with a save to deny Lukas Spalvis. First competitive start; first competitive clean sheet.


KYLE WALKER: His first competitive start in two years and he did little to suggest that his next competitive start will come along any quicker. If only his brain was as quick as his legs – showing too much of the ball to the opposition is like a nervous tic he just can’t stop. Struggled to make an impact creatively when both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana were trying to operate in the same space, but his weighted pass for the former’s goal was a rare moment of true quality.


PHIL JONES: It was his fifth start for England in 12 months – in three different positions. Which just about sums up Jones’ injury problems, his versatility and Roy Hodgson’s determination to shoehorn him in somewhere. Barely tested defensively and found the space to meander forward on occasion against Lithuania – not sure we would want him to be doing that from centre-half against better opposition. Actually, we are very sure we would not.


PHIL JAGIELKA: Just when we thought Jagielka was being eased out of the England set-up, he finds some excellent club form and looks assured for country. Showed poise, leadership and an excellent range of passing in Vilnius. Can you tell I made absolutely no notes on Jagielka during 90 minutes?


KIERAN GIBBS: England’s third left-back of the season is probably fourth choice if you throw Leighton Baines into the mix; he should probably be fifth choice behind Aaron Cresswell. Has barely played for Arsenal this season and it shows – he looks hesitant and limited.


JONJO SHELVEY: Touched the ball more than anybody else on the pitch and yet it’s difficult to remember a really positive contribution. The surface really did not suit his love of a raking ball and with his natural game already curbed by playing deeper, this was not a match to showcase the best of Shelvey. Hodgson persists with the idea of pushing a box-to-box midfielder (Wilshere, Milner, Shelvey) into a deeper position, but should we be looking instead at a natural spoiler? Eric Dier and Jack Cork are names that spring to mind.


ROSS BARKLEY: There are those who took Matt Stead’s piece on Ross Barkley this week as unfair criticism of a talented young player, but the criticism was aimed at a media that is so desperate for the next Paul Gascoigne/Wayne Rooney that they have anointed Barkley long before he has put together a consistently excellent three months, never mind a whole season. Barkley was again impressive against Lithuania, his quick feet finding something in common with the surface, and his goal – though deflected – was just reward for his ability to find space and shoot with either foot from the edge of the box. Now we want to see it against opposition that does not fall for every feint and shoulder-drop.


ADAM LALLANA: “Lallana taking on a bit too much,” was the familiar refrain from the commentator as he was clearly trying to audition for roles with both England and Liverpool. Was guilty of hanging onto the ball a split second too long and was twice caught in possession in the opening 13 minutes. Like Barkley, Lallana’s five-a-side feet suited the surface and he emerged as one of the winners from the night, linking up deliciously with Harry Kane. Ended the evening unlucky that one of his six key passes did not yield an assist. But is there room in the squad for both him and Barkley?


ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN: Sloppy with his passing and clearly frustrated with Lallana operating in the same area of the pitch, this would have been a night to forget for the Ox if one of his losses of possession had not led to a Walker interception and cute ball into his path. One blistering finish later and the Arsenal man – said by Arsene Wenger to be his own worst critic – looked like a different player, taking on defenders and confidently exchanging passes. Both Wenger and Hodgson have to unlock the footballer that plays with the freedom to match his obvious talent.


HARRY KANE: There are two schools of thought here. One is that having eight shots in less than an hour shows a willingness, a liveliness, a desire to be on the front foot. The other is that having eight shots in less than an hour against such poor opposition – and not scoring – is pretty sodding poor. Certainly, he should have scored in the 52nd minute when he contrived to hit an opposition player twice in quick succession when hitting the net would have been easier. Again, he lost possession a little too easily and did little to suggest that he should replace Wayne Rooney as England’s frontline striker. That task should not have looked so difficult against Estonia and Lithuania.


JAMIE VARDY: There is a lot to admire in the rise of Vardy but this really is a step too far. Sorry, but willingness and endeavour should not be enough for an England side targeting a last-four place in France. Struggled with the speed of the surface, his heavy first touch too often leaving him scrambling for enough pitch to take a second. Really should have been first to the rebound when Kane was testing the goalkeeper. Surely a footnote to this qualifying campaign when Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck are fit.


DANNY INGS (on for Kane, 59): The 33rd player used in this qualifying campaign did not look out of place and struck a rasping drive that would have beaten many keepers. A lot will depend on whether Jurgen Klopp takes a liking to the boy.


DELE ALLI (on for Lallana, 67): A difficult surface for any substitute to negotiate and even more difficult at 19, but Alli recovered from initial poor control and a wild cross to look suitably neat in possession.


ANDROS TOWNSEND (on for Barkley, 73): Got ‘decent cross’ written down here in my notes. It’s late now.


Sarah Winterburn (who will write an England ladder on Tuesday)

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