Print editor, Dan Steeden, assesses the performance of England against Germany in Berlin, after their comeback victory.
When an injured Jack Butland couldn’t quite hobble across his goal to save Toni Kroos’ speculative shot, this youthful England team seemed doomed to perpetuate the inexorable tradition of disappointment and mediocrity in the face of anything resembling talented opposition… but this weekend, England did something very out of the ordinary – they gave us something to cheer about. Here’s what we learned from that hard fought victory against Germany.
1. Roy has a hell of a lot of attacking options
Let’s start with a positive, shall we? This game showed that we have goal scorers in our strike force and boy did they deliver. England boast the two current top scorers in the Premier League in Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, both of whom showed just why they are in such good domestic form. Kane paid testament to Johan Cruyff with a splendid turn and low driven shot and Vardy back-heeled past Manuel Neuer with one of his first touches of the game.
Arguably our most talented striker, Daniel Sturridge, didn’t even feature in this game, which shows the depth of the squad with Rooney and Welbeck both also able to fill this position. The real issue here is who to play together and where to play them.
In my eyes, Kane is nailed on to start as he is an incredibly clinical forward, which is exactly what is needed in tournament football. Vardy and Sturridge are my two favourites to play alongside Kane. Vardy has incredible energy, which makes him perfect as an impact player off the bench whereas Sturridge has the raw talent and pace that gives him the edge as a starter. Both can play wide if needed which fits Roy’s love affair with the 4-2-3-1 formation.
2. Width gets results
Talking of players playing wide, this is what worked well for England against Germany. Overlapping fullbacks Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Rose wreaked havoc against their German counterparts and this was epitomised by Vardy’s goal. If anything, Clyne and Rose were more effective going forwards than they were defensively but their crosses were often wasted as only Kane was in the box. When Vardy came on, England had more of an offensive presence and these crosses were more of a threat. To capitalise at the Euros our midfielders, especially Dele Alli, need to be making penetrative runs into the box when the ball is out wide.
3. We have some weak links (and they’re both from Liverpool)
It isn’t all positives unfortunately. Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana started this game and it took until Lallana was taken off for England to really get going. Henderson had a great opportunity to show his leadership and dominate the midfield but he was very mediocre. He misplaced passes and was wasteful with his shooting which in truth was a continuation of his poor domestic form this season. Lallana was poor but maybe because of where he was played. He doesn’t have the pace or the energy to be a threat from wide in Roy’s system and we have better central players so I don’t really see where he will fit in. Neither contributed much defensively either.
4. Defending might be fun
Sure we beat Germany but they did not play well at all and we still conceded twice. Our defence simply won’t stand up against the offensive powerhouses of Europe with performances like this one.
Our fullbacks bomb forwards and that is to be admired but they need to put bigger shifts in defensively and so do our wide forwards. Welbeck didn’t do this and when he went off we became a lot more solid. Vardy is perfect for this role when required as he knows all about helping out defensively with Leicester.
Cahill has had the most mediocre of seasons by his standards at Chelsea and yet he captained the national side in this game and didn’t put in a particularly noteworthy performance. Eric Dier is an incredibly promising player and his goal will no doubt be what his performance is remembered for but he still has moments of naivety like completely forgotting to track Toni Kroos’ run for Germany’s first goal.
5. Dele Alli is quite good at football
It’s not often that I’m watching England play and I actually think someone might do something exciting but Dele Alli makes me feel like that. He has a presence on the ball that makes him good to watch and had another good game. He did miss a sitter and that was unfortunate but it didn’t matter in the end, which will help his confidence. He always has his head up and makes things happen and his link up play with Kane is remarkable – they have the most productive partnership in the Premier League. He has to start in the summer if we want any success at all.
Butland’s injury was a blow but we have more than enough good keepers to keep us going. Rooney’s absence was only noticeable in the positives it brought and I don’t think he should be in the starting XI, he’s more useful in the dressing room than on the pitch. If we can sort out our defence and make sure everything Vardy touches continues to turn to gold then we might just have a shot. I wouldn’t put money on it though – it’s England after all.