After their magnificent 3-2 triumph in Germany over the weekend, England were brought back down to earth by last night’s 2-1 defeat at home to Netherlands.
It was the final England international before Roy Hodgson picks his squad for Euro 2016. What five things did we learn from the disappointing Wembley loss?
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Chris Smalling is a certain starter
While Phil Jagielka did not start either game, Hodgson gave Smalling the chance to partner both Gary Cahill and John Stones across the double header, a likely indication that he wants to test each pairing.
It certainly appears to be Smalling and one other for England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia, and Cahill and Stones will fight it out until then to line up alongside the Manchester United centre-back.
Defence could stop England contending
Whatever the personnel, the defence remains England’s biggest weakness. While Smalling was strong and assured, the collective looked fragile and both Cahill and Stones were culpable for goals conceded.
The attack that Hodgson fielded against Germany looked capable of troubling any defence, but most attacks across Europe will fancy that they can get at England, and that could hold them back.
Diamond is in Hodgson’s mind
Hodgson used a 4-3-3 formation throughout England’s perfect qualifying campaign, but there has been plenty of speculation about what system he may use to accommodate all of England’s best players.
A diamond formation is clearly in Hodgson’s mind. He changed to two up front in the second half against Germany, and started with a diamond against Netherlands. It certainly worked in the first instance.
Alli a better bet than Barkley
A diamond formation might allow for Hodgson to squeeze both Dele Alli (seven goals and nine assists in the Premier League this season) and Ross Barkley (eight goals and seven assists) into his starting XI.
But, should he stick with 4-3-3, there may only be room for one. Alli is the better bet. He was outstanding in Berlin while Barkley failed to stamp the same authority on a weaker opponent at Wembley.
Vardy is Rooney’s biggest threat
Wayne Rooney’s inclusion or omission from Hodgson’s starting lineup could be the biggest talking point in the lead up to the France tournament. Jamie Vardy is the man who is pushing him the hardest.
The Leicester City striker scored cracking goals in each leg of the double header. He changed the game off the bench against Germany, and proved that he can be a livewire from the start versus the Dutch.
Harry Kane is looking increasingly likely to start. Daniel Sturridge is a superb talent, but his early withdrawal last night suggests that Hodgson still is not sure about his fitness. Rooney or Vardy then?
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