England played their first match since the World Cup 2014 debacle in Brazil at Wembley last night and it wasn’t exactly the most exciting affair ever witnessed. The nation has steadily getting over the disappointment (or is it expectation?) of England failing at another major international tournament and the resumption of international football is just a nasty reminder of what could have been in Brazil.
However, needs must and Roy Hodgson must get the players back to performing how they were prior to the commencement of the World Cup. Yes, it was only a friendly and yes it was the first international game of the calendar however a better performance was still expected against what actually was modest opposition, who on their last away trip were ruthlessly dispatched 4-0 by an impressive French side.
Looking at a sparsely populated Wembley last night was quite frankly depressing for the well being of English football. The sight of the entire top tier of the stadium being deserted was a reminder to the FA that the English public have, for now, had enough of poor performances.
Equally, the official attendance of 40,181 didn’t quite ring true either as there was swathes of empty seats lower down and to fill the ground on uninspiring nights like this, the FA must amend its ticket price policy or face even more embarrassing attendance figures such as the one that marked the new Wembley’s lowest attendance since being opened in 2007.
Even clearer after this match was that the team need the fans onside, they need the crowd to cheer them on as quite clearly, they’re not going to be able to do it themselves.
Winning 1-0 on home territory against opposition of the calibre of Norway would not have been Roy Hodgson’s idea of ideal preparation for what is sure to be a sterner test away to Switzerland on Monday night. There were a few nervy moments for the England defence particularly down the right-hand side where young John Stones was making his first start in an England shirt and this would have been punished against a side of higher calibre.
England need Gary Cahill who is now the ‘experienced’ head in that back four, particularly at international level, to assert his authority and become the leader.
Raheem Sterling has quite frankly been a breath of fresh air to an England team that desperately needs one. His running, vibrancy and energy are desperately required and he provides the spark within the current team. Daniel Sturridge is also required up front but he must be more ruthless in front of goal if he truly to become a success in an England shirt. To be more of a fluid unit, Hodgson must find a way to fit his best players in within a system that gets the best out of them consistently.
While Rooney scored the goal that ultimately won the game, he didn’t really put in the performance of a leader. It’s true that he needs help from the more experienced members of the squad but he is the one ultimately responsible. If that means dropping a little deeper to organise his teammates then so be it.
Hodgson must work to prove the public wrong and dismiss the jibes that he should have been sacked after the appalling World Cup form suffered by the squad in Brazil. He is again pinning his side’s chances of success on an arguably out-dated 4-4-2 system.
If England are to prosper, Roy must show that he is tactically flexible to get the best out of not just individual players, but the team as a whole.