Bent 10, Young 68
Fabio Capello’s line-up continued to mould the ‘evolution’ of England – two sitting midfielders to provide a defensive buffer whilst the three players in front cater for the lone frontman. Of the two that sat in front of the back four, Jack Wilshere was given his full England debut alongside captain for the night Frank Lampard and acquitted himself ably, despite the role having a somewhat stifling grip on his attacking capabilities.
It must be stressed that not only is this a position new to Wilshere, the responsibility such a position holds is overbearing for many, especially young players. His inexperience in the role was evident in the early exchanges. Christian Eriksen, the standout for the hosts, wandered in behind Wilshere without the attention of the Arsenal man. From there, Eriksen threaded ball into Nicklas Bendtner, only for Wilshere’s club-mate to be ruled offside. It was a warning shot of what was to come from Eriksen, as he occupied similar positions for much of the first half.
The pairing that started the game gave England fluidity. The ball was moved quickly and accurately in midfield, with Lampard and Wilshere more than often dictating the tempo of the game. The second half saw Scott Parker and Gareth Barry deployed in the axis of ‘2’ in the 4-2-3-1 system, and Denmark’s attacking threat diminished. Having hit the post in the first half, on top of forcing Joe Hart to save smartly with his legs, the Danes could only muster a Denis Rommedahl effort after the interval, a chance again created by Eriksen.
In the wide areas, both Theo Walcott and James Milner enhanced their claims for the respective places come the qualifying game with Wales next month. Walcott’s persistence earned England an immediate equaliser, as he wriggled past Simon Poulsen and squared for Darren Bent, who tapped in to round off a sequence of England passing as good as any for some time.
The introduction of Ashley Young ensured the game did not follow the template for international friendlies. Young emerged from the bench with a hunger that matched his talent, and the Aston Villa man relished the role he took up from Wayne Rooney. His energy, quick feet and aforementioned desire to impress lit up an area of the pitch prone to lifelessness in the latter stages of this type of game and deserved his calmly-dispatched winning goal. Glen Johnson had an iffy night – caught in possession just as much as he threatened in the opposition half – but his contribution for Young’s decisive goal was significant. The right-back preyed on a stray touch from Rommedahl and advanced before releasing the ball to an open Young at the edge of the box, allowing him to pick his spot beyond a fully-stretched Thomas Sorensen.
Such are the manner of international friendlies that Capello will have a number of players available to him that were not to be risked for a midweek escapade away from home. Intrigue drifts towards England’s approach to that game, and the development of a system that showed signs of encouragement in Copenhagen. A compromise will be needed in the deep midfield area, particularly if England harbour ambitions of utilising the qualifying stage as the dress rehearsal for European Championships 2012, as opposed to approaching it as the menial chore of campaigns past.
With England tucked in behind Montenegro, benefitting from a game-in-hand, the opportunity is there to harvest this team into a balanced, industrious outfit out of the abyss that was World Cup humiliation. Capello has seen promise in the formation, and in a number of the new faces in the squad. Ironically, almost all of which fell on the disciplinarian’s axe as he ruthlessly trimmed his squad for the tournament last summer.
G Johnson – Dawson – Terry – A Cole
Lampard – Wilshere
Walcott – Rooney – Milner
46 – Young on for Rooney
46 – Barry on for Lampard
46 – Parker on for Wilshere
60 – Cahill on for Dawson
65 – Downing on for Walcott
81 – Baines on for Cole