This was not football as we know it. In a match of no winners, no points proved and no lessons learnt, England strolled past European minnows San Marino and maintain their steady start to World Cup qualification.
It is largely a moot point then to analyse such a game but as England huffed and puffed, rather stodgily it must be said for much of the game, there were some interesting notes Roy Hodgson could have taken.
Walker – Jagielka – Cahill – Baines
Walcott – Carrick – Cleverly – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Welbeck – Rooney
For one, Danny Welbeck continues to show the kind of classy touch and link-up play that suggests he will be a real asset for England for some time to come. His quick feet and clever play in and around the box make him a nice foil for Wayne Rooney to play off, while lung-bursting runs from midfield will also benefit from his qualities.
However, his finishing ability needs some sharpening up, with his missed chance at 0-0 – when he fired his shot against the post after Michael Carrick’s thunderbolt had struck the bar – the kind of opportunity that simply must be taken at the highest level, against the best teams. Jermain Defoe has proved to be a more accomplished and natural goalscorer than the Manchester United man, but he offers little else, while Welbeck has proven to be a great option when the side needs someone to lead the line and hold the ball up against the top sides.
His lone furrows against Spain and France show he has the maturity and selflessness to play such a role, but his goalscoring record still leaves him short and means Defoe provides a good option in different scenarios. Welbeck’s England record before last night was just two goals in 11 games, while his United record is a little less than one in four, as was his strike-rate in his loan season at Sunderland in 2010/11.
If England can get goals from elsewhere then perhaps they can afford their main striker to be more of a foil for others, rather than the goal-getter in chief himself. Rooney’s international record is very good, 31 in 79, but he has scored just once in an international tournament since 2004 and is largely similar to Welbeck in that he enjoys linking up with the play deeper in the move and joining in with moves out wide. It poses the worry of who will be in the box when England penetrate down the flanks, something they look to be trying under Hodgson.
It’s two different options for Hodgson with goal-poacher Defoe and the more stylish but less efficient Welbeck and with the two shifting recently for the starting spot, it seems the former Fulham boss is still to land on what course to take with his number nine.
England: Hart; Walker, Baines, Jagielka, Cahilll; Walcott (Lennon, 10), Cleverley, Carrick (Shelvey, 66), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Rooney (Carroll, 73)
San Marino: Aldo Simoncini; Vitaioli (Bacciocchi, 83), Simoncini, Brolli, Palazzi, Cibelli, Coppini (Buscarini, 75), Rinaldi (Selva, 78), Della Valle, Gasperoni, Cervellini.
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