England 4 Moldova 0: Four things Roy Hodgson got right and one Wembley got wrong


1. Lambert can deliver forward passes that Carroll cannot

In his time as one of Rochdale's rough young diamonds, Rickie Lambert used to play in midfield. His strengths, clearly, are close to goal but you can tell that he has a bit more to his game than the archetypal English No 9. He made both of Welbeck’s goals by dropping off and playing precise passes anticipating his forward runs. No one is suggesting Lambert is Denis Bergkamp but it is an ability that his main rival as England’s big man – Andy Carroll – does not have. If Roy Hodgson has to make a tight decision between them, it might make the difference.

2. Wembley’s organised official jollity doesn’t help

The first Mexican wave happened after just nine minutes. It was that sort of night at Wembley, the type of subdued evening when you could be forgiven for wondering whether this is the best way of the England team connecting with their nation of support. Even with tickets starting at £25, the attendance was just 61,607 and the pitch-length of the top tier on the south side was empty. While the Friday night slot and the poverty of the opposition are unavoidable, the organised official jollity of the evening – imaginary pre-game bongo-playing and all – might not particularly help.

3. 4-5-1 releases Wilshere for Gazza-like turn and runs

Something good may come of England’s striking crisis. With so few forwards, Roy Hodgson’s decision to play three in midfield might have provided the best platform for Jack Wilshere. While for Arsenal Wilshere often has to anchor for others, last night he had Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard doing it for him, allowing him to play in the space between the lines, lurking on the half-turn to run forward past defenders with that Gascoigne burst he has, and he nearly scored that way in the first half. Even when Wayne Rooney returns, this 4-5-1 system looks the best fit.

4. Welbeck shows he is more than just a speed merchant

There is a perception, for whatever reason, that Danny Welbeck’s game is limited to speed and strength. It is an absurd notion. Welbeck is a wonderfully imaginative and skilful footballer, as he showed repeatedly last night. It was his clever wriggle past Vitalie Bordian and Serghei Georghiev, and his cross, which made the first. For the third, Welbeck took down Rickie Lambert’s pass with a perfect cushion-touch with the outside of an out-stretched boot, before the fourth where he guided the ball over Stanislav Namasco and in with a delightful first-time chip. England will miss him on Tuesday.

5. Hart, Cahill and Jagielka have it sewn up at the back

While the chances of Moldova making and scoring a goal were desperately low, the main threat to England would have come from themselves. There is always a particular danger in international football of miscommunication or misunderstanding, especially at the back. Last night, though, the defensive triangle worked perfectly – Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, continuing their roles from the Scotland friendly, combining without obvious problems on and off the ball. Nothing much to boast about, certainly, but better than the opposite.