1. Cahill and Jagielka is the defensive pairing that fits
The pairing of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka might not be the very best at next summer’s World Cup but, after the second straight game of experimentation, Roy Hodgson will presumably revert to that pair next year. On Friday he played Cahill and Phil Jones, tonight Chris Smalling with Jagielka and both times the partnership lacked the gradual understanding that Jagielka and Cahill have built up over the last few months.
Smalling is not as comfortable on the ball as Cahill and England occasionally struggled to get the ball out of defence. Jagielka was put under one-on-one pressure, not least by Lars Bender just before Per Mertesacker’s goal, which came when the Arsenal centre-back rose higher than Smalling to meet Toni Kroos’s cross.
Smalling could have cost England again early in the second half, failing to deal with a cross. Cahill and Jagielka should start against Denmark in March.
2. Rooney still stands apart as smartest attacking option
There is an understandable feeling that while England’s best chance against weaker opposition is to play that attacking 4-4-2 – as they did in the victories against Poland and Montenegro – if they are to beat the stronger sides they need a more measured approach. On Friday Wayne Rooney led the line, in exchange for an extra man in midfield.
The logic makes sense but you do wonder, watching England, whether they have any weapon nearly comparable to the threat Rooney’s intelligence poses in a withdrawn role. His football brain is of a different category to those of all his team-mates and tonight, in his 70 minutes, he was England’s smartest and sharpest attacking player.
He made one of the best first-half attacks, sliding in Kyle Walker on the right, and the best second-half chance, dropping wide and setting up Daniel Sturridge. The risk of overexposure might be worth taking.
3. Germany need first-choice midfielders fit and firing
This was a Germany team whose heart in midfield was feared to be absent. Bastian Schweinsteiger has recently undergone ankle surgery and Sami Khedira damaged knee ligaments in their draw with Italy on Friday. Ilkay Gundogan, Borussia Dortmund’s little wizard, has struggled all season with injuries.
So Joachim Löw is looking for another solution and went for the Bender twins – Sven and Lars – in front of the back four instead. Both are 24, neither is particularly experienced, and it did leave Germany rather lacking the drive and authority from midfield that Schweinsteiger and Khedira guarantee.
Had England been sharper in their early spell of superiority, Germany might well have paid for it. Löw’s team have sharper designs on winning the World Cup than England do and, if they are to beat Spain, Brazil and the rest next summer they might have to hope that their midfield leaders return.
4. Lallana has impressed with intelligence and technique
Failing to score in two consecutive home friendlies does not reflect brilliantly on England’s attacking players, but the arrival of Adam Lallana in the national team should certainly not be seen as a wasted opportunity. He produced another 76 minutes with enough skill and style to suggest that he can bring England something others cannot in wide areas.
Most of England’s wingers are fairly rudimental players – which is perhaps why Jay Rodriguez does not offer much that is radically new. Lallana, though, is an intelligent and technical footballer who takes his time on the ball and could count himself unfortunate if he is not included against Denmark in March.
There were a few more clever touches and shuffles, as the Southampton man tried to prise open Germany’s defence, and one spin past opponents in the second half was one of England’s brightest moments. He must be worth another look.
5. Götze poses real threat when moved to ‘false 9’ role
Germany might have wondered what to do with Miroslav Klose injured for these games and started with Max Kruse of Borussia Mönchengladbach through the middle. Although they scored in the first half their performance was not a triumph, with Kruse rarely involved.
Germany’s better attacking football came in the second half. When in possession, Kruse moved wide on to the left wing and Mario Götze was allowed to move inside, in the “false 9” role he had played at times during the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Götze was far more dangerous in that position than Kruse, forcing Joe Hart into a good save after a brisk double exchange of passes with Sidney Sam, who, along with Marco Reus and Julian Draxler, provided Götze with quick support. Götze got better as the game went on, even embarrassing Jordan Henderson in the final minutes, as Germany kept the ball to close out the win.
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