England vs Norway analysis: Five things we learnt, including Wayne Rooney trying too hard and Jack Wilshere brightness
A look at what we discovered from 1-0 win at Wembley
Thursday 04 September 2014
1. Rooney trying too hard
It is beyond a cliché to say that passion makes Wayne Rooney the player he is, but this was a night – far from the first – when Rooney appeared to be trying too hard. Of course, it was his first game as full-time England captain and he said beforehand that he “demanded a lot from himself”. Here, he seemed to be demanding rather too much. to be able to play effectively
Rooney was always keen to be involved, and certainly never hid, but his enthusiasm often led to imprecision, his haste often slowed England down. Rooney’s touch was not at its best, and a few England attacks broke down around his feet.
One attempted diagonal ball nearly ended up on Wembley Way and, until his emphatically converted penalty which was his last action of the game, the most he did to hurt the Norwegians was when he elbowed Havard Nordtveit in the face.
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2. Wilshere bright and busy
Jack Wilshere’s England career has felt rather suspended over the last few years, certainly since his ankle injury here at Wembley in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland over three years ago. Roy Hodgson said this week that his own hopes of working with Wilshere had been “dashed by the injuries”, meaning that this game – the first of the post-Lampard, post-Gerrard era – was a good chance for the Arsenal man to develop his new relationship with Jordan Henderson.
Jack Wilshere tumbles in the box during England's 1-0 win over Norway
On those grounds, this was a display that – if not crammed with promise – at least showed flickers.
Wilshere was bright and busy in the first-half, one of the few England players looking to break through the Norwegian lines with his quick one-twos, which also won England free-kicks.
He passed the ball briskly, always looking for Leighton Baines or Raheem Sterling and he should have won England a first-half penalty when tripped by Nordtveit in the box.
3. Diamond deal for Hodgson
Roy Hodgson said before the game that he would not be swayed into using whatever “the buzz formation of the moment” was, but the team did slightly improve when England adopted a diamond midfield shape for the final 20 minutes.
Raheem Sterling, who had been good enough out on the left for the first hour, was more involved in a central role, seeing more of the ball, taking on opponents, and able to work between Norway’s own rigid lines.
Raheem Sterling in action at Wembley
James Milner and Fabian Delph provided the energy- shuttling form midfield, ahead of Jordan Henderson at the base. The whole England side appeared better equipped to cause Norway problems than they did in the first 70 minutes, which was a simple case of two boring systems allayed against one another.
But will it be enough to convince Hodgson to abandon his flat 4-4-2 in Basel?
4. King revels in battle royal
As talented as Mats Moller Daehli is, it was another former Manchester United youngster among the Norway side who caused England the most problems last night. Joshua King, of Blackburn Rovers, had to lead the line in a 4-1-4-1 system, which did not grant him very much support.
King was in a physical battle with Phil Jones all night, and while in the first half Jones tended to come off better – suggesting that he might replace Phil Jagielka at centre-back for England for the foreseeable future – King burst into life in the second half, forcing two good saves from Joe Hart. The first was a header from a corner, when King got the better of John Stones at the near post, obliging Hart to stick out a strong left hand.The work for the second was even better, King racing down the left, away from Stones, then from Jones and Gary Cahill, making Hart come out to block.
5. Improved atmosphere
This evening was not exactly an advert for the public enthusiasm in the England team. The official attendance of 40,181 felt on the generous side almost the entire upper tier of the stadium was empty. And yet it was, in its own way, a more positive atmosphere than for many England games in recent years. There were only smatterings of boos at half-time, after a performance which had not given very much to cheer about.
England fans cheer during the International friendly match between England and Norway at Wembley Stadium
It was not very long ago that Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole had been jeered by the Wembley crowd. While there is certainly not much expectation in the performance of the team, the crowd looked to be behind almost all of the players themselves. Which is not to say that it was a memorable Wembley night, but it was not a sour one either.
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