England vs Slovenia: Five things we learnt - Roy Hodgson's faith in Jack Wilshere vindicated, Raheem Sterling hype must be justified

A fully fit Clyne means Jones shouldn't start, England's midfield moves forward and Novakovic exposes England's shaky defence

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The Independent Football

Exciting midfield is sign team are moving forward

This was not as complete a performance as the 2-0 win in Switzerland, surely England’s best under Roy Hodgson, but there were more signs of the football they want to play.

It was defensively imperfect, but they had energy, especially in the form of Jack Wilshere, Fabian Delph and Adam Lallana, which they have always wanted in the middle.

Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney were dangerous and there was a clear sign – as there has been since the World Cup – of the type of football England are hoping to play. It may not take them to Euro 2016 glory but they are now moving forwards, and that has not always been true.


Novakovic’s run showed up England’s shaky defence

Milivoje Novakovic is not Luis Suarez. He is a good, honest, reliable player. He is 36 years old and has been playing, for the last few years, in Japan’s J-League. He did not make his Slovenia national team debut until the age of 26 and has never been a world-beater. And yet, yesterday afternoon, he was able to run unchallenged through England’s defence and give Slovenia the lead.

Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling tried to play him offside but they failed. Had either of them run with Novakovic they would surely have caught him. But England miscalculated and it cost them.

It was clear at the World Cup that England cannot handle world-class strikers like Suarez. That is why they did not make it out of the group stage. But there is a world of difference between him and Novakovic. Yet England could not handle the lumbering veteran yesterday. There will be better strikers than Novakovic at Euro 2016. England will need to watch out.

Sterling’s performance is sign hype might be justified

For as long as Raheem Sterling’s future is the great overhanging transfer saga of the summer of 2015, every performance is a trial of sorts. Is he just a gifted, inconsistent youngster who is seeking too much from the team who trusted him? Or is he the best of his generation, a player of Champions League class, who has earned a move to a side like Manchester City? This performance, while not perfect, gave more weight to the latter, sympathetic cause.

Sterling started out on the left-hand side of England’s  4-3-3, running beyond Wayne Rooney, and stretching the Slovenia defence. That is when he had his best chance, a side-foot shot which he over-hit over the bar. Had he scored, England would have been 1-0 up and it would have been a very different game.

But Sterling’s all-round play was impressive. He delivered one delightful cross from the left which ought to have been converted. He ran with the ball, beat opponents, and was more dangerous than Andros Townsend on the opposite side. Of course, he is not the complete player quite yet. But he is 20 years old. He is worth the fuss.

Hodgson’s faith in Wilshere has been fully vindicated

This was, without question, the high-point in Jack Wilshere’s England career so far. It was one of his best games in the last few years, which have been disrupted by frustrating ankle injuries and off-pitch distractions. Wilshere scored two brilliant left-footed goals, both reminiscent of his  goal-of-the-season strike against West Bromwich Albion last month.

Roy Hodgson watches on during the first half

This was a vindication, then, of the trust that the England management have put in Wilshere over the last few months. Hodgson and Gary Neville are especially keen to build around Wilshere – there is a view in the camp that only Daniel Sturridge is more naturally gifted – and that has meant trusting him with a new deep-lying role.

Wilshere performed that well yesterday, breaking up play and starting attacks. It was his contributions in the final third, though, that won England this game. If Wilshere can continue to combine both roles, England are in luck. But against elite opposition this summer, Michael Carrick could still be the man to unleash all of Wilshere’s attacking potential.

With Clyne on form, Jones should never be right-back

If Phil Jones was a better  right-back than Nathaniel Clyne then Manchester United would not be trying to sign Clyne from Southampton. And yet Jones, who is not a right-back, was preferred to Clyne, who is, and who has been of the most consistent in England for the last 12 months. Jones never looked especially comfortable yesterday afternoon, in defence or attack, and it was his misplaced throw-in far up the pitch which led to England losing possession and Novakovic putting Slovenia into the lead.

Hodgson's reluctance to start Clyne means England lack balance

Jones came off at half-time, with an injury, and yet he was replaced by Jordan Henderson, who is even less of a right-back than Jones is.

England lacked balance and penetration out on the right-hand side – which is  and everyone was left wondering why two square pegs played for 84 minutes and the round peg was gifted just six minutes at the end.