Estonia vs England: Five things we learned in Tallinn

Estonia 0 England 1

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The Independent Football

1. Diamonds continue to be Roy Hodgson’s best friend

England manager Roy Hodgson persisted with the diamond formation that provided the framework for success against Switzerland and San Marino here in Tallinn.

Hodgson explained that the system’s original implementation against the Swiss was to enable him to accommodate all the players he wanted to include and, when asked about its ongoing usage after swatting aside San Marino on Thursday with the same shape, the 67-year-old claimed he saw little reason to change it.

The merits were obvious against Switzerland – being able to contain and counter against a side willing to make the running and commit players forward. But they required a goalkeeping error and a penalty to secure a half-time lead against San Marino at  Wembley.

Here, despitehaving almost all of the ball, England suffered again from a lack of width as Estonia camped in front of their own goal looking to pounce on the break.

2. Raheem Sterling could do with having a breather

Hodgson’s justification for dropping Raheem Sterling was based upon the Liverpool midfielder’s apparent admission that he felt fatigued after the start of the season.

Sterling has featured in all of his club’s opening 10 matches this season and, despite only playing the first half against San Marino on Thursday, his jaded performance in training on Saturday suggested that the 19-year-old was feeling the effects of his increased responsibility for both club and country.

 

Adam Lallana’s impressive showing in the second half at Wembley presented Hodgson with a viable alternative and his lively movement was the key to a bright display, even if England lacked consistent incision in the final third.

With Estonia sitting deep and compact, Sterling’s pace was perhaps not as vital at the tip of Hodgson’s midfield diamond as Lallana’s trickery.

3. Jack Wilshere is growing in the holding midfield role

Jack Wilshere admitted after his debut in the position against Switzerland that he had plenty to learn about the new responsibilities placed upon him, and he anchored the midfield well here.

A subtle drop of the shoulder or a quick change of pace enabled him to skip past the most advanced Estonian player and launch an attack.

After years of conservatism in possession, particularly at big tournaments, England players should be encouraged to take risks with the ball.

However, it remains to be seen whether Wilshere will be allowed to be so expansive in what is primarily a defensive role against better opposition.

4. Wayne Rooney will soon ease past Jimmy Greaves

Wayne Rooney endured a difficult evening in front of goal and his touch became increasingly desperate, but he still produced the one moment of quality that settled this contest, although goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko could perhaps have done better with the 74th-minute free-kick.

The England striker is now on 43 international goals, just one behind Jimmy Greaves, and Rooney will be confident of surpassing him before the year is out, barring injury.

A debate as to whether Rooney deserves to be considered alongside the greats will intensify as he climbs the ladder but the paucity of opposition in Group E will present him with plenty of opportunities.

5. Daniel Sturridge is still England’s principal striker

Danny Welbeck impressed in Switzerland and scored against San Marino but here he produced a display that provided further evidence to his detractors.

His movement was insufficient to unsettle a well-organised unit, and it is easy to conclude that he looks more dangerous when playing on the counter-attack as his pace and speed of thought becomes a more tangible threat.

Welbeck was replaced by Rickie Lambert with 10 minutes remaining – appearing to limp slightly as he headed for the dressing room – after an anonymous display, and if Daniel Sturridge is fit to face Slovenia and Scotland next month, Welbeck is likely to find himself back on the bench.

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