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.
Estonia 0 England 1 player ratings
Estonia 0 England 1 player ratings
1/12 Joe Hart
Another quiet night for England’s No 1. A spectator for the most part in Tallinn, though his distribution was wayward at times when required. 6/10
2/12 Calum Chambers
Often sloppy on the ball but matches like this will stand him in good stead for the future, especially when being played out of position. 5
3/12 Gary Cahill
Fast becoming Mr Dependable in England’s backline. Always in the best position, and gave Estonia’s forwards no chance during rare attacks. 8
4/12 Phil Jagielka
A slightly subdued performance but made up for that with a couple of well-timed challenges. Not over-worked but solid alongside Cahill. 5
5/12 Leighton Baines
Plenty of time and space to attack, with his passing as slick as his hairstyle. Rooney should have put away left-back’s cross in the first half. 7
6/12 Jack Wilshere
Despite his starting position as the deep-lying midfielder, he constantly looked to set England on the attack. A couple of delightful through-balls. 9
7/12 Jordan Henderson
Steady from the Liverpool midfielder, with some great movement but the 24-year-old lacked incision with his final ball. Can do better. 6
8/12 Fabian Delph
Often found himself reverting to left-back as cover for the adventurous Baines who was always looking to get forward. Replaced after 61 minutes. 5
9/12 Adam Lallana
The attacking tip of Hodgson’s diamond. Linked up well with Rooney, Henderson and Wilshere and made promising runs into dangerous areas. 6
10/12 Wayne Rooney
His celebration was one of pure relief after his missed chances began stacking up. Stepped up with fine free-kick when it mattered. 7
11/12 Danny Welbeck
Sluggish. The Arsenal man just could not get going at all in Tallinn. Heavy in the touch. Had to drop back to get any involvement in the game. 4
12/12 Best of the bench: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
His pace posed some problems as the clock wound down, and he came close to setting up Rooney for a late second which the captain couldn’t finish. 6
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.Reuse content