Questions to be answered after Roy Hodgson's first outing with England

Lescott stakes a claim, Downing has his moments but injuries could yet derail Hodgson's Euro 2012 plans, writes Steve Tongue

Click to follow
The Independent Football


Who is fit for the Euros?

The medical staff will have a big say in this one, for, as Roy Hodgson pointed out on Friday: "You employ doctors, physios and experts and you value their opinions. But as ever the buck stops at the manager's door." The tricky part is that a final squad of 23 must be declared by midday tomorrow, almost a fortnight before England's first game. Too often they have taken players to tournaments who are less than fully fit, so the decisions on Glen Johnson, Danny Welbeck and Gareth Barry, who will have a scan on his groin today, have to be the right ones; allowing time for improvement only if there is certain to be some.

Who plays at centre-half?

The assumption since Rio Ferdinand was left out has been that the partnership John Terry and Gary Cahill have forged in Chelsea matches and training since the latter's arrival at Stamford Bridge makes them the logical pair. Joleon Lescott's commanding performance in repelling Norway's aerial attacks must, however, have given Hodgson pause for thought. Phil Jones remains a centre-half rather than a right-back, and Phil Jagielka, also solid alongside Lescott, is dependent on either Johnson or Barry dropping out if he is to make the 23.

Which wide men?

The combination of James Milner and Stewart Downing offered one up-and-down trundler who can also play centrally (as he did in the later stages) and one outright winger who has not done himself justice at Liverpool this season. Downing sometimes performs better in short England cameos. Here he showed promise with one dangerous early cross for club colleague Andy Caroll to head wide but then faded. Theo Walcott did not impress as a substitute and was exposed defensively by the old fox John Arne Riise, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's late debut was in a central role.

Which system?

Hodgson opted for an old-fashioned 4-4-2, playing Ashley Young right up alongside Carroll. It would be easy to make that into 4-4-1-1 with the Manchester United man a little deeper, although Carroll benefited from the support and by linking up together they were able to create and convert a well-taken goal. Under Fabio Capello, however, England were adapting well to a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders, which would offer greater protection in the opening tournament match against France.

Should he show his hand against Belgium?

French spies, who may not have learnt much in Oslo, will doubtless be at Wembley on Saturday for England's second and final warm-up game; one against opposition chosen for their stylistic similarity to France. Ideally Hodgson would want to keep something back from them but having had so little time to work with the squad since his appointment, he also needs to use a team very close to the one for the opening match. Best to keep a couple of set-pieces under wraps in any case.