Sunday evening was supposed to be the start of a new era for England. The dull and docile Roy Hodgson no longer at the helm, succeeded by ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce, a manager with vast amounts of Premier League experience.
England were expected to get off to a flying start for the brand new England manager, who’s brash nature would clearly filter through the team to restore some pride. The proceeding 94 minutes didn’t quite follow that script, and England were saved by a last minute strike from Adam Lallana, saving Allardyce from some disastrous headlines. Whilst the most important thing was 3 points, the football on display was innately drab, boring and fragmented. It seemed even worse than the football being played under Hodgson during the Euro’s, a far cry from Allardyce’s claims he would have won the Euro’s with the squad of players taken to France in the summer.
So here’s 5 things we learned from Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge:
1.Rooney will now play in defensive midfield.
During Jose Mourinho’s first press conference he stated he saw Wayne Rooney as a number 9, or 10 or even a 9.5, but not an 8 or a 6. With that said, Sam Allardyce went on to confirm “Rooney will play for us where he does for his club”. It surprising therefore that Rooney started the game in midfield, not the number 10 position he holds with Man United. Not only was he playing in midfield, it was very much a deeper role, often further back than Jordan Henderson. It seems that this could be the long term position for England’s all-time record goal scorer. Sam Allardyce seemed very happy with Wayne’s performance even saying he felt he completely controlled the game.
Whilst Wayne Rooney is slowing in terms of his attacking threat, it has be said he still has much to offer going forward and had the most assists for Man United last season. With his cleverness to read the game and ability to make a decisive pass, he is potentially far more effective going forward than the current crop of players who seem to be underperforming in that part of the pitch which isn’t good news for England.
2. Joe Hart needs game time if he is to remain as England’s number 1
Big Sam has made it very clear he will not be selecting players for their name, but purely on how often they are playing for their club and how well they are performing.
Joe Hart has had a tough time of late with a poor performance in the Euro’s and Pep Guardiola recently losing faith in him, resulting in making a loan move to last season’s 10th place team in Serie A, Torino.
It seems he will be Torino’s number one this season but he will have to perform well with Jack Butland and Fraser Forster, 2 very good keepers in their own right, knocking on the door to be England’s first choice keeper. This will be a very important season for Joe Hart as he aims to maintain his status as one of the world best keepers and at only 29, relatively young for a goal keeper, it could be nearing the end of the road for him if his performances this season don’t improve. Jack Butland will be favourite to press for Hart’s position and at only 23 has a great future ahead of him. Last season Butland made 2.2 saves for every goal conceded and Hart, 1.9 saves per goal. He also had more saves with 81 to Harts 67. Other stats such as total catches, pass completion and distribution accuracy are also very comparable to Joe Hart, considering he plays for Stoke City it all sounds very impressive. For that reason, Joe Hart will have to be top of his game this season otherwise he could no longer be the keeper Allardyce chooses to take England into the next World Cup.
3.Henderson is now an attacking player for England
Jordan Henderson is a player who often comes in for criticism especially when in an England shirt. He is not the best defensive midfielder we have, nor the best attacking player, similar a player to Tom Cleverly, he doesn’t really offer much different that can excuse his consistent selection in the England team. Sam Allardyce however chose to include Henderson once again, yet played him further forward than record goal scorer Wayne Rooney.
If this is a long term position it doesn’t bode well for the fans dreaming of free flowing exciting football. To play the attacking role from midfield, it’s not to pass from side to side and merely keep the ball moving. To play in that role you need to be able to create and chip in with a share of goals. Henderson, however only contributed 3 assists last season and only 2 goals. More worrying was the fact he only registered 15 key passes in the Premier league last season.
England have players such as Barkley, Rooney, Ali, and Wilshire who are all more capable at playing this role in the England team, it seems Henderson will have really start to increase his output to convincingly hold down this role.
4.Big Sam must include the more creative players going forward.
The England team really lacked pace and creativity from midfield and 3 key players left out of the squad in Ross Barkley, Jack Wilshire and Marcus Rashford need to be included in future selections, to allow England to move the ball quicker and get in behind the defence.
Whilst Jordan Henderson was further forward, England already have a much more able player to fill that role, with Barkley having more impressive pass completion stats from last season at 86% to Henderson’s 79%. Barkley also created 5 more assists, scored 6 more goals and had 32 more key passes last season compared to Henderson.
On a wider note, the pool of top players that the England manager has to choose from is diminishing year on year, with only 33% of Premier League teams fielding an English player so far this season. It is imperative therefore that Sam takes the few creative players he does have at his disposal.
5.Lallana finally score’s for England
Adam Lallana has been on the cusp for England for the past couple of seasons, playing his part, but as of yet hasn’t become the type of player England can rely on. He was a player who left France in the summer with his head held high as one of England’s better performers during the Euros. But one thing that has been missing is goals. Lallana created some great chances in England’s 4 matches during the Euro’s but was also wasteful in front of goal, something that has be corrected if he is to become a fully-fledged International. It was in the dying seconds against Slovakia however, Lallana’s strike gave Sam Allardyce a much needed victorious start and his first goal in 27 matches for England.
Lallana is perhaps one of the best placed to progress in this England side, as one of England’s better performers in the Euro’s and now the first goal scorer under Big Sam’s reign he also boasts some impressive stats over the past season at Liverpool. Lallana averaged 82% pass completion rate last season with 6 assists and 4 goals, with a shot accuracy of 52%. Impressively, Lallana created 48 chances for Liverpool in the 30 matches for Liverpool last season averaging 1.6 chances created each game.
If Adam Lallana can take his impressive Liverpool form into the England fold, he could be a key player for Sam Allardyce, although to be quite frank the same could be said for most of the English players called up for international duty in the past few years.