The first-half midfield partnership of Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard gave England an excellent basis to work from in the friendly. The Arsenal midfielder’s energy and the Liverpool captain’s composure seemed to complement each other, almost perfectly. As Wilshere went to roam and play further up the pitch, trying to support any possible attacks, his 33-year-old team-mate was able to sit at the heart of the midfield and dictate the play, often looking to get the ball wide, or spray a diagonal from deep to the marauding Leighton Baines. Wilshere did perhaps show his inexperience at international level when he was caught in possession late in the first half, giving the Scots a half-chance on the counter. Not only did the partnership lead to good performances from Gerrard and Wilshere, but it also gave Tom Cleverley freedom playing behind Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United youngster produced a good display and he provided the assist for Theo Walcott’s goal and was unfortunate not to score himself, missing two decent chances.
When Scotland were able to get forward, there were visible deficiencies in the England backline. With the back four that started only boasting a combined 56 caps, it is clear this is a defence that lacks experience with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry both having announced their retirements from the national set up within the past year. Kenny Miller, a man making his 69th appearance for Scotland, tormented Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill, even getting himself on the score sheet before being replaced in the 73rd minute. It will worry England fans with Roy Hodgson’s rearguard likely to come up against far more potent front men if qualification to the World Cup is secured, as expected. Even Joe Hart, who was the most experienced member of the defence with 32 caps, looked vulnerable, with his calamitous error gifting the Scots their 1-0 lead. Baines, however, did look impressive with his tireless work-rate. The Everton man proved he’s certainly capable of giving Ashley Cole a fight for a starting berth, although against a tougher side, he may need to be more defensively aware rather than playing so far forward.
With Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Ashley Young and Wilfried Zaha all in the squad, England have an abundance of quality when it comes to wide men. Hodgson’s side need to focus on getting the ball wide more often, as opposed to playing a passing game. With Walcott scoring, as well as headers from Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert, who scored with his first touch, it highlights England’s need to focus providing their wide men with the chance to arrow balls into the box. The wingers, too, should be able to get in on the goal-scoring action. Baines and Gerrard showed their quality from dead ball situations, from which Welbeck and Lambert both netted. If the Southampton man had been introduced earlier, there would have been more goals, with many of England’s crosses in the first half coming to nothing. Hodgson should consider including a target man going forward. It could be Lambert, Andy Carroll, or even perhaps a recall for Peter Crouch, as England currently lack in the creative department at times and with the inclusion of a target man, England could profit.
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