A brace from Arsenal’s deadline day signing, Danny Welbeck saw England open up their 2016 qualification with a win in Switzerland. The Gunners new boy replaced injured striker Daniel Sturridge and staked his claim to partner Wayne Rooney in attack with two goals.
Roy Hodgson drafted in Welbeck and what was a surprise selection in Aston Villa midfielder, Fabian Delph who impressed on his debut against Norway last week for Oxlade-Chamberlain. England reverted to a 4-4-2 system with a diamond in midfield with Jack Wilshere at the bottom, Jordan Henderson and Fabian Delph in front with Raheem Sterling playing just behind the front two of Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck. Switzerland lined up in a similar manner to the World Cup with their danger man Xherdan Shaqiri right of a front three.
Delph, who was making his full debut for the senior side made two rash challenges early on; picking up a booking after just 8 minutes. The former Leeds midfielder has picked up 20 yellow cards in the past 2 seasons for Villa but now he is on the International stage so needs to be careful. England started slowly but had more tempo to their play than Norway last week and soon caught the Swiss on the break twice. Firstly, Hart found Sterling with a brilliant pick out but the Liverpool winger was unable to find an England shirt; next he found Rooney but the England captain saw his shot go straight at the keeper.
England were finding space in the attacking third but poor decision making from Sterling and Welbeck prevented them taking the lead. Hart had to be on his toes in the England goal, saving smartly from Haris Seferovic after Jones gave away possession. The United defender had the best chance of the half when unmarked from a corner, his header was excellently saved by Sommer in the Swiss goal.
After the break both teams came out more open with Seferovic forcing Hart into a smart save and Sterling miss kicking after a great pick out from Henderson. But 5 minutes later England took the lead after a brilliant counter attack highlighting the Swiss vulnerability when they push too many men forward. Rooney played Sterling in down the left and his first time cross was swept home by Welbeck at the back post. Welbeck’s first goal in a year wearing an England shirt, with Rooney lacking form, the former United man is looking to cement a place in the team.
Despite the positives from attacking, there remained lapses in defence with Cahill having to make a goal line clearance after substitute Drmic rounded Hart after staying onside. Switzerland moved Shaqiri into a central position where he began to have more of an impact on the game, resorting to Hodgson to introduce Milner to shut up shop. England’s young team were struggling to maintain possession but sealed all three points in stoppage time. Rickie Lambert, who replaced Rooney, beat one defender then had the vision to play in Welbeck who slotted home for his second and the win for England.
3 points in what was on paper England’s hardest game highlights that the team does have the potential to do well, showing positive and negatives in their performance. The diamond in midfield looked acceptable but with WIlshere in an unnatural position at the bottom, England struggled to cut through the Swiss team. WIlshere plays further forward with Arsenal and was looking to beat a man rather than letting the ball to do the work. With game time, he will develop in that position but on numerous occasions he lacked movement to try and receive the ball from Cahill and Jones. Wilshere does not have the passing ability of predecessor, Steven Gerrard but breaks the game up; Hodgson has the decision of whether Wilshere fits into the system or the system needs to fit Wilshere. Henderson highlighted his improvement in the past season with a decent display, finally showing why Liverpool paid 20 million for the youngster.
Baines and Stones did not have their best games at full back but under Martinez at club level they will develop. Cahill and Hart were rocks at the back with the Chelsea highlighting the potential to be England captain in the future. Sterling found it hard to find space in the attacking third, dropping deeper to try and get on the ball. If Hodgson persists with the diamond in midfield, players will grow and mould into their roles but it would be nice to see a Huddlestone in that deep role as his passing ability is far superior to Wilshere.
With 2 very winnable fixtures next Hodgson needs to keep faith with the system whilst blooding youngsters in the process.