The friendly against Italy proved a bit of a waste of time, the 1-1 draw having worryingly exposed Roy Hodgson’s experimental team selection. They were awful in the first half, a little better in the second.
Phil Jones was cruelly exposed as a midfield player, but this is not breaking news. It did not need an embarrassing first half from him to prove he is not good enough at international level.
Jones, at best, should be used as a squad player who can fill in along the back line in an emergency. But to attempt to get a player of poor technique, and severely limited passing ability, to operate in the engine room of the side was sheer folly on Hodgson’s part.
England did not improve until Jones slotted back into central defence after Chris Smalling had to go off.
And then there was Theo Walcott. The Arsenal flyer might just have played his last game for his country, certainly as a first choice. He has always claimed he is more than a wide player, and that his pace could make him so dangerous playing off a main front man.
He never got a kick in Turin, and showed he lacks the strength and know- how to play up front and through the middle. So where does Hodgson fit him in? Where do Arsenal, come to that?
Perhaps it is one of the reasons Arsene Wenger has been so reluctant to return him to the first team when he is fit again after injury. His place at the Emirates is no longer automatic, and now neither is it with England.
Hodgson is left puzzling just where to play him, if at all. Using Walcott and Harry Kane did not work out, and while the Tottenham hit man can feel satisfied with his performance, he is not yet the wonder boy for whom the England team is crying out. Much has to be done for him to bed into the system and be a success.
There again, Hodgson was looking to play Wayne Rooney behind the front two. No doubt he was influenced by Louis van Gaal at Manchester United. For the last three months, the Dutchman has employed his captain as a midfield player, sometimes just in front of the back four. How ridiculous is that?
Rooney is a striker. He scores goals, makes them for others, and he and Kane have a chance of forming a partnership, so no more messing about, please, Roy. Anybody watching Rooney recently can deduce he is far better in what he enjoys most: playing up front.
In defence, Nathaniel Clyne did not live up to the hype about being the best right back in the country, a player who it appears will move to Old Trafford in the summer. Like Luke Shaw, he has much to learn in the art of defensive duties.
Clyne got forward in support, but it was obvious how Italy worked on England’s right side when they so dominated the game. It is all very well getting forward and making runs, but the duties of a full back are first and foremost to defend.
Clyne will do well to remember that, but he has been a success for Southampton because the Premier League has failed to properly test him.
As for Kieron Gibbs, he was another who found the step up to international level more complex against better opposition. England, in fact, have a problem there, and it wasn’t until the second half when Hodgson made changes that we saw hope on the horizon.
Because Michael Carrick has ability and can pass the ball, he made a difference when he came on. He should never have been left out.
Hodgson, then, has much to think about. He will look at Saido Berahino, of West Brom, and Charlie Austin of QPR, as well as Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck to come back in.
England have strikers in abundance, but nobody in midfield to really stir the blood. Jordan Henderson? He’s steady. Fabian Delph lacks quality, but can be used as an enforcer in times of stress.
And what of Andros Townsend? He hit a fine goal, but the player who has been on loan to nine different clubs in his career is not good enough at this level. Spurs don’t know what to do with him; the best he can hope for with England is a place on the subs’ bench, where he might get splinters.
All in all, a disappointment, a better second half after being agonisingly bad in the first half. Hodgson will surely have learned a lesson, mainly that he has to get it right in midfield and that doesn’t include a place for Will Hughes.
We may have turned a page on Tuesday night in Turin, but there is much reading to be done still, and so far Hodgson has proved not the most able student.
PICTURES COURTESY OF: Jeff Holmes Pix