Phil Jones is no midfielder
Last night’s experimental England side saw Roy Hodgson implement Manchester United’s Phil Jones in an unfamiliar midfield role that left the usually defensively effective star at times found swimming, out of his depth and losing key battles for possession more often than not. Roy Hodgson approached the tie with a fairly experimental first-team but was quickly forced to make a change to his midfield personnel after it became apparent that Jones was not ideal for the position or tie. It took for Chris Smallng to withdraw just shy of the half-time whistle for Jones to be allowed the chance to revert back to his more traditional and familiar defensive position and took once again look comfortable. Roy will certainly have learned that he can’t afford to sacrifice the key midfield role in such a high expectation match.
Ross Barkley can still show real glimpses
Ross Barkley and his domestic side Everton have undergone a tough campaign of late, drawing into question the youngster’s development from his breakthrough campaign of last season. When called upon from the bench to replace the unimpressive Theo Walcott last night however, Barkley provided a pace of passing and movement that saw England become the dominant force in the tie for key spells. Quick build up play with fellow Merseysider Wayne Rooney forced Italy to hold a deeper line, allowing England time on the ball and space in the middle of the park. Roy Hodgson will have been thrilled to have one of his rising stars step up in such a high profile friendly and will have given the England coach a potential selection headache.
Italy was a worthwhile friendly
When international duty rolls around it is met with as much frustration as enthusiasm as fans of domestic sides put their ambitions and stresses on hold for a chance to take a look at the national side. England’s victory over Lithuania made it five wins out of five in the EURO 2016 qualification campaign for Roy’s boys and last night’s friendly against Italy provided a rare but enthusing look at the potential of the current crop of England stars. A hard well-fought draw against one of Europe’s top sides provides confidence and enthusiasm as the nation prepares for the summer of 2016 when the Three Lions will once again go in search of International silverware.
Kane’s international career won’t be a breeze
Harry Kane deservedly started his first tie for England last night after a fantastic debut performance from the bench against Lithuania last week, this time however it was far from the dream start for the Tottenham star who had found the net just 79 seconds into his international career on Friday. In the opening minutes of last night’s tie, Kane was greeted with a more familiar circumstance at the highest level as he was bundled to the ground rather unceremoniously by Italian hardman Giorgio Chiellini. Kane failed to make the same impact as his debut but looked assured and confident. Harry Kane’s first taste of intense international pressure should serve him well in the future and Roy Hodgson will certainly be hoping that this leaves the Premier League top goal scorer in good stead for the fast approaching EURO 2016 campaign.
Andros Townsend is still as an asset for England
Of late Andros Townsend’s name has not been met with the same enthusiasm it once was, after a spell injured kept him sidelined and in and out of Tottenham’s side, however last night’s heroic substitute performance reminded us all just what we were getting excited about. Townsed used his pace, movement and fantastic finishing ability to net England’s equaliser from 20 yards out just 11 minutes from time. Seizing his opportunity from the bench, Townsend was introduced in the 70th minute of the tie for Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph and was immediately effective as he carried the ball and caused a defensive re-shuffle from the Italians. Finally seizing his opportunity, Townsed unleashed a fierce strike to leave veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon helpless as his net rippled. Townsend will hope that last night’s showing will provide the ideal springboard for a return to form in the run up to what looks sure to be an interesting EURO 2016 squad selection.
Words by Ben Fawcett