It would be unfair to criticize Roy Hodgson too much for England‘s very poor 2-0 loss at home to Chile on Friday, as his experiment gave him a lot of information.
For weeks leading up to this friendly, many were calling for Hodgson to test out certain younger and not yet tried players in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. He did just that, but it meant that Chile had a far easier team to beat than they would have faced had Hodgson named his strongest 11.
Hodgson learned valuable information about certain players and just how useful they will be for him in Brazil next year. Southampton‘s Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez were the headline makers before the game, as they were picked for their debuts. Hodgson deserves credit for having the courage to pick players that, perhaps, England managers in the past would have ignored. We learned that Rodriguez is not quite ready for England level, and that Lallana has the courage and talent already to be considered as a useful option within the England squad next summer — despite him only being one game, at International level, the performances have to be immediate.
The younger players need to perform quickly, and I believe that Hodgson’s testing of these new names was useful. In the October qualifiers, we saw Andros Towsend take the stage and perform magnificently. On Friday, it seemed England missed the spark he has, or a similar creative, fast and positive threat on the wing. They look far less dangerous without someone like him.
However, I believe it was the absence of certain individuals that was so telling. Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka‘s defensive partnership for England was broken for the first time in nearly a year, and it was evident that without Jagielka, England looked less assured and organized at the back. Similar things can be said for Steven Gerrard. I admit to criticizing Gerrard in recent times as undeservedly being a instant name on the England team sheet. However, in October, we saw how important he was, and without him, England struggled against Chile.
The combination of Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere and James Milner was too sloppy and unbalanced. Gerrard acts as a hub that not only can create, but allows others to flow around him. Danny Welbeck‘s relationship with Wayne Rooney was another notable difference. Without Welbeck, the opposition defense seems to get stretched less, and currently, I believe there is no better left-winger available than Welbeck.
It was a depressing night for England. It was uninspiring and the feel-good factor quickly faded. However, a lot was learned, and that is what those types of friendlies should be for. We were reminded that England must keep the ball, and that against Germany on Tuesday, England’s best set of players is their only hope of success.