Hart shouldn’t feel safe
His injury-time save to keep England in the lead won Joe Hart a lot of immediate plaudits, but his overall performance should mean backup ‘keeper Fraser Forster has not lost all hope of getting significant game time. Hart’s skill as a shot stopper is without question, but he has carried the flaws showcased throughout last season with City into the international arena. Specifically, his ponderous and inaccurate distribution, especially when pressed, creates significant problems for a team that wants to try building most moves from the back. In bigger tournament games, his outstanding ability when peppered with shots may be invaluable. However, when the team wants to dominate, it is tempting to think that Hart may not be guaranteed first choice.
Drinkwater in a bind
Having been half of the title-winning Leicester midfield, it is easy to pity Danny Drinkwater’s months of struggle to get in the England starting eleven. He has had a brilliant campaign comprised of excellent interceptions and steady, accurate redistribution of the ball: two skills seemingly ideal for the England midfield. However, Hodgson has been showing his hand over the last few games when it comes to his preferred midfield balance.
Whatever the system – whether it be a diamond, a three-man midfield or a variation of 4-2-3-1 – he seems to like the presence of an out-and-out ‘destroyer’ with outwardly creative players pushing on around him. Thus, Eric Dier has become the instant defensive choice, with a cast including Barkley, Dier, Wilshere, Henderson and Alli competing for the more offensive positions. Drinkwater, despite his combined talent, has neither the true grit of Dier, nor (in the eyes of the manager) the flair of the players fighting further forward. No one deserves a chance more, but with the likes of Rooney now also being linked to a midfield role, it seems depressingly less likely that the Leicester star will get his true national chance.
Side misses Welbeck
People grumbled at his constant inclusion, but Welbeck was a significant miss in England’s win against the fiery Turks. Vardy and Sterling took turns in taking on his mantle on the left of England’s attack, but their decent efforts missed Welbeck’s crucial contribution to the side. He, perhaps more than any other starter, understood the way Hodgson likes to move his system mid-games, especially with the wide attackers. Welbeck always seemed to know where and how to play his role, finding a balance between width and cutting-inside; driving forward and tracking back in perfect shape. His replacements are just as talented as individual forwards, but they seem to lack the positional, system-conscious intelligence that made Welbeck such a deserved regular starter for England.