BY Pete Starr
Here’s our view on every man in red as England were hideously fortunate to escape from Ljubljana with a point. Having handed some fortuitously cack-footed Slovenian forwards a plethora of chances on various silver platters the Three Lions have Joe Hart to thank for their draw.
How this works is a simple four point scale of competence running from Glass Full (exceptional) at one end through to Glass Empty (properly guff), via Glass Half Full (pretty good) and Glass Half Empty (bit meh). Clear as mud? Great.
I mean, sure, we could go for a more conventional ratings system, but that wouldn't be 'on brand', would it?
Joe Hart – Glass Full
Passed his only task of the first half with flying colours, haring out to effectively smother Jasmin Kurtic’s effort after Dier’s early brain fade. Two front post stops from corners, the second of which was truly remarkable, reminded us what Hart’s capable of when on song. Dug England out of a hole one last time late on as he Ilicic was threaded through by Henderson. Only managed to badly hook one clearance all game (!) and was comfortably man of the match. HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES, EH PEP?
That was a world-class save from Joe Hart https://t.co/NqjICHVTSe
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) October 11, 2016
Kyle Walker – Glass Half Empty
Didn't drop a Henderson/Dier sized ricket but still rather tetchy at the back and offered a whole heap of sweet Fanny Adams going forward. Attempted just one measly cross all game, which, despite a lack of any real pressure, is still airborne and due to land in the Gulf of Trieste sometime tomorrow morning. Bearing in mind the creative requirements of the modern fullback, how effective we know Walker can be and the almost double shield he had in Henderson and Dier, that’s a pretty rank return.
John Stones – Glass Half Full (Just)
Brazen on the ball despite a veritable cabbage patch of a pitch and enojyed some eye catching moments stepping out of defence. Got away with it on a couple of occasions as he too joined the hairy back-pass club in the second half but his confidence remains something to savour.
Gary Cahill – Glass Half Full
A perhaps surprising inclusion considering the waff he’s been phoning in at Chelsea of late and Mike Smalling’s return to the starting fold at Manchester United. Cahill was pretty assured here however and defended with a healthy dollop aggression throughout. Basically, he didn’t dick around much, attacked the ball well and delivered the pass of the game with a raking 50-yard missile that played Danny Rose in the second half.
Danny Rose – Glass Half Full
Suffered the odd eggy moment at the back as England overplayed on occasion but you cannot fault his energy and bravery on the ball going forward. A player who’s extremely comfortable in possession, he completed a game high 5 successful dribbles and won 5 free kicks for his team, often with smart turns. Whilst I actually preferred his general vibe when he briefly looked like Sisqo, Rose is a footballer whose remarkable improvement over the last few years shows little sign of slowing; long may it continue.
Eric Dier – Glass Empty
Offered up an impression of Stevie G that absolutely no one asked for – Lisbon 2004 – early doors and soon picked up a rather needless yellow with a lunge that took the ball but saw him dive in from behind nonetheless. Seemed to eventually settle before another rank back-pass via his head put John Stones in a spot of hot water facing his own goal. A very disappointing showing from one of England’s few assured performers from the Euros.
Jordan Henderson – Glass Half Empty
Hmmm. Rather surprisingly handed the captain’s armband following literally his first ever decent England showing AGAINST MALTA at the weekend. Less surprisingly, he failed to back that up against even vaguely competent opposition as he roamed around a good 15 yards deep of where he’s most effective.
Saw more of the ball than anyone else (104 touches) and was generally tidy in possession (92% pass completion) but zero shots, and just one chance created (even that was from a set play) smacks of a pretty rotten return. Was very lucky not to see England concede the most embarrassing goal of the century as his absolutely mental no-look pass contrived to see Ilicic played clean through on goal.
Just look at the state of this...
Henderson's no look pass attempt. What a player he is. pic.twitter.com/806ofJI2ln
— ARSENAL (@Artekkers) October 11, 2016
Theo Walcott – Glass Empty
Sigh. Even when he’s so hot domestically that he’s literally defecating molten lava, Theo simply cannot translate that form into an England shirt. Registered fewer touches than any England starter (including Hart) and has one (admittedly delightful) whipped cross to absolutely no-body in particular plus a hugely speculative spank over the bar from 25 yards to show for his hour on the pitch.
Consider this - walking punchline Kyle Lafferty has scored more international goals in the last 2 years than Theo has in his 10 year, 46 cap, career.
Dele Alli – Glass Half Empty
Not a night to remember for the Spurs man. Started brightly, threading in Sturridge for a chance the Liverpool man overran. Was worryingly ineffective despite the pockets of space that Slovenia left in all over the midfield with their punchy high-press. Literally his only other contribution beyond that was to blow England’s one glorious chance on the counter with a pass so undercooked it threatened to give Sturridge food poisoning. Deservedly hooked with 18 minutes to go.
Jesse Lingard – Glass Empty
Pure scotch mist, the living embodiment of big club bias. A player who’s obviously well liked by coaches and does all the right things off the ball but is woefully lacking in quality on it, a rather key attribute of an international forward. Looked a smidge better once Rooney slotted in alongside him, but frankly I’d be chuffed to bits never to see him in an England starting XI ever again. Picked up a splendidly boneheaded yellow with some of the lamest small-man aggro you’ll see in a long while late on. Ross la! Come back kidda, all is forgiven!
Daniel Sturridge – Glass Empty
Bah! A pesky re-emergence of World Cup 2014 D.Studge, the one we all know and actively hate. Selfish, overcomplicated and grumpy. Was admittedly starved of much decent service but made a right old corned beef hash of any chances that came his way, repeatedly taking things on himself when others were in better positions. Deciding to shoot at the near post, from a tight angle with his weak peg, with Rooney lurking at the back stick late on was particularly criminal and caused this particular writer to hurl a full pint of Horlicks at his TV in despair.
Andros Townsend – Glass Half Full
On for Walcott - 63 mins.
Briefly grabbed the game by the scruff of the gooch with his willingness to dribble, shoot (obviously) and actually sling balls into the box. Arguably offered more with the ball in his first 5 minutes on the pitch than the Arsenal man he replaced did in 60. Can feel rather aggrieved that Lingard has enjoyed two starts over him this week.
Wayne Rooney – NA
On for Alli – 73 mins.
A ball booted rather amusingly into touch, a few smatterings of neat interplay accompanied by a customary curled effort that, whilst handsome, ultimately failed to trouble the keeper. Teamed up with Joe Hart late on to do some absolutely textbook calming down when things got a bit eggy towards the end. Priceless wisdom.
Marcus Rashford – NA
On for Sturridge – 83 mins
Tragically underused, once again.
Gareth Soutgate – Glass Half Empty
Had the plums to make the call Allardyce and Hodgson both swerved in dropping Rooney but erroneously showed faith in Walcott and Lingard despite their flaccid displays against Malta.
Having drawn a blank in attack it’s hard to know what Southgate could have done differently. Sturridge’s goal at the weekend made him difficult to drop whilst Vardy has been pretty anonymous thus far this season. Failing to wheel Rashford on earlier is the only thing you could really point to. That said, as Alli floundered, not even having Ross Barkley in the squad made my head spin somewhat.
Ultimately this was the shakiest we’ve seen England in a long time and England have looked in no way 'inspired' under their new boss at any point thus far. You suspect that the G-Man is now going to have to pull something pretty special out of the bag against Scotland and Spain to have a chance in hell of bagging the gig full time. Having thought about it, two goals scored from games against Malta and Slovenia is pretty frightful stuff, isn’t it? Good God international football is depressing.
Cover image - PA. Numbers and stats provided by WhoScored.