Blend it like Hodgson
Martin Lipton told the Supplement that England had more of a natural balance against Moldova.
Last Updated: 09/09/12 12:36pm
England looked a more naturally-balanced side as they crushed Moldova in their opening World Cup qualifier, according to Martin Lipton, of the Daily Mirror.
Roy Hodgson's men cruised to a 5-0 victory on the road as Frank Lampard (twice), Jermain Defoe, James Milner and Leighton Baines found the net in Chisinau.
England can expect a stiffer challenge on Tuesday when Ukraine arrive at Wembley for their second match in Group H, but Lipton told Sunday Supplement that the signs for the campaign ahead are encouraging.
"It would be entirely wrong to draw any hard and fast verdicts from 90 minutes against an awful team but it was good, it was ok - they did all they could do," he said.
"They put a team to the sword, which is what you'd expect them to do and they did it with a degree of swagger.
"It wasn't the flat 4-4-2 that it ended up being in the summer; it was 4-2-3-1. Admittedly it was made easier by the nature of the opposition but there seemed to be, for the first time, a natural balance between Steven Gerrard and Lampard.
"In the past it has been forced and they've been shoehorned together and it doesn't always look as if they really enjoy trying to compensate between each other.
"They did it more naturally and instinctively, I thought, on Friday night and the young players Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were fresh, the full-backs augmented the attacking players.
"England did all they could have done in the circumstances but it was just the first game - there are far tougher tests to come, starting on Tuesday."
A little over a year ago Arsenal winger Oxlade-Chamberlain was playing League One football and, by his own admission, he still has a lot to learn.
According to the Sunday Sun, Hodgson felt that the teenager switched off in the second half against Moldova and must improve his concentration levels.
However, Lipton believes Oxlade-Chamberlain is keeping up with a steep learning curve and should develop into an England regular.
"I suspect that Oxlade-Chamberlain may be the starting left-side midfielder by the time we get to the World Cup because I think Young disappointed in the euros.
"I was expecting big things from Ashley Young and it didn't happen - it was a very weak performance from a very good player who had been, for me, England's best player for the previous 12 months and he didn't show under the pressure of expectation which is perhaps what people have said of him in the past.
"I think with Oxlade-Chamberlain you have a zestfulness and there is a maturity, unquestionably, when you speak to him - he is a lot older than 19. There's something about him that is positive.
"He didn't have to admit that he got a bit of a ticking off from Hodgson; he opened up and said candidly 'look, he pulled me to one side and gave me a bit of a kicking'.
"That's no bad thing. A lot of players would be scared of admitting that, so it's a good sign.
"It's a difficult issue with Cleverley because I suspect that Rooney will end up becoming that ten once he's fit again and you can understand why, which means that Cleverley drops back into the reserve team ranks but that's fair enough because he's still very young.
"This was only his second cap - you can't, at this stage, expect him to displace someone who has scored 29 goals for England."
Hodgson declared that he was very happy with the attacking ambition shown by England in the first half against Moldova and Lipton believes that intent is, in part, due to the respect the players have for the manager.
"The thing about Roy is that he's clearly built a belief within that squad - they all like the manager," he said.
"What came out of the Euros was that an England team for the first time in a long time wanted to play for the manager, they wanted to play for each other and they wanted to play for the shirt.
"That in itself is not enough, but it's the building block from which more can come and there has to be a development, there has to be a strategic technical development over time.
"Whether it's fair to ask the England manager to remedy the ills of English football is another matter altogether - all he can do is manage the resources he has. Thus far I find it difficult to see how you can criticise."