Germany 1-0 England: Five lessons for Gareth Southgate's side
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 23/03/17 2:35pm
Lukas Podolski's stunning strike consigned England to a 1-0 defeat in their friendly meeting with Germany.
The former Arsenal forward marked his final appearance for Germany with a 25-yard thunderbolt midway through the second half in Dortmund.
It was a disappointing outcome for an experimental England side who dominated for long periods, but what can Gareth Southgate learn from the encounter?
Is 3-4-3 the way?
The 3-4-3 formation is all the rage in the Premier League but it was still a surprise to see Southgate adopt it for England. His back three was flanked by wing-backs Ryan Bertrand and Kyle Walker, with Jake Livermore and Eric Dier lining up in central midfield and Dele Alli, Adam Lallana and Jamie Vardy forming the attack.
It worked well. The solid defensive base frustrated Germany, who did not muster a meaningful effort until Podolski's goal, and it also gave Lallana and Alli the freedom to attack. Southgate was delighted with how his players adapted to the change of approach.
"The most pleasing thing is that we tried a new tactical system and the players carried it out really well," he told Sky Sports. "It suited the players we had and it suited the opposition we were playing against. We don't like losing but it's important in games like these to learn something and try new things."
Lallana is vital
Adam Lallana continued his excellent club form with a fine performance on the international stage. The Liverpool man, who was recently named England's player of the year for 2016, is fast becoming one of Southgate's key men. It was no great surprise that Germany's winner arrived after his 65th-minute substitution.
Lallana the creator
Adam Lallana created more scoring chances (three) than any other England player against Germany.
As is so often the case for Liverpool, Lallana excelled with and without the ball against Germany. His tireless work-rate was crucial to the high-pressing tactics which prevented the hosts from settling in the first half, and it also led to two of England's best scoring chances.
First, there was the interception which allowed him to race clear on goal and strike a diagonal shot against Marc-Andre ter Stegen's post, then he combined with Ryan Bertrand to win the ball outside Germany's box finding Jamie Vardy, who set up Dele Alli to shoot straight at the Germany goalkeeper.
Clinical edge lacking?
Profligacy ultimately cost England. Southgate's men were by far the better side in the first half and had more of the possession across the 90 minutes, but they lacked a killer touch in front of goal and were punished by Podolski's thunderbolt midway through the second half.
Vardy's pace made him a dangerous outlet at times but he made little impact in and around the box and had the fewest touches of any player to start the game. He did not attempt a single shot before he was replaced by Marcus Rashford in the 69th minute, and the Manchester United striker fared little better. With Jermain Defoe an unused substitute, England were left to rue the absence of Harry Kane.
Michael Keane's impressive form for Burnley was rewarded with an England debut, as the 24-year-old lined up on the right-hand side of Southgate's back three. So how did he handle the step up to international football?
For most of the evening, he looked confident and composed. He completed 59 of his 66 passes - giving him an 89.4 per cent success rate and allowing England to build their attacks steadily from the back. He looked to break the lines at every opportunity, even finding a team-mate with four of his six long passes.
He coped well in a defensive sense too, although there was one moment of complacency when his attempted clearance was charged down by Leroy Sane in the 73rd minute. Joe Hart bailed him out with a fine save, but it was reminder of the concentration levels required at international level. Overall, however, this was an encouraging start to his England career. Southgate described his display as excellent.
Livermore not out of place
Livermore was another surprise inclusion as he came in for his first England appearance since his debut in 2012. There were a couple of misplaced passes in the opening exchanges, but the West Brom midfielder grew into the game and did not look out of place before his late withdrawal.
He shielded England's defence well, making more tackles and interceptions (seven) than any of his team-mates. The 27-year-old is unlikely to be near the top of Southgate's midfield pecking order when he has a full complement of players to choose from, but he did enough to suggest he can step up when needed.