England Watch: Danny Welbeck 2-0 Watchmakers


No, this is not me jumping on the Danny Welbeck band-wagon, but I would be lying if I said he did not play well today in England’s 2-0 in at St. Jakob’s Park against a rough and tumble Switzerland side.  Unfortunately for those purveyors of quality time-pieces, they could not build on their decent showing this summer in Brazil.  While they did create chances and have the Three Lions on the back foot many times over the course of ninety minutes, two quick-fire goals in the second half would seal all the points for Roy Hodgons’s men.

Despite controlling possession and having the better bit of passing and being more efficient in the tackle, Switzerland were actually quite poor on the day.  Only Xherdan Shaqiri, Valon Behrami and Stephan Lichtsteiner stood out for the home side, while the likes of Ricardo Rodriguez, Steve von Bergen, Gokhan Inler and Admir Mehmedi were particularly woeful.

None of the above should take away from how well England  actually played.  Beyond the good result away from home, Roy Hodgson finally had some girth behind his tactical decisions on the day, opting to go with a 4-1-2-1-2 that, in practice, was actually a 4-3-1-2.  It would be the right deployment in the end, as Switzerland are always combative in midfield, opting for three in the middle of the park served England well to counter their opponent.

Don’t worry Roy, your job is safe…for now…(imagine courtesy of England’s official Facebook page)

While the back four from the Norway friendly remained in tact, Hodgson opted to go with a midfield triumvirate of Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere and Fabian Delph.  Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck partnered each other up top, and Raheem Sterling was given his chance to shine in the number 10 role behind them; no one would disappoint, not even Rooney.  It was the response England needed after their lack-luster performance against Norway last week, and it had gotten to the point where many would consider Hodgson’s position under threat if England did not win.

In the end, it was a complete team performance, but one where so many shone on an individual level.  Fabian Delph did a wonderful job bringing that extra bit of energy, determination, work ethic and grit into the middle of the park that England have lacked for some time.  His versatility and ability to help the side transition from defense to the counter attack was crucial to the team on the whole; he was certainly England’s best midfielder on the night.

Wayne Rooney certainly put in the type of performance that many will expect from him each time he put’s on the armband (image courtesy of England’s official Facebook page)

The highlight of the night for England was surely the attacking trio or Rooney, Welbeck and Sterling.  Not only did all three players bring energy and direct football, but they exhibited an ability to be mobile and rotate positions flawlessly amongst each other; such rotation surely gave Bergen and Rodriguez a torrid time all evening, as the Swiss left flank was often the targeted side.  With the creative spark of Sterling behind him and Welbeck’s power and pace along side him, the pressure was taken off the shoulders of Rooney just enough for him to put in a performance far more befitting of not only his ability but of the armband as well.

With Raheem Sterling sitting in the hole behind the front pair, the Liverpool youngster was finally no longer isolated on one of the flanks, and was truly allowed to express himself.  With plenty of space to roam and pop up around the pitch to receive the ball and burst forward, it was that same interchangeability that saw England bag their first goal.

The front-three would break quickly in the 59th minute while crisscrossing their way into the box in a move thaw saw Welbeck finish from close range after a fantastic ball was squared across the face of goal by Sterling after he was put through by Rooney.  it was the type of incisive counter-attack that England were always capable of, but now finally relying on.

Danny Welbeck finds the back of the net for England’s opener after Raheem Sterling played a brilliant ball across the box for the Arsenal man to finish from close range (image courtesy of England’s official Facebook page)

The match would seesaw back and forth until stoppage time, when England won possession in the Switzerland half and set on the break again.  Second-half substitute Rickie Lambert would eventually put Welbeck through on goal for the Arsenal man to slot home England’s second, completing his brace in the dying moments – three points were in the bag, and the building blocks were laid.

While Welbeck is now being crowned a hero for his two-goal haul, cooler heads must prevail and remember that this was very much a strong performance on the whole.  Welbeck’s movement in the final third, willingness to get into the right positions in the box and the way he took both of his goals was very much a breath of fresh air, but one must wonder where Roy goes from here?

With Daniel Sturridge still the likely first choice striker, and the success of the 4-3-1-2, Hodgson now has a bit of a selection dilemma on his hands.  Surely, Rooney is always going to be in the XI, and now likely to occupy one of the two births at striker, while Sterling looks set to flourish in that number 10 role; that leaves Sturridge and Welbeck to fight it out over the other striker position.

Competition for places is never a bad thing, but surely the pro’s and con’s will have to be weighed.  Sturridge brings pace, finishing abiltiy and his near-telepathic connection with Sterling to the England XI, while Welbeck brings additional power that Sturridge does not have, as well as his under-standing with now former team mate Wayne Rooney – one thing is for sure, this is a selection dilemma that many will be happy to fight over.

In the end, this was the type of response and performance that England needed.  They were not perfect, but they were good.  With Roy Hodgson seemingly ready to be more aggressive his selections and his tactical deployments, there is a chance that the Three Lions have hit a turning point in their bid to re-establish themselves as a European powerhouse – surely, all it will take is more strong performances and bold decisions on the touchline and on the tactics board.  Here’s hoping England are finally ready to make positive strides.