I have to say in the last two World Cup qualifiers England have looked like a far more positive team going forward.
Last night’s 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley ensured the Three Lions qualification for next year’s finals.
However, it was the more positive approach of veteran coach Roy Hodgson that has caught people’s eyes in recent games.
At times against Poland, and Montenegro in the previous qualifier, England looked like they were playing with four up front.
The two strikers Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney were regularly joined in attack by wingers Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend.
This was a far cry from Hodgson’s safe selection at last year’s European Championships. Maybe Hodgson’s knowledge of his players has improved, or maybe he has just decided to take a less pragmatic approach to games.
All of a sudden the England boss has attacking players stacking their claim for a place in the team. The relatively recent addition to the England squad of Daniel Sturridge and the very recent addition of Andros Townsend have given Hodgson pace and enthusiasm, which the team has been missing at times in recent years.
Arsenal winger Theo Walcott can provide pace, but currently injured, he has flattered to deceive at international level, despite scoring a hat-trick in Croatia early in his national team career. Then there is Manchester United winger Ashley Young, who has suffered from a woeful lack of form and injury problems in the last 18 months.
It really would be hard to leave Townsend out of the team on current form. He was man of the match against Montenegro and very nearly made it two goals in two games for England, only to see a superb curling effort hit the cross bar against Poland.
His direct style of play is something that gives England an extra attacking dimension. Everybody seems to know what he is going to do, but defenders have found him hard to stop. The 22-year-old has come on leaps and bounds this season and if he continues his good form for Tottenham then he will have a great chance of being on the plane to Brazil next summer.
My only concern with Roy Hodgson’s team selection in the last two games has been playing Danny Welbeck as a right-sided midfielder. The United forward has played as a right-sided attacker for his club, but with the formation being 4-4-2 he was expected to trackback, which is not his strong point.
He is a striker by trade, so the defensive work does not come naturally to him. However, he did a decent job in both recent qualifiers. I do think he would struggle in that position against better opposition and another option must be found.
The safe option would be Manchester City’s James Milner, but I do not think he is the answer either. I am sure this is one of the areas of the team that Roy Hodgson will be looking at prior to the start of the finals in Brazil.
Although the England performances against Montenegro and Poland were not perfect, there is still room for major optimism that England’s performances are improving. One thing that seems to have been better in recent games is the ball retention.
It seems that the Three Lions players are keeping the ball far better than in previous games. Whether that is coming from the players themselves or their boss is unknown, but they are definitely not giving the ball away as much as in previous games.
One of the major positives England can take from the games is the performances of the likes of Townsend and to a lesser extent Daniel Sturridge. These are the sort of players England needed to bring in to provide fresh impetus to the team.
The team had gone stale and it was difficult to see how they could get out of what seemed like a slight rut.
The introduction to the squad of the likes of Townsend, Sturridge and even young Ross Barkley is a sign that England does have exciting younger players coming through. The future is not as bleak as some have predicted.
England boss Roy Hodgson has a lot of work ahead of him before the World Cup finals. The last two performances will have encouraged the England boss and he will have had a lot of food for thought for the finals.
The former-Fulham boss will know that things may not be perfect in the England camp, but they certainly look better than they did at last year’s European Championships. Hopefully the stale England team of Euro 2012 is a thing of the past and the England team of World Cup 2014 will be a far more exciting prospect.
At 20/1 to win the competition I do not think I will be rushing out to put a bet on Three Lions. I hope though in future games the team will follow the lead of their last two games and play with more freedom than earlier in Hodgson’s reign.
Have England’s recent displays impressed you?