I wrote an article yesterday about how England doesn’t have the talent to compete on the big stage with their continent rivals.
However, I did see some cause for optimism in Moldova for England and boss Roy Hodgson.
The Three Lions cruised to a 5-0 victory in Moldova in their opening World Cup qualifier and always looked comfortable, against admittedly a very poor team.
The arrival of Roy Hodgson as boss has seen some changes to the England set-up. It was refreshing to see that the England boss changed from his tradition rigid 4-4-2, to a more fluid formation against the Moldovans.
In that fluid formation Hodgson gave chances to young midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverley. Both youngsters played well, albeit against a very poor Moldova side. Cleverley in particular was outstanding playing in the hole just behind lone striker Jermain Defoe.
The Manchester United midfielder’s career has been badly stalled by injuries in recent years. However, it looks like at 23 years-old he has finally got over his injury-problems. He has been a regular in the United team this season and looks set for a run in the Red Devils midfield.
Cleverley has been recognised as one of the players that could come into the England midfield and become a regular at international level, as well as club level. Cleverley’s display last night showed why he is regarded so highly.
He did everything last night an attacking midfielder should do, apart from get on the score sheet. If he can add goals to his game then he could have a very bright future for Manchester United and England. It might have only been one game, but it was a snippet of what he can do.
He is a very neat and tidy footballer, who against poor opposition can prove very effective. Time will tell whether he will cut it against the better teams on the international stage. It wasn’t a bad start for him though.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was also impressive. The youngster has also been getting more playing time with his club Arsenal this season. The 19 year-old is one of the most promising players to come in to the England set-up for a long time.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is a player that has all the attributes to be your classic playmaking midfielder. He has started mostly on the flanks for the Gunners, but his more natural position is as an attacking midfielder.
I do believe that Oxlade-Chamberlain is a more naturally gifted footballer than Cleverley. He has the ability to take on opposition defences and play the killer ball. What he needs now is more experience.
Some have compared Chamberlain to Gunners and England teammate Theo Walcott, because he came from Southampton to Arsenal. Walcott has never fulfilled his potential and his development seems to have stalled.
I would suggest that Chamberlain is a completely different player. I would also suggest that Chamberlain has the ability to become a far more compete footballer than his teammate.
Like Walcott Chamberlain has decent pace, if not blistering he is no slouch though. The youngster has far more composure on the ball though and could become a very good player indeed.
This game may have only been against Moldova, but it was a good experience for the pair who are just starting out in their international careers. They are likely to come up against far tougher opposition in the future.
However, as international footballers they will have to learn to play against teams like Moldova. These experiences will stand them in good stead for the future.
I am not getting carried away by one 5-0 victory over an international minnow, but there were encouraging signs for England and their fans. Not just because of the performance of the youngsters, but also the willingness of Roy Hodgson to shake things up a little.
I am not naïve enough to believe that the victory will cure all the ills of the English game. However, in the likes of Cleverley and Oxlade-Chamberlain England has players that could be future first team regulars and that is no bad thing.
Can Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverley be England regulars?