Rashford & Dier spare the Three Lions: 4 things we learned from England vs Slovakia

Here are four things we learned from Wembley as a Marcus Rashford goal rescued a victory for England against Slovakia.

England survived a massive banana-skin last night as they came from behind to beat Slovakia and take another big step towards World Cup qualification.

Stanislav Lobotka took advantage of some chaotic English defending to put the Slovaks in front after just three minutes, but Eric Dier swept in Marcus Rashford’s corner to level the scores before the young Manchester United striker put the Three Lions ahead after 59 minutes.

Gareth Southgate’s side can confirm their spot at the 2018 World Cup with a victory in their next fixture against Slovenia in October.

  1. 1 No escaping Lallana's importance

    England have always seemed to lack a true 'number ten,' someone to get in between the lines in the final third to dictate the tempo and find the gaps in the defence.

    Adam Lallana is the closest England have had to a playmaker for several years, and the Three Lions look pedestrian and lack invention without his industry and ball work.

    With Lallana injured, Gareth Southgate should have planned for this issue. James Ward-Prowse provides creativity and can dictate play, albeit from deeper, as can Jonjo Shelvey.

    However, there's an unfounded emphasis on athleticism over technique, meaning slower, more technical players such as Lallana have often been overlooked.

    Southgate could even have utilised a system that doesn't need an out-and-out playmaker, such as the 3-4-3 akin to the one Chelsea used last season.

  2. 2 Find Alli to wreak havoc

    Dele Alli is one of the most talented players of his generation, capable of the spectacular and an array of impressive attributes.

    However, Alli is someone whose best attribute is arguably his off the ball movement, drifting into pockets of space unmarked. It's not unjustified to say the 21-year-old is often sloppy and ineffective when on the ball.

    The Tottenham star will often lose possession during the build-up phase of play.

    Though this will undoubtedly improve with age and his contribution to the game outweighs this negative, in the first half England could not find Alli when he was making those movements.

    It's not surprising that England looked a far better outfit in the second half when they looked for Alli. His intelligence and quality created some of the Three Lions' best moments and had the Slovakia team second-guessing.

  3. 3 England are organised without the ball

    Slovakia are a good, well-drilled team with some quality players, proven by their superb goal in only the third minute.

    Therefore, while England often looked laboured and lacked creativity with the ball, Southgate and his side should be commended for their organisation without it.

    After taking the lead in the second half, England were solid, with two banks of four not allowing Slovakia's creative stars time or space to flourish.

    England knew when to sit and get back in shape and then when to press. They will play better sides who will test them more, but this organisation will prove crucial if they wish to be successful.

  4. 4 Is Oxlade-Chamberlain a footballer?

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has long been a player with enthusiasm and energy, but one that struggles with his decision making.

    Frequently last night 'the Ox' would drive past a Slovakia opponent with his pace and agility but provided no end product when it mattered.

    The new Liverpool signing needs to play in a position that fits his best attributes rather than continue trying to be a jack of all trades. 

    He wants to play as a central midfielder but is yet to demonstrate that he has the tactical discipline or technical ability to play there. There were times last night when the Ox looked like an athlete with a ball at his feet.

    Perhaps he would have been best served as a right wing-back for Chelsea where there is less reliance on him to make decisions and can instead use his incredible pace, energy and ball carrying skills to good effect.

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Harry Brooks


Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!