England’s midfield trigger Carlton Palmer

Italy 1 - 1 England - International Friendly - March 31st, 2015 - Turin, Italy


Roy Hodgson went wild and crazy with his experimental team selection for England’s friendly against Italy and somehow came up with a side duller than usual.

Some in the media say Roy’s 4-4-2 diamond has been a success since the World Cup debacle, Roy loves it. Well it worked once, against Switzerland it had no chance of working in Turin as Roy picked the dullest diamond in the history of either diamonds or football.

Jones flanked by Henderson and Delph. Honestly it was like being back in the early 90s as Carlton Palmer strode like a colossus through the England midfield. Palmer, flanked by Daley and Sinton actually looks preferable than this trio, hell it would almost make you wish for Gerrard and Lampard to return.

The perpetually befuddled Jones can be summed up in this one Tweet…

The only surprising thing about his performance was the fact he didn’t come off injured. No that was left to his ManUre sidekick Smalling who luckily departed so that one part of Roy’s experiment was dismantled, as Carrick arrived.

Jose Mourinho accused Roy of making like for like changes to personnel, he replaces a glass for a glass, when what is required is a bottle for a glass. With Jones brought in in place of Carrick he replaced a galss with a rusty, battered, colander.

Hell even in defence Jones made Chiellini look like a cross between Cruyff and Messi for the Italian’s goal.

The big left sided centre-back turned him this way and that before putting an excellent cross in with his right foot – watch Gibbs all night come in on his right and panic because he can’t use that foot for anything other than standing on – for Pelle to finish it off with a glancing header that he wishes he could do at Southampton.

The Italians could have racked up a few more in that first half as England answered the question of where are they really after the World Cup fiasco. Good enough to beat Lithuania but struggle against a new look Italian side who are slightly higher than 94th in the world.

The host were just that little bit off with the final ball, or in some cases the final run. Offside when they didn’t need to be because they had plenty of room, especially on England’s left as Gibbs left acres for any cross-field ball to find it’s man.

With that midfield trio offering England nothing going forward, nothing went forward. Well Smalling did once, he loped down the field all purposeful and full of intent and then passed it sideways. Henderson had an amazing ability to find the head of a player wearing a blue shirt with aimless humps up the park, especially from his set pieces – why on earth was he taking corners and free-kicks? While Delph struggled to find any player from either team. Jones, well he just panicked and passed it back or sideways.

So Kane had to make something out of nothing. He chased down aimless balls and created something from them. Headed one down he had no right to get to to create England’s only real chance of that half. One shot just deflected and a great cross that Rooney should have done better with followed in the second.

Roy thinks England played well in the second half but I have a doubt he has a clue why.

They did because Italy made a bunch of changes which disrupted them a bit. Though they still had a number of chances to increase their lead, number of times they were through but again the final ball was just that bit off.

England were also better when Delph, Henderson and Walcott – oh, was he playing, you’d never have noticed – were removed. Finally they had some go forward. Barkley was frustrating as he tended to overplay things and run into trouble, but he added some guile at least.

Townsend came on and did what Townsend does, aimless running across the park, no matter which side he starts on, and then shooting but bizarrely this time his shot didn’t hit row Z as I expertly predicted it would as he came on. No it hit the back of the net, stunner.

As all the English pundits state that this is what he does every week for Spurs all the Spurs fans were asking why he doesn’t do this every week for Spurs.

Yes it’s great fun that he rubbed Paul Merson’s nose in it straight after the game but in reality how many Spurs fans were thinking that no, Townsend and Walker shouldn’t have been in that squad on current form, along with Walcott – I know I was – though Merson probably missed out that last name, possible short term memory loss from certain narcotic substances.

It was no coincidence that either that Townsend’s shot came from the area of the park that Chiellin would have been if he hadn’t been substituted seven minutes earlier.

Nice that Mason got a bit of time on the park and the assist, who ever saw that coming?

But overall getting a draw, or saving the point as Roy probably thought, against an experimental Italian side in a meaningless friendly in front of a very sparse crowd isn’t something to be overjoyed at it’s just a sign of things to come, which are unsurprisingly similar to things in the past. Come up against a decent side and England struggle. Lithuania is their level.

Then you see in the paper Walcott, Delph, Henderson, Jones getting scores of 5/10 and it’s all explained by them giving Steven Gerrard 2 for his 48 second appearance in the league before being sent off against ManUre.

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