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How England rated during their 4-0 win against Malta?

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England’s World Cup qualifying campaign took them to Malta tonight, where Gareth Southgate’s men were looking to maintain their two point lead at the top of group F.

Despite being frustrated by their limited opponents for long periods, and often failing to break down a deep-lying and well-manned defence, Harry Kane finally gave England an early second-half lead when he fired home after good play by teammate Dele Alli.

As the game petered out and Malta tired, the Three Lions added three more goals in the final six minutes, with Ryan Bertrand, Danny Welbeck and Kane again adding some sheen to a largely insipid and uninspired performance.

So how exactly did the players rate? The Boot Room offers its verdict here:

Joe Hart – A relatively easy night for the stopper, who was a controversial choice given his form for Torino and West Ham during the last year. With Malta defending deep and in numbers he had little involvement during the game, aside from operating as a sweeper keeper and distributing the ball from the back when required. In fact, Hart did not have a single save to make during the 90 minutes, so it remains hard to determine whether or not he should be retained as England’s number one. 6

Kyle Walker – The right-back was typically energetic up and down the touchline, while Malta’s lack of genuine attacking threat enabled him to supplement England’s forwards at will. Despite this, fans will probably not be surprised to know that his final ball was disappointing, making it difficult for the Three Lions to make the most of the time and space that they were afforded in the wide areas. 5

Phil Jones – The Manchester United centre-back has been imperious during the opening three games of the Premier League season, so his call-up as Gary Cahill’s partner was more than justified. He was, aggressive, solid throughout and defended well when called upon, save for a couple of second-half misjudgements as Malta began to press. 6

Gary Cahill – Like his partner, Cahill defended on the front foot from the first whistle, pressing Farrugia well and looking to maintain as high a line as possible. He was solid and largely untroubled, although he could arguably have done more to step out from the back and provide a little more composure in possession. 7

Ryan Bertrand – Like Walker, Bertrand spent most of his time in Malta’s half, looking to support the attack and link-up with his forwards. However, he was not quite as ambitious as Walker in terms of overlapping and perhaps a played a little too conservatively given the standard of the opposition. He did manage to score the decisive second (and his first) England goal late on, striking from distance with a swerving shot across the goalkeeper. 6

Jordan Henderson – Gareth Southgate’s decision to spread the England’s captaincy smacks of indecision, while it also hints at the lack of genuine leadership that exists within the squad. Henderson was the main man against Malta, although he struggled to impose himself in a relatively deep and restricted midfield role. His passing lacked tempo and ambition, preventing England from moving the ball quickly and putting Malta under sustained periods of pressure throughout. 5

Jake Livermore: Livermore’s selection as a genuine holding midfielder was a strange one, particularly when you consider that England boasted 78% possession of the ball during the first-half. The West Bromwich Albion midfielder also failed to dictate the tempo of England’s game, preferring to retain possession with short, sideways passes rather than looking to play the ball forward quickly and feed the creative talents like Dele Alli when they were able to find pockets of space. 5

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Liverpool’s new signing was selected in a right-wing position against Malta, where he clearly had instructions to hog the touchline and add genuine width to England’s play. He was certainly disciplined in this respect, while his direct running also enabled him to get in behind the Maltese backline on several occasions. His final ball was disappointing, but he at least threatened in the wide areas. 6

Dele Alli – Despite his tender age, Dele Alli shoulders the creative burden in the current England team, with his movement, guile and eye for goal capable of turning a game in an instant. This weight of expectation appears to weigh heavy at times, and Alli struggled against the massed ranks of Malta’s packed and hard-working defence. Like we say, he was not helped by poor service from the midfield, but this is a game and a performance that Alli will want to forget in a hurry. 5

Raheem Sterling – A frustrating night for the Manchester City man, who has endured a mixed start to the new season and seemed somewhat unsettled by the Telegraph reports that he was offered to Arsenal as part of a proposed deal for Alexis Sanchez. He was also targeted by some heavy Maltese tackles early on, before resorting to some niggly fouls of his own as his first touch and final ball continued to lack any kind of sharpness. He was replaced by Marcus Rashford at half-time. 5

Harry Kane – While we all know that Harry Kane hates August, he finds September far more palatable. The first day of the new month brought two goals for the Tottenham striker, in a game during which the forward struggled to find space or successfully bring others into play on a regular basis. Despite this, his finishing was excellent when it mattered the most, with Kane scoring twice from the six shots that he had on goal during the 90 minutes. 7

Subs:

Marcus Rashford – A half-time substitute for the ineffective Sterling, Rashford added a new dimension to England’s attack with his raw pace, intelligent movement and awareness of others. Threatening on the left and simply superb when switched to the right to accommodate Danny Welbeck, his delightful ball set up Kane’s second goal while a stunning back-heel also afforded Kyle Walker a shooting chance late on. 8

Jamie Vardy – The Leicester striker replaced Alli with 20 minutes to go, as Southgate looked to punish a tiring Malta with a two-pronged strike-force. Vardy was typically lively and full of running, although aside from one run and shot at goal he failed to have any kind of impact in the final third. 5

Danny Welbeck -Despite only arriving with 14 minutes to go, Welbeck reaffirmed his reputation as one of England’s most consistent players with a lively and dynamic cameo. He added pace, movement and tempo in attack, while he even managed to find the net with a looping finish from Harry Kane’s pass late on. 7

England

Three talking points as England earned a credible draw against Germany

Jake Jackman

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England

England ramped up their World Cup preparations with a friendly match against long-time rivals Germany at Wembley Stadium. Despite a number of drop-outs earlier this week, the Three Lions managed to deliver a confident performance and the match finished goalless. It wasn’t a bore 0-0, as both teams had chances to score, but a draw was probably a fair result. Gareth Southgate will have learned a lot about his players on Friday evening, especially those making their debuts. Here are three talking points from the match:

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a contender to make the World Cup squad

It was a pleasant surprise last week when Gareth Southgate named his squad for the upcoming friendlies, as he dropped players that hadn’t performed for England and replaced them with young, hungry players with potential. Ruben Loftus-Cheek wouldn’t have expected to be in the running for an England call-up at this stage of his career. He has had a promising start to a loan spell at Crystal Palace, but this was an early call-up.

Southgate knows the midfielder from his time as Under-21 manager and his decision to call up Loftus-Cheek looks a great one. The 21-year-old was positive in possession and played several forward passes that created good openings for the home side. Although none of them led to goals, the midfielder did cause problems for the world champions and looked at home at this level. He will need to show consistency and deliver at club level to remain in the manager’s thoughts, but this was a great start to life as an international player.

Leroy Sane is one of the best young players in the world

The Manchester City winger has been wowing the English public since moving to join Pep Guardiola’s side last summer. There are some that think he is helped by the players he is surrounded by at the Etihad Stadium and that might be true, but he is a great player in his own right and he showed that on Friday. Germany threatened a lot in the first half and their best player was Leroy Sane.

The quick-footed winger hit the bar in the first half with a great strike from distance, while he also saw an effort cleared off the line by Phil Jones. Defenders know what he is going to do when he gets the ball, but it is almost impossible to stop. Sane continues to develop on a weekly basis at Manchester City and this performance showed that he is going to be just as important for his country this summer.

Jordan Pickford staked his claim to be number one

The England goalkeeper’s position has been widely debated since Euro 2016, as Joe Hart has been on a downwards curve. He was initially dropped by Manchester City and has since been sent on two loan spells. The 30-year-old has failed to look as dominant as he once did at either Torino or West Ham United and that has opened up a possibility of England changing their goalkeeper ahead of the World Cup.

Jack Butland is many people’s favourite to take the jersey, but Jordan Pickford was selected on Friday and he gave a very good showing of himself. The Everton goalkeeper made three or four great stops to keep his clean sheet and looked at home on the international stage. He took the step up in his stride and that is an encouraging sign for the future. It may come too soon for him to be the number one in Russia, but this display puts him firmly in contention.

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Five players to watch from the England Under-17 World Cup squad

Jake Jackman

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England

England Under-17s delivered a dominant performance to beat Brazil to reach the Under-17 World Cup final on Wednesday. The team excited the nation as they were confident on the pitch, attacking the Brazilians with pace and purpose down the flanks. It wasn’t a display that was typical of English teams and offered hope that a brighter future is ahead for the Three Lions.

The concern will be that the league structure in this country isn’t the best for nurturing talent, but there is no doubt that the talent is there. The age groups from Under-17s to Under-21s have all fared well in major competitions in 2017. The Under-20 team won the World Cup and this Under-17 side will be hoping to replicate that success on Saturday. Here are five players to keep an eye on from the squad:

Steven Sessegnon

The Fulham full-back is one of the best talents to come through at Craven Cottage in recent times alongside his brother Ryan, who is already a first-team regular. Steven made his first-team debut earlier this season and has been described as the future of club by his manager Slavisa Jokanovic.

Like his brother, he has a lot of pace and is reliable in possession, capable of carrying the ball for long distances. Against Brazil, he was regularly trying to get forward to support attacks and offered a threat. Tottenham and Everton have both been linked with him, but he is currently at the right club to progress his career.

Tashan Oakley-Boothe 

The central midfielder is at the perfect club to make his first strides into senior football.

Tottenham have become the place to be for young English talent and Oakley-Boothe has been on the fringes of the first team under Mauricio Pochettino. He made his first-team bow against Barnsley earlier this season and has been on the bench for a Premier League fixture.

The teenager is confident on the ball and good at winning back possession, as has been evident throughout the competition. More opportunities could be on the horizon when he returns to Spurs as his manager is already a big fan.

Soccer Football – Brazil vs England – FIFA U-17 World Cup Semi-Final – Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium, Kolkata, India – October 25, 2017. England’s team celebrates their win. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

George McEachran

His older brother, Josh, was billed as the best player to graduate from the Chelsea academy, but he failed to make an impact in the first-team. The Blues have similarly high hopes for George and he will be itching to go one step further than his older sibling.

He is a similar player, as he is comfortable in possession, but he is more offensive and can be used further forward or on the wings. The midfielder has scored crucial goals for the youth teams at Stamford Bridge and his performances at the Under-17 World Cup enhance his reputation.

It could be a while before he plays for the first-team, but he is likely to be seen out on loan in the not too distant future.

Phil Foden

The player on this list with the best chance of making first-team progress this season is Phil Foden and he was the standout player against Brazil. Pep Guardiola is a known fan and has brought him up to the fringes of the first-team squad at Manchester City.

The midfielder is comfortable with the ball in tight spaces and distributes it intelligently for a player of his age. Coaches at the club have been excited about him since he joined as a child and a first-team debut is surely just around the corner.

Soccer Football – Brazil vs England – FIFA U-17 World Cup Semi-Final – Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium, Kolkata, India – October 25, 2017. England’s Rhian Brewster celebrates his goal. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

Rhian Brewster – Liverpool

It will be the young striker that takes the headlines tomorrow and deservedly so. He scored a hat-trick for the second successive round and is currently on course to finish as the tournament’s top scorer.

Brewster is a confident and accomplished finisher as he has shown during the last two matches, while his free-kick against Mexico in an earlier round was superb. His movement and technique on the ball mean that he is difficult to defend against.

There will be several Liverpool fans that will be hoping he gets a chance at some point during this season.

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Harry Winks’ journey from Tottenham academy to England squad

Jake Jackman

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Winks

Harry Winks has been on an upwards trajectory during the last two seasons and has earned a place in the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania. The 21-year-old was called up to the squad after Phil Jones and Fabian Delph were ruled out with injuries. This provides a huge opportunity to the young midfielder as the World Cup is less than a year away and a good showing over the next week could propel him into Gareth Southgate’s thinking for next summer.

The Tottenham player has made seven appearances for the team this season and has grown used to representing his country throughout his career playing youth football. He was capped by England at under-17, under-18, under-19, under-20 and under-21 levels, which underlines how highly he has been thought of within the national set-up since he broke through at youth level.

There are some that believe that this call-up comes too soon, as he has only started four Premier League matches since breaking through at Tottenham. The critics believe that his call-up is premature and that he hasn’t done enough to earn a place in the England set-up yet. However, it is more difficult to break through at a top-six club and Winks has looked impressive every time he has been given an opportunity.

If Gareth Southgate sees the 21-year-old as a future England player, there is an advantage of getting him in a squad early to take a look at him and see how he fits in. These next two games are ones the Three Lions should win and it is as perfect a time as any to give experience to young players coming through. Winks has passion for his country as shown by comments earlier this year that committed him to England rather than Spain, a country he qualified for through his grandparents.

“Obviously I have goals and ambitions that I’d love to achieve this year. Of course, I’d love to play for England this year, but that’s not something I’m saying I’m going to set myself to do. I’m just going to take it step by step in getting into the team.”

This shows good ambition and it is encouraging that he wants to play for England, as a few players in the past haven’t shown commitment to the national team. Although his lack of experience is a problem for some, team-mate Harry Kane is clearly a fan and spoke up the midfielder’s England chances before the call-up was announced:

“He’s waited patiently for his chance. He’s just got to keep doing what he’s doing, keeping his head down. [Winks is] a great player. On the ball, technically he’s fantastic. He reads the game very well, he can drive past players.”

It is more important for a newly called-up player to have the respect of the dressing room than the nation and these comments show that he is highly thought of within the game. There are a lot of Tottenham players in the England squad and that will help him adapt to the international game. Kane’s comments allude to Winks’ technical ability and that is something lacking in the current squad. It could be that Southgate has included the 21-year-old for this purpose.

His career to date

The Tottenham academy has been successful in recent seasons, as Danny Rose and Harry Kane are two players to graduate to the first-team. Harry Winks followed their path and looks set to make a real impression at the top of the English game. He has been around the first-team in training since the 2013-14 season and signed his first professional deal during the following summer.

Winks made his debut towards the end of 2014 in a Europa League game against FK Partizan, but it wasn’t until last season that he broke through as a regular member of the first-team squad. In August of last year, he made his Premier League debut and started for the first time in November. During his first start, he scored against West Ham to bring Tottenham back on level terms and repaid the faith that Mauricio Pochettino showed in him.

For the rest of the campaign, he was a regular from the subs bench and showed a level of consistency in his performances that suggested he belonged at the highest level. Pochettino has a great record of bringing young players through to senior football and Winks is benefitting from that. Earlier this year, he signed a new five-year contract, which showed the belief that Tottenham have in him.

“I’ve been playing for Tottenham since I was six, but I feel like I’m gradually getting a more important role,” 

It was a long journey for Winks to break through as a first-team player, but last season will be looked back on as the season that he emerged. A total of 21 Premier League and four Champions League appearances provided good experience to the midfielder and his performances underlined the potential that he possesses.

The 21-year-old’s career to date is made even more impressive by the fact he hasn’t been out on loan once. His development has been completed solely at Tottenham and that should offer encouragement to supporters. The academy is achieving real success at bringing players through with the right coaching without relying on clubs in the Football League to give them experience in senior football. This means that the players will be moulded into the club’s image, rather than picking up habits from elsewhere. Winks’ success in the first team shows the benefits that can bring.

What is next for Winks?

His primary focus over the coming week will be to impress Southgate and the rest of the England staff in training with the hope of making his debut during this international break. Even if he doesn’t make it onto the field, he will have the opportunity to prove his quality to the coaching staff, which would increase the likelihood of further international call-ups this season.

At club level, he has impressed during his run of appearances this season and at the age of 21, he will be pushing for a regular place in the first-team. The success that Harry Kane has had proves that Mauricio Pochettino is open to giving responsibility to young players. The Spurs manager is a huge fan of Winks, as shown by the following quotes reported by the Evening Standard:

“For me, he is the perfect midfielder, who can play box-to-box and as a holding midfielder,” 

The speed at which Winks has made his mark on senior football has given him no time to reflect on his success, but this England call-up will give him a taste of international football. If he continues to develop at Tottenham, there is no reason why he can’t become a regular for both club and country.

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