England: Tom Cleverley Is Becoming an Integral Part of Roy Hodgson's Plans
Tom Cleverley is beginning to make an impact.
The Manchester United player has become a critical part of Roy Hodgson's England plans recently and his performance in the 5-0 win over San Marino underlines a player who has grown in confidence across recent weeks.
Victory against San Marino shouldn't be celebrated too readily.
Only Liechtenstein have suffered defeat against the minnows. The 1-0 triumph came back in 2004, indicating Hodgson's side were always going to take control of the fixture.
Even so, Cleverley's performance was exemplary.
The 23-year-old worked tirelessly throughout the 90 minutes. Individuals such as Kyle Walker, Michael Carrick and Aaron Lennon were often sloppy, letting the minuscule scale of the match hamper their display—Cleverley didn't fall into this trap.
Away from the headline-grabbing goals of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cleverley posted an impressive set of stats which highlighted his hunger to dictate.
The energetic midfielder made three tackles—more than any other player. He also made 145 passes, 33 more than Oxlade-Chamberlain in second. To top his performance off, 97 percent of these passes found the intended target.
Cleverley is starting to look settled as an international player.
A month ago he missed numerous chances to snatch three points against Ukraine. While the men in yellow are certainly a class above San Marino, Cleverley's improvements are encouraging to his nation's prospects.
Hodgson was correct to stand by his man.
I believe the reintroduction of Rooney is also having a major impact on Cleverley's game.
The pair played well together in Manchester United's Capital One Cup win over Newcastle; Cleverley bagging his first goal for Sir Alex Ferguson's team in a 2-1 win.
A trip to St James' Park provided another opportunity for the duo to start alongside each other.
Despite a slightly disappointing Champions League performance against Cluj just days before, Cleverley played a major role in an impressive 3-0 win.
Once again, Rooney's determination helped him control the match. Once again, Cleverley scored.
His next outing comes against a competitive Poland side.
Warsaw is a little different to Wembley. The fanfare of England's marching band will be muffled inside one of Europe's most hostile environments. Hodgson's side won't have time to carve out a quintet of easy goals.
The immanency of such a fixture means there is little time for Cleverley to rest.
He must take heart from an excellent performance against the weakest team in the world. Now he isn't needed in the 'false 9' position, the United man can influence areas that are more natural to his style of play.
I believe Hodgson understands this now. Cleverley isn't a natural goalscorer and never will be.
Despite this, he represents everything the England boss wants to install within his side: composure, doggedness and style.
If England are to qualify for the World Cup, Cleverley's dynamic talents will be key.
The Slaski Stadium awaits.
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.
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