England vs. Chile: 6 Things We Learned
England lost 2-0 to an Alexis Sanchez-inspired Chile at Wembley on Friday night in a game in which Roy Hodgson opted to examine many fringe options for his World Cup squad.
Chile, too, were understrength, with both Jorge Valdivia and Arturo Vidal absent of their usual starting lineup, but put on a convincing display to earn a second straight Wembley success.
While Hodgson will not be too concerned by the result, the game will have raised some concerns about some players used, while others will have strengthened their claims to a World Cup spot.
So, just what did we learn from the encounter at Wembley?
1. Frank Lampard Should Not Be Guaranteed a World Cup Place
Frank Lampard was handed his commemorative 100th cap for England ahead of the encounter at Wembley, but it was the last time he was seen before his second-half substitution.
While that may be an overly dramatic phrasing of his anonymity, the fact remains that as the senior midfielder and main distributor he should have done much more.
Chile got the better of Lampard and forced him into many long balls early in the game. The Chelsea man is not a bad passer, but it is also not the strongest suit to his game.
Lampard has had to drop deeper into midfield as age catches up with him, but he is not as effective in the role as Steven Gerrard can be and, even at club level, has often been fairly subdued this season.
England cannot hand World Cup places out for sentimental reasons. After a disappointing showing against Montenegro, also, Lampard has to prove between now and next summer that he is truly deserving of inclusion ahead of one of the country's emerging midfield options.
2. England Can Learn from Chile's Self-Awareness
The problem with England is often not their philosophy but more the lack of one. Jurgen Klopp recently stated that his Dortmund side are built on English values, per the Daily Mail, yet England often feel the need to try and copy another nation's approach.
Chile, meanwhile, did undergo a top-down changing of attitudes under Marcelo Bielsa a few years previous, but they are a side completely at ease with their identity—win or lose.
In Prof. Sampaoli they have an excellent manager who has been defeated just once in 13 games this calendar year, drawing away with both Spain and Brazil—albeit in a domestic game. They have talent, but maximise it through excellent teamwork and tactical understanding.
Against Poland, England showed signs of playing the game that Klopp describes. The high-paced end-to-end action that English players are famed for producing, and that, if done properly, can be highly effective.
England were a much-changed unit Friday night and played as such. Chile, like Spain and Germany, have shown this year that they can change personnel, but the system and approach remains.
Hodgson must hand England a similar identity of their own before they will ever maximise their potential.
3. Marcelo Diaz Can Play at a Higher Level
Anyone who has followed South American football over the past couple of years will be aware of Marcelo Diaz and his excellence as part of Sampaoli's magnificent Universidad de Chile side of 2011.
He has since moved on to Swiss side FC Basel and played an important role for them in memorable European nights against Tottenham and Chelsea in particular. At Wembley, he was simply sensational.
Playing in a deep-lying playmaker role, Diaz ran the game for Chile and was an illusive presence for England all night.
Even with the work-rate of James Milner and Jack Wilshere in midfield areas, England couldn't get near Diaz, and he was a key factor in Chile's long spells of possessional dominance.
There is no doubting that, with the right side, he could play at a much higher level than Basel. With both club and country, he has been excellent for some time now and perhaps deserves a shot at a big move.
At 26, he still has plenty of time to do so while in the prime years of his footballing career.
4. James Milner Should Be Dropped Until He Gives Reason for a Recall
While Lampard should be told to prove why he should remain in the England setup, with Milner it is a case of removing him until he proves otherwise.
Milner has many admirable qualities and is not as bad a footballer as many would make him out to be. The fact remains, though, that he adds very little to England's side when he is on the pitch.
At Aston Villa, Milner showed signs of being a very promising central midfielder. However, having started only half of City's league games since his arrival and very few Champions League games, he is regressing as a footballer.
Even in their brief appearances in the second half, both Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley showed more ability to make an impact than the City man. He is a player who has lost belief and has been hindered by his own versatility.
He is a central midfielder, though. He should not be used as a winger nor taken to the World Cup solely as a utility option. He must earn his place in a specific role, with his versatility simply a bonus rather than the other way around.
5. England Need Michael Carrick to Start in Brazil
Michael Carrick is the best English midfielder in the Premier League at present. He has been instrumental in Manchester United's continued presence at the top of the table over the past few seasons and was terrific in England's victory over Poland.
There will be some who argue he has never "done it" for his country. But, the truth is, he has never really had the chance.
England cannot go to the World Cup with a central midfield containing both Gerrard and Lampard. If they do, a first-round exit beckons.
Jack Wilshere, who looks to have found form after a slow start to the season, will fill one berth in what will likely be a midfield three and captain Gerrard another. The anchor must be Carrick.
England have no midfielder as adept at keeping the ball, and his calm presence was sorely missed against an excellent Chile side. In his absence, though, his importance has only grown.
6. Wayne Rooney Is Better Suited to a No. 10 Role
If England do play with a central midfield trio next summer, it may well be that Wayne Rooney will have to play as the side's No. 9. It is not his best position, though.
Rooney is at his best when somebody else is leading the line and stretching play, leaving him free to float in the gaps created and begin to control the attacking play.
Hodgson has experimented with a hybrid wide role before, allowing Danny Welbeck to drift centrally from the left flank, and it may be that this is Rooney's best role come next summer. Either Welbeck, or more likely Daniel Sturridge, would then lead the line.
Rooney can play No. 9 and do it well. He is a brilliant talent who can play a number of positions without indication that he is uncomfortable in the role—which Manchester United have benefited from for many years.
However, he is limited by the role of lone centre-forward and, while he may score goals, his all-round impact is not as great as it may be.
Rooney threatened Chile and worked hard to press defenders high up the pitch. But, he could have done with being freed to play what is his natural game a bit deeper in the England attack.