1 One striker makes history as another shows us his traits
“Wembley, you’ve just witnessed history” boomed the stadium announcer over the Tannoy six minutes from time as the mobile-phone cameras flashed around the arena and Wayne Rooney pointed to the heavens almost in relief. The national goalscoring record is his, a half-century of goals recorded with that late penalty dispatched off Yann Sommer’s left glove, and the 29-year-old can now concentrate on taking his tally further into uncharted territory.
Yet this win was a tale of two strikers. Where the captain had gone 84 minutes with only fleeting glimpses of goal, the current golden boy of the English game had ruthlessly taken his own opportunity. Harry Kane’s third goal in four caps was crisply pilfered 10 minutes into his cameo. He returns to Tottenham Hotspur revived. Rooney is back at Manchester United as a record breaker.
2 Europe will hardly be quaking in its boots just yet
England’s pursuit of a perfect qualification record was maintained with this victory but while the Swiss are tricky opponents who started the campaign ranked appreciably higher than Roy Hodgson’s team, the contenders for Euro 2016 will hardly be blanching just yet at the thought of confronting the English next summer.
This was a stodgy display for too long, albeit one that livened up after the interval to yield the decisive goals, and better and bolder opponents than the Swiss might have prospered. The lack of intensity might be put down to the fact the home side had already qualified and, indeed, the visitors’ hopes did not hinge on emerging unscathed. Yet the lethargy seemed rather too familiar. Hodgson knows his team will be punished if they perform like this in France.
3 England need more from Sterling
It was Raheem Sterling who earned Rooney his opportunity from the spot, tumbling eagerly over Granit Xhaka’s leg, although if England are to break with recent convention and illuminate next summer’s European Championship then they will need to coax more from the youngster than was on offer here. The winger has made a positive impact at Manchester City after that acrimonious switch from Liverpool but there were times at Wembley when he appeared lost in the mediocrity of it all. Admittedly, Stephan Lichtsteiner is a clever opponent and the constant morphing of the home side’s formation might have left Sterling bewildered. But if the manager considers Sterling a senior player, as was suggested by his omission in San Marino, then he has to step up more consistently than this. England hope he does when it really matters.
4 Wake-up call for Shelvey and Barkley
Jonjo Shelvey and Ross Barkley have been magnificent for Swansea and Everton to date this season, their selection in this squad – and team, once Michael Carrick had returned to Manchester and the ping of Fabian Delph’s hamstring after nine seconds resulted in Barkley being summoned from the bench – well merited, with each having offered glimpses of their capabilities in San Marino on Saturday.
This was more revealing, however. Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler have made a quieter impact in the Premier League this term with Watford and Leicester respectively, but they are canny performers on this stage. José Mourinho had actually name-checked both recently when listing the eye-catching arrivals in the division, and this was evidence why. They harried, hassled, denied England any space to prosper and dictated the rhythm for long periods. Too many of Shelvey’s grander passes failed to come off, while Barkley appeared uncomfortable, and both England youngsters were stretched defensively. They should count this an education.
5 Full-back combination offers a threat
This was actually one of Nathaniel Clyne’s less convincing defensive performances for his country, the Liverpool right-back nervy when Valentin Stocker and Ricardo Rodríguez doubled up on him down his flank, but he galloped forward eagerly with his forward-thinking mirrored on the opposite flank. Luke Shaw, fresh from a fine start to the campaign at Manchester United, looked at home, with his energy and awareness refreshing, and provided the assist for Harry Kane’s goal. He has taken his chance in this international window, confirming all that promise from his days at Southampton, which may have implications for the injured Leighton Baines’ future at this level while Kieran Gibbs craves game-time at Arsenal. This full-back combination offers balance, industry and quality.
They may be inexperienced at this level but they should become fixtures in the team.