Football Features

“They sent FIFA a very clear message” – Five things learned as England rally around Bukayo Saka and annihilate Andorra 4-0

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:29, 5 September 2021 | Updated: 17:45, 10 September 2021

In a delightful evening of football, England smashed Andorra 4-0 at Wembley.

What did we learn?

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1. Wembley sends FIFA a message

As Gareth Southgate often points out, there are a great many problems with regards to racism in England. Whether that’s players taking the knee being booed at certain club ground or players being subjected to racial abuse from the stands, it’s definitely present.

However Wembley uniting behind birthday boy Bukayo Saka (and Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho) on his first outing for England since the Euro 2020 final where he missed the decisive penalty and was subject to horrific racial abuse, was a massive, colossal gesture. Saka was cheered pre-match, and his goal (a nice header late on) received the biggest ovation of the afternoon.

Not only were the Wembley faithful showing love to one of their own, but they were sending FIFA a very clear message only a few days after the taking of the knee was booed and the England players subjected to racial abuse from the stands during their World Cup qualifier away to Hungary. England, at least for today, was unified behind their black players; they even applauded the taking of the knee, and the onus is very much on FIFA to now take some decisive action against racism.

Until they do, let’s hope England remains as vociferous in their support of Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho as they were today. The fight against racism is a long-term battle, not a short-term fad. Get on the winning side.

2. Jesse Lingard needs to play

Jesse Lingard was the star of the show in England’s big win over Andorra. Wearing the no. 10 shirt Lingard strutted around the Wembley turf like he so often has in the red for Manchester United. Lingard scored twice, assisted another and gave us the sauciest finish of the night which was cruelly (but correctly) ruled out for offside.

The ease with which Lingard assumed control of the game by not only, y’know, actually shooting – but also making dynamic runs off the ball to blow holes in the Andorran defence shoiw a player who is comfortable assuming a protagonist role for a side. We saw that last season for West Ham as well when Lingard dominated the Premier League while on loan there.

He is too good to sit on the Manchester United bench. And while he will now have to do that until January, one can only hope that in the new year he gets a loan or a regular move and gets to play, because as today showed he’s just too delightful not to.

3. Trent is not a midfielder

Gareth Southgate played three right-backs in this game, two at both full-back spots and one in midfield. In the first-half that was Trent Alexander-Arnold where Southgate seemed to embrace the adage that the Liverpool man will end up in midfield.

Of course, Trent is not a midfielder. He may have been at one point, but his game has evolved to the pint where he is now a full-back. As such he was so awkward in that midfield role but after a half-time change put him back at right-back, England came to life.

Reece James was about as good as Trent in midfield (you’d like to see Southgate just play midfielders in midfield) but Trent was his brilliant self out wide. Attacking spaces, manipulating defences and booming crosses into the box.

Stop trying to make Trent in midfield happen. It’s never going to happen!

4. Grealish and Mount: England’s dynamic duo

England were a bit better than Andorra first-half, but second-half they were – Trent’s performance aside – a bit flat. Then on the hour, Gareth Southgate made a triple substitution and brought on Harry Kane, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount.

Kane is Kane, obviously, but it was Mount and Grealish coming off the bench that really turned up the heat on Andorra. Grealish is a sensational playmaker with heavy ball usage and creative skills, but Mount compliments him so perfectly. Mount is basically England’s Thomas Muller in that he thrives making complimentary runs off the ball and links the play so superbly, so pairing him with Grealish is devastating and this evening Andorra were the primary victims.

Grealish and Mount cut through the Andorrans like a hot knife through butter to create the penalty for the second goal, and later Grealish tore down the right and put it on a plate for Kane only for the striker to miss. Their interplay was too much for Andorra and it should prove to be that way for better opponents too, which is why Grealish and Mount should be spoken of as a pair from now on.

5. England still have the handbrake on

As much as a 4-0 home win is fantastic for all involved, especially given the feelgood emotions around Bukayo Saka scoring on his birthday and Jude Bellingham’s promising display at the heart of the England midfield; the Three Lions are still playing with the handbrake on, they are not moving anywhere near to as slick as they could be.

Obviously no team should have to be at full-steam to beat Andorra but we’ve seen at Euro 2020 that the Three Lions struggle to raise their game when they face better opponents; and the only way to get in practice to do that is to completely wallop lesser sides.

England scored their four goals from four shots on target. They didn’t force a save until the 89th minute. Alright, they won comfortably, but they needed to bring on their big guns to win it late. They should have blown Andorra away in the opening 20 minutes, that’s the standard they need to set in order to elevate themselves to the top tier they want to belong on.