#3 Wales’ defending was too naive and led to their downfall
If anything, the 3-0 scoreline of this match flattered England, who struggled for creativity throughout the game. However, in a lot of respects, Wales came away with what they deserved. Ryan Giggs’ side were tidy in possession and looked dangerous early in the first half. But some naive defending eventually undid them.
Jack Grealish’s cross for England’s first goal was definitely outstanding. But Wales defenders Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon completely failed to track Dominic Calvert-Lewin, allowing him a free header on goal that he comfortably put away.
In the second half, meanwhile, nobody tracked Conor Coady when Kieran Trippier’s free-kick floated into the box, allowing him to score. And finally, Danny Ings was completely unmarked when he was able to score from a bicycle kick following Tyrone Mings’ knockdown.
Wales’ defence was indeed somewhat inexperienced tonight – Mepham and Rodon have a combined 16 international caps. But there’s also no excuse for such naive defending, at any level.
If Giggs wants to take his side to the 2022 World Cup, then he needs to ensure his defence performs a lot better than they did tonight. Otherwise top international attackers will take full advantage and condemn them to more disappointing losses like this one.
#4 England looked dangerous from set-pieces again
One of the most notable parts of England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup was how dangerous Gareth Southgate’s side were from set-pieces. England scored 12 goals during that tournament, and incredibly, discounting penalties, six of them came from set-piece situations.
Since then though, England have looked far less dangerous from set-pieces than they did during that tournament. Sure, they’ve scored a handful of goals from corners and free-kicks, but a lot of times it’s felt like Southgate’s men have been out of ideas from dead-balls.
Tonight though, England looked much more dangerous from set-pieces than they’ve done in some time and scored two of their three goals from them. Kieran Trippier’s free-kick for Conor Coady’s goal in particular was outstanding, while Tyrone Mings rose brilliantly to knock down a corner to set up Danny Ings’ overhead kick.
Sure, the goals were partially made possible by Wales’ poor defending. But given England’s general dearth of creativity, it was nice to see them manage to find the back of the net in a different kind of way. If they can remain this dangerous from set-pieces – and find a way to create more chances from open play again – they will definitely score goals at next summer’s European Championships.
#5 Would the game have been different with fans in attendance?
Given this was the first meeting between England and Wales since then, it was hard not to compare this match to the classic Euro 2016 showdown between the two sides.
Of course, this game was never going to be quite as dramatic as a match during a major international tournament. But we’ve seen plenty of international friendlies with as much fireworks as any competitive game. So what made this one feel a little flat?
The most likely explanation was the lack of fans in attendance. Fans of football have probably gotten used to the sight of behind-closed-doors games during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And they’ve probably gotten used to the fake crowd noise from the TV as well.
There can be no doubt, though, that a Home Nations clash like this would’ve been made much more special had Wembley been packed with fans.
The big question right now is, does it really need to be this way? Wembley has a capacity of 90,000, and while it would clearly not have been viable to have a full stadium, could perhaps 30,000 fans have been allowed in, with empty seats being left to ensure social distancing?
With so much pressure on lower league clubs right now due to empty stadiums, it’s definitely a question that’s worth asking. Football is always a great sport to watch, but it’s much better with fans in attendance. And the quality of this game would almost certainly have been higher had there been a live crowd.