England and Ghana played out a wonderful attacking match of free-flowing football at Wembley yesterday evening in front of a packed Wembley, which included 20,000 Ghana supporters.
But what did the match between Fabio Capello’s Three Lions and the World Cup quarter-finalists teach us?
Here’s Five things we learned from England v Ghana:
1) Young Remains inconsistent
Aston Villa’s Ashley Young is at times thrilling to watch and has fantastic ability, but my word that inconsistency, which continues to rile Aston Villa fans, still shines through. Young showed flashes of brilliance against Ghana, just as he did against Wales at the weekend, when he was in irrepressible form.
However, after the opening 45 minutes when he was quite superb and was getting the better of the Fulham defender John Pantsil and was involved in some lovely link play with Villa team mate Stewart Downing, what did he do in the second period? The fleet-footed forward was quiet before he was replaced.
If he wants to make a place in the England starting eleven his own, then he needs to stop going quiet for long periods in matches and start taking the game by the scruff of the neck more.
2) Asamoah Gyan could be outstanding for Sunderland next season
Asamoah Gyan has been a good signing for Sunderland this season. For £13m the Ghana striker has settled in and done a decent job on Wearside this season, but Steve Bruce will certainly be looking for more from the 25-year-old next term. However, at Wembley last night he was simply magnificent.
Big and strong, with a silky touch and many tricks up his sleeve, Gyan gave the England defence, in particular Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott a torrid time, and his goal in second half injury time was simply magnificent.
If Steve Bruce can get the forward to replicate this form on a regular basis next season, rather than just intermittently, as he has so far during his debut campaign in English football, then Sunderland’s sometime goal-shy side will carry far more attacking threat, especially if they can keep Danny Welbeck for another season, and if Stephane Sessegnon can acclimatise to life at the Stadium of Light.
3) Gareth Barry still has a role to play for the Three Lions
Scott Parker was by common consensus excellent against Wales. Jack Wilshere’s prodigious ability is beginning to shine through at international level, as it has with his club. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are still available for their country. But Gareth Barry proved last night that he should definitely still be a part of Fabio Capello’s plans.
The Manchester City midfielder skippered his country and gave a masterclass in the art of keeping possession of the football, especially in the first half when he made 44 passes, 43 of which found a team mate.
The one thing Barry has always lacked is pace, but playing in a 4-3-3 formation, there is much less chance of him being exposed, the way he was by Mesut Ozil during the World Cup last year.
Many England supporters will never be huge fans of Barry, but his performance last night proved that the 30-year-old still has a role to play for his country.
4) Gary Cahill can play for a ‘big’ club
The Bolton Wanderers defender has long been linked with a big-money move away from the Reebok Stadium to one of the Premier League’s higher profile club, however the likes of Arsenal have previously been unwilling to take the plunge on the defender.
Nevertheless, on his third appearance for his country, 25-year-old Cahill showed that he is a defender who is maturing into an excellent player. Whilst more experienced colleagues floundered against Gyan – Lescott and Jagielka in particular struggled – Cahill stood firm, embracing the physical battle against the striker, whilst he also showed composure when in possession and awareness to deny Kwadwo Asamoah a shooting opportunity with a brilliant sliding challenge.
The former Aston Villa man is believed to be high on the wishlist of Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli at Anfield this summer, and this performance may just have done enough to prove to the Liverpool duo that he will make an excellent acquisition this summer.
5) Andy Carroll can be England’s number nine for years to come – but there’s still room for much improvement
Andy Carroll opened his England account with a wonderful driven finish, and was very boisterous in pressing his claims that he is ready to lead the line for his country from now on.
Nonetheless, whilst the £35m Liverpool striker showed his clinical side in front of goal, he also showed that there is much room for improvement in his game. At times Carroll was comfortably dealt with by John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah, the Ghana central-defensive duo, and showed a lack of awareness in his link-up play, having to cut back and play to a defender rather than finding the run of one of his midfielders.
On the other hand, he will always be a threat due to his size and physical strength. Furthermore, when he gets back that match sharpness, which was obviously lacking due to his recent injury problems, Carroll will be much more willing to run the channels and in behind defenders.
Also, under the tutelage of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, and playing alongside the brilliantly unpredictable and flamboyant Uruguayan Luis Suarez week-in, week-out at Anfield, Carroll’s game is almost certain to come on leaps and bounds, ensuring that he will be a big part of the Three Lions future, moving towards Euro 2012 and beyond.