England 3-1 Slovenia: Phil McNulty answers your questions

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Wembley Stadium
Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck has scored five goals in this qualifying campaign

England maintained their 100% record in the Euro 2016 qualifiers with a fourth successive win in Group E as Slovenia were beaten 3-1 at Wembley.

Wayne Rooney marked his 100th cap with his 44th goal for England - leaving him just five behind record holder Sir Bobby Charlton, who presented him with a golden cap before kick-off to mark the 29-year-old's achievement.

While the victory was eventually sealed in relative comfort, England went behind and also frustrated the Wembley crowd with a poor first-half performance.

So, despite that unblemished record, there are still issues for England manager Roy Hodgson to tackle on the road to Euro 2016.

We asked you on social media what concerns need to be addressed and put your questions to BBC Sport's chief football writer Phil McNulty.

After the win against Slovenia do you think Daniel Sturridge's return after injury may lead to Danny Welbeck being played out of position? PS Parameswaran

Welbeck is the man in possession and has made his case while Sturridge has been out injured. How can he be left out of the England side?

Hodgson trusts Welbeck and has done since the moment he was appointed England manager. His faith has largely been rewarded.

He is a loyal manager and spoke warmly about Welbeck after the game - and rightly so.

Welbeck proud of England response

My view is Sturridge now has to not only regain fitness but also fight his way back into the England team. He cannot regard himself as an automatic choice, increasing competition for places and strengthening Hodgson's hand.

One issue is that Welbeck has shown his versatility and willingness to play out on the flanks but is at his strongest in the centre. Possession is nine tenths of the law and it would be unfair on Welbeck, who has played so well, to be shunted around to accommodate Sturridge. It is now up to Liverpool's striker to stake his claim once more.

Will Roy Hodgson continue to pick Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne, a form player, rather then a 'big club' player? Andrew Frost

Hodgson was right to be absolutely delighted with Clyne's performance against Slovenia. He acquitted himself very well.

Clyne now has a great chance to establish himself because there is a real gap in the right-back market.

We can safely assume Glen Johnson's England career is over barring a severe injury crisis and youngsters John Stones, from Everton, and Arsenal's Calum Chambers have been used as emergency right-backs in Switzerland and Estonia.

Nathaniel Clyne
Nathaniel Clyne had 76 touches on his England debut

There is a real shortage of quality specialists at right-back and Clyne deserves the chance to see if he can nail down a place.

Hodgson looked in the mood to give him that chance with his words of praise on Saturday.

It was good that England won in the end, but how concerning was that first-half performance? Ian Penfold

It was so lifeless as to be a great concern. Fortunately for England it was up against opposition without any genuine quality so they got away with it.

If England play with such a lack of spark, conviction and creativity against a better opponent, of the calibre they would need to beat at a major tournament, they will not get the chance to turn it around as they did in the second half. The game would already be gone.

As you say, good that they got there in the end but no-one in England's camp could even pretend to be happy with such a dreadful opening half.

Did the pitch affect the players noticeably? Sam Jefferson

Wembley pitch
England boss Roy Hodgson said in the build-up: "The pitch, unfortunately, is not in the best of nick"

The pitch was not great after the NFL game between Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, with dark patches around the centre circle and even the remains of some branding along the perimeter. It was not a great look for an England international.

It did not, however, have any impact on the game itself and certainly cannot be used as an excuse for England's first-half failings.

Hodgson had no complaints about the pitch but there is, of course, the question of whether the pitch might deteriorate from overuse and staging other events over time.

On Saturday, though, neither side could have any complaints.

Will England's 100% record in the qualifiers ultimately work against them? 'Fat Swoll Lip'

There is no way a 100% record in qualifying could ever work against anyone - but I understand the point you are making.

The opposition England are facing is not exactly providing a thorough examination of their strengths and weakness and how far they have come since that awful failure in Brazil.

England's route to Euro 2016 should be a very smooth one given their group, and not exactly a road test for what they might face in France, where the standard will be so much higher.

This is why friendlies must be chosen carefully and there is every chance Hodgson will find out a lot more about some of his players in the hothouse of Celtic Park against Scotland on Tuesday than he did against Slovenia.

Is Jordan Henderson really the best England can do in that position? 'Mr H'

Jordan Henderson
Henderson is the first England player to score an own goal since Glen Johnson at Euro 2012

Even Henderson's most ardent admirers could not make a case for him having a good game against Slovenia. He scored an own goal and was very poor throughout.

This, however, does not mean he should be written off as an international player.

My view is that Henderson has looked very jaded for Liverpool this season and appears a shadow of the midfielder who was so crucial when the Premier League title almost came to Anfield last season.

Whether it is a hangover from that or simply fatigue following the World Cup we do not know, but there is something missing from his game at the moment.

Certainly at England level, he may benefit from the fact there is such an extended break after Tuesday's friendly against Scotland, and he may need careful handling by his Liverpool manager.

Henderson will be a big part of England's plans in the future - but he is struggling badly this season.

Are England making any progression towards a successful European campaign? Sam Hobbs

Four wins out of four says they are, Sam, and the brutal truth is that if they failed to qualify from this group you might lose count of the number of heads that would have to roll.

Are they making progress as a team after Brazil? Harder to say, but each win will restore some confidence after that dreadful World Cup.

There are still key questions to answer. Can that defence stand up against high-quality opposition? Is the midfield shape and personnel right? How can Hodgson get the likes of Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley in the same team?

The good news is England have not been given the most testing group so Hodgson may even get time to experiment.

There can be no complaints about four out of four - but it is more difficult to judge how far England have moved forward since Brazil.

What are your thoughts on Rooney being captain? Brad Hardwick

Wayne Rooney
Three of Wayne Rooney's past four England goals have come from the penalty spot

My thoughts on this subject are very clear. Rooney is the natural choice to be England captain and thoroughly deserves the armband.

He has proved he takes the responsibility off the field very seriously, speaking maturely in front of the media. You only have to listen to someone like Jack Wilshere to hear how he helps the younger players with his presence and experience in and around the squad.

On the field he is still one of England's most important players, if not the most important. He scored the late winning goal in Estonia and who was it who won and scored the penalty after Slovenia went ahead at Wembley? Wayne Rooney.

Can Jack Wilshere thrive in a deep-lying playmaker role based on his recent displays for England? Alexander Bryant

I am not sure he will thrive as I think his best role is further forward. This is not a natural position for him and his defensive qualities are hardly being put to the test by the standard of opposition England are facing in their group.

It will be interesting to see where he ends up but for now Hodgson seems to like him deeper - my own hunch is he will end up pushed slightly further forward.

Who's going to be England's future number 10? Ross Barkley or Raheem Sterling? Luke Menesse

Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling played 85 minutes of the win against Slovenia

Great question - and one of the big dilemmas for Hodgson. One thing is certain, he should try every formula to get these two outstanding talents into his team.

It is hard to see Barkley in a conventional midfield four and Hodgson is moving away from that anyway. The Everton youngster is not at his best in the two in a diamond. And he is also not a holding midfield player.

This leaves him as a number 10 and this is where I would play him, providing he is playing well enough, of course.

Sterling can then be used either in a central attacking role or using his pace out on the flanks.

Tough one… but a nice question to have to solve.


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