England's two Euro 2016 qualifiers: Five talking points

Sports Mole picks out five of the biggest talking points from England's two Euro 2016 qualifying victories.

A 5-0 win over San Marino on Thursday night, followed by a 1-0 victory away in Estonia yesterday evening has left England in a healthy position where qualification for the 2016 European Championships is concerned.

Those two triumphs have kept Roy Hodgson's men top of Group E with nine points from a possible nine, having scored eight goals and conceded none.

Here, Sports Mole has selected five of the biggest talking points to have come out of the San Marino and Estonia matches.


1. Wilshere flourishes in diamond

Jack Wilshere of England in action during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Moldova at Wembley Stadium on September 6, 2013© Getty Images

The Arsenal man has had his critics in recent months, with former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes at the head of the queue. The accusation aimed at the 22-year-old is that he has made little progression since he burst on to the scene as a teenager. However, while the opposition may not have been of the highest standard, Jack Wilshere produced arguably his two best performances in an England shirt.

He was deployed at the base of a midfield diamond, but it was not a restrictive position. In Estonia, with the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabian Delph prepared to fill the void, Wilshere had the licence to get forward when the situation suited him. There were occasions when he showed signs of a positive understanding with Wayne Rooney, who but for some wayward finishing in both encounters, would have earned Wilshere a couple of assists.


2. Rooney edges closer to 50

Wayne Rooney of England celebrates after scoring the opening goal from a free kick during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Estonia and England at A. Le Coq Arena on October 12, 2014© Getty Images

The talk heading into the two fixtures was whether Rooney, who had 41 internationals goals to his name, could go beyond 44-goal Jimmy Greaves and into third in the list of England's all-time goalscorers. If the truth be told, the captain had enough chances over the 180 minutes to not only go beyond Greaves, but also record-holder Sir Bobby Charlton's tally of 49.

As it was, the Manchester United frontman scored two goals - one from the penalty spot and the other a set piece. Rooney continues to divide opinion among England fans, yet his importance was highlighted in Tallinn. His first touch was often poor and there were times when he was caught in possession, but without the impact of the skipper, the Three Lions would not have scored.


3. Hodgson too open over Sterling

England manager Roy Hodgson (L) talks to midfielder Raheem Sterling at the A.Le Coq Arena in Tallinn, Estonia on October 11, 2014© Getty Images

Ever since Hodgson said that "footballing reasons" were behind his decision to take Martin Kelly to Euro 2012 ahead of Rio Ferdinand, there have been those that have scrutinised everything that the manager has said to the media. There have been other bungles along the way, but perhaps none have been bigger than revealing that Raheem Sterling had admitted that he was feeling tired ahead of the match against Estonia.

In the 19-year-old's defence, his performances for Liverpool of late have suggested that he could indeed be a little jaded, but it has not stopped Sterling from receiving a host of criticism on Twitter, as well as from the likes of Ian Wright in today's The Sun newspaper. For all concerned, Hodgson would have been better off claiming that the winger had suffered a slight hamstring strain or saying that Adam Lallana - Sterling's replacement - was deserving of a start.


4. Disappointment for Clyne

Nathaniel Clyne of Southampton kicks the ball during a friendly match between Southampton FC and UE Llagostera at the Josep Pla i Arbones Stadium on July 17, 2013© Getty Images

There were very few complaints when Nathaniel Clyne was called into the England squad for these two matches. Since he arrived at Southampton from Crystal Palace in 2012, the 23-year-old has delivered on the potential that he showed as a youngster to become one of the Premier League's most consistent right-backs.

As a result, he is bound to be bitterly disappointed to have not earned a senior cap in either game. Calum Chambers started against San Marino and despite being nowhere near his best, the Arsenal player retained his place in Estonia. Had it been Clyne that moved from Southampton to the Gunners during the summer and not Chambers, it could well have been a different story.


5. 10 wins?

England's coach Roy Hodgson walks off the pitch following the game against Estonia during a UEFA 2016 European Championship qualifying group E football match between England and Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia, on October 12, 2014© Getty Images

Speaking ahead of the San Marino game at Wembley, Hodgson told reporters: "There are 10 qualifying matches. In the last 10, we won six and drew four. It would be nice to go through this qualifying campaign unbeaten. If we get two good results, we'll set ourselves the target of winning all the games."

Two wins has moved England closer to achieving their manager's "target", with Slovenia to come in November. After that, the fixtures read: Slovenia (H), Lithuania (H), Slovenia (A), San Marino (A), Switzerland (H), Estonia (H) and Lithuania (A). There should be nothing there to have the Three Lions believing that 10 wins from 10 matches is out of the question.


Wayne Rooney of England is pursued by Karol Mets of Estonia during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Estonia and England at A. Le Coq Arena on October 12, 2014
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