You can say what you like about England boss Roy Hodgson, and many often do, but obdurate and set in his ways the former West Brom, Liverpool and Fulham boss certainly is not.
He has eased the transitions of a number of young Englanders into the first-team squad over the past 12 months or so, including Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw and John Stones, as well as slightly-older stagers Nathaniel Clyne, Fabian Delph and Adam Lallana.
Hodgson’s tactics have clearly evolved since a hopeless 2014 World Cup campaign from which little was expected and less delivered.
Their final Group D fixture, when England had already been given their Brazil P45, saw the veteran gaffer name his most experimental line-up:
The 4-2-3-1 formation Hodgson went with throughout the tournament was not sustained for the start of the next qualifying campaign, in which England have largely played 4-1-2-1-2, or a ‘Diamond’ formation.
The change in strategy has brought about some impressive results, not least the 2-0 victory away to World Cup last-16 qualifiers Switzerland. That being said, 1-0 and 3-1 wins against Estonia and Slovenia were less encouraging, as England failed to grab first-half strikes in either.
It was therefore rather admirable of the gaffer to once again switch tactics ahead of his side’s friendly against the ‘Auld Enemy’ at Parkhead, where England ran out 3-1 winners:
On all known form, and with the circumstances as they are, Hodgson will revert back to 4-1-2-1-2 for the visit of Igoris Pankratjevas’ side, who are currently ranked 94th in the world by FIFA.
The loss of injured Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere looks likely to be of benefit to Hodgson, as he won’t be faced with picking the Gunners maestro in the deep-midfield role ahead of Manchester United’s Michael Carrick.
The jury is very much still out on whether Wilshere is the right fit for the anchor role, whereas Carrick has played in front of the Red Devils’ defence for years.
The fact that the Geordie has just 31 caps (to go with five Premier League title medals) is a damning indictment on England’s Steven Gerrard/Frank Lampard years.
Everton’s Leighton Baines and Spurs’ Kyle Walker, a pair of full-backs favoured by Hodgson when fit for some time, will probably come in for Man Utd’s Shaw (injured) and Southampton’s Clyne, who performed well in starts against Slovenia and Scotland.
Delph has a cold, although the Aston Villa midfielder could yet edge Manchester City’s James Milner out of the starting line, but Spurs striking sensation Harry Kane will surely have to wait before dislodging Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck from the XI.
Hodgson tends to show loyalty to his players, and Welbeck has scored five goals in his past five England games, so he’ll be hard to shift.