BASEL, Switzerland (AFP) - England manager Roy Hodgson said Danny Welbeck had proved his worth at centre-forward after scoring twice in a 2-0 victory over Switzerland in his side’s opening Euro 2016 qualifier.
An injury to Daniel Sturridge opened the door for the new Arsenal striker and he strode through it in Tuesday morning's (Singapore time) game in Basel to put England in control of Group E.
The former Manchester United forward, 23, has often been obliged to play in wide roles for both club and country, but Hodgson felt that his display proved he can cut it at the sharp end of the attack.
“I speak to him often and when I’ve asked him what do you think is your best position, he’s answered, ‘I think it’s probably centre-forward,’” Hodgson told a post-match press conference at St Jakob-Park.
“But he’s understood fully that that position wasn’t available to him in the past because I’ve had other people who’d have gotten into the team before him, so he’s understood the need to do a job elsewhere.
“He’s never complained, but I’ve never been in any doubt that if I’d let him choose a position, he’d have chosen centre-forward.” Welbeck played alongside his former United colleague Wayne Rooney in front of a midfield diamond formed of Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph, who was making his full debut.
It allowed all of England’s attacking players to play in their preferred positions and Hodgson was thrilled by the results.
“We thought this could be a good system for our players. The six players I’ve got in front of the back four, there’s enormous potential,” he said.
“The inclusion of Delph could be regarded as a bold move, but he’s very, very aware of that position from his club team. “I was very pleased with his performance. To come here and do as well as he did deserves a lot of credit.”
Hodgson added: “These are our talented players. This is the way forward. We’ve got to back them.
“We did adopt a reasonably bold approach. We did ask a lot of these players, but only because if it’s going to work in future, we’ve got to do it from the start. We have to start as we mean to continue.”
Hodgson said he had been “very impressed” by Rooney, who had come in for criticism after producing a below-par display in England’s drab 1-0 friendly win over Norway last week.
Rooney played a key role in England’s slick 58th-minute opener, breaking from midfield and freeing Sterling to cross for Welbeck to score at the back post.
It was one of a handful of eye-catching combinations involving the visitors’ front three and Rooney felt that it augured well for his side’s development.
“We defended well as a team and took our chances, catching them on the break with the speed we had been hoping to show,” Rooney, who was playing in his first competitive game as captain, told ITV.
“I think we knew the game against Norway on Wednesday was going to be difficult, but tonight was always going to be more important and we were focusing on that.
“We have worked on springing from defence to attack, which you saw tonight. It was a happy performance from us.” Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic tasted defeat in his first game since succeeding Ottmar Hitzfeld, but he said the experience would stand his side in good stead ahead of their trip to Slovenia next month. “
The start of the second half was our best stage, but we committed two major errors and conceded a goal,” he said.
“The team reacted well and we created opportunities. We could have scored, but we didn’t. It’s a good lesson and we’ll try to make up for it in the next game.”