England analysis: Jermain Defoe rolls back the years but Oxlade-Chamberlain is running out of time

SAM LONG
REUTERS

Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy scored in either half to give England a comfortable 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday.

The 34-year-old netted his 20th international goal on his first start in more than four years to break the deadlock before his replacement netted within minutes of coming on.

The three points further strengthen England's grip on top spot in Group F ahead of the summer round of games.

Sam Long assesses the key talking points from the game...

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Life in the old dog yet

Jermain Defoe needed just 21 minutes to score his first international goal for over 1,000 days.

The 34-year-old was handed an opportunity to lead the line ahead of Marcus Rashford - who was given 30 minutes from the bench - and duly delivered for Gareth Southgate, who claimed Defoe had a "point to prove" prior to kick-off.

Defoe's movement in the final third and an ability to arrive at the opportune moment have certainly not deserted him but it is still unclear whether he is a candidate for bigger battles.

The veteran will be able to make light work of such small fry for several years to come but will it be worth extending Defoe's international career further if it does not allow Rashford's to progress?

Either way, the Sunderland man must wish he had not headed for Toronto in 2014. He may not have ever fallen out of favour if he had stuck it out in the Premier League.

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Formational fluidity

Fluidity has become a buzzword for Gareth Southgate since last week's narrow friendly defeat to Germany, with the new manager adamant his team must be able to chop and change in the heat of battle or - in this case - a lukewarm task.

The 46-year-old opted against an opportunity to stick with a three-man defence, perhaps unsurprisingly, with England not expected to have their backs against the wall versus a team ranked 107th in the world.

The decision was vindicated as England controlled possession from the off. Eric Dier's presence in midfield allowed full-backs Ryan Bertrand and Kyle Walker to bomb forward.

Of course, this is precisely what was expected of England against such feeble opposition. But being able to break down stubborn, resilient opponents is a valuable trait to have in an ongoing arduous qualification phase.

England certainly have the personnel to alter their system during a game but it will be up to Southgate to implement it, and he appears determined to do so.

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Michael Keane looks at home

The Burnley man looked anything but out of place on his first competitive start for the Three Lions, picking up where he left off against Germany in Dortmund.

Keane was afforded plenty of space to pick his passes, with Lithuania's attacking threat amounting to little, but did so with aplomb.

Comfortable on the ball and content to step forward when required, the 24-year-old is a real prospect.

And, with central defensive places far from nailed down by others, Keane has an excellent opportunity to press his claims for regular game time under Southgate.

If Keane continues to shine at Turf Moor he - like Manchester City's John Stones - could soon be well clear of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the pecking order.

A big move is also likely to be on the cards this summer, unless Sean Dyche can convince Keane otherwise.

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The Ox still needs to do some role searching

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's inclusion on the team sheet led to many a pre-match discussion. Where exactly was the Arsenal man going to play?

The 23-year-old has been deployed in a variety of roles for club and country throughout his career but is yet to make one his own.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was used in central midfield but failed to convince, aside from a rare bright moment which forced a decent save from goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus. Too many passes went astray when compared to the controlling demeanour of Eric Dier.

With Everton's Ross Barkley not afforded a single minute of action during this international break, Oxlade-Chamberlain must improve if he is to hang on to his place in the international fold.

But the signs suggest he will continue to be shuffled across the park and used as a makeshift option by Arsene Wenger. Having previously admitted he will reassess his future in north London at the end of the season if he does not receive more game time, a crucial decision is now on the horizon.

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