The good and the bad of England
Defoe and Lallana are bright sparks for England but Oxlade-Chamberlain should make way for Barkley
Gareth Southgate is finding out just how hard it to rip up the England rulebook.
He has tried to exude the air of a new school headmaster trying to endear himself to unruly and disenfranchised pupils following years under his laborious predecessor.
From removing authority in favour of first-name terms and allowing past exceptions to become the rule, all the hallmarks have emerged in the early days of his tenure.
Attempts to distinguish himself from Roy Hodgson, however, have been made all the more difficult in a World Cup qualifying campaign that remains increasingly comfortable for his side.
A 2-0 win over Lithuania yesterday morning (Singapore time) did little to dispel that theory, but mixed signs of Southgate's progress could still be seen at Wembley.
1) Peter Pans could lead the line in Russia
Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy are English football's very own Peter Pans - two 30-something strikers who continue to defy sands of time by refusing to grow up.
Yet that may actually prove to be the golden ticket for the Three Lions at the World Cup.
Neither of them have fallen into the trap that Wayne Rooney currently finds himself as they took less-travelled routes to the top, albeit after trying and failing at the top in Defoe's case.
Of his compatriots, only Harry Kane has scored more times than the Sunderland striker in this season's EPL.
The Tottenham frontman, who is injured, may find himself surpassed by one of his predecessors in the White Hart Lane attack before the campaign ends in May.
Defoe continues to roll back the years at club level, with 14 league goals to date, and did so again on his first England outing in almost four years.
Talk of him becoming a shock inclusion for Russia next summer is already gathering momentum, not least from Southgate himself.
Rooney's travails at Manchester United may have cautioned the England manager against placing his faith in the country's old guard as he bids to end the synonymously crushing disappointment which has greeted England at every major tournament since their only World Cup win in 1966.
But Defoe and Vardy, fellow goalscorer and over-30s alumnus, continuing their trajectories in Russia next summer has become a genuine prospect rather than a flight of fancy.
2) Lallana making compelling case for armband
Rooney's time at the top had long ended before he was overlooked by Southgate this month.
A captain in name only at both Old Trafford and for England, the striker's time with the national side is likely to be curtailed before his originally anticipated cut-off point of Russia.
Leaders, rather than faded totems, are what his country now require and they have already found a likely successor; gallingly from United's long-standing foes Liverpool.
Against both Germany and Lithuania, Adam Lallana was the Three Lions' driving force as he has been since being aided largely by his development under Juergen Klopp.
His flick to Vardy to double the advantage was a standard fare from a player who has been transformed from a peripheral figure for club and country into arguably their driving force.
Lallana now has the chance to follow in Steven Gerrard's footsteps in holding the captaincy for England and Liverpool, especially with Jordan Henderson's continual bouts of absence leaving his retention of the armband at Anfield in the long term under increasing scrutiny.
Southgate would be naive not to do the same for arguably his country's most natural on-field leader on such compelling evidence.
1) Familiarity is not a friend
Ross Barkley must wonder what he has to do to prevent yet another England call-up from ending with him kicking his heels.
Granted, Everton's reborn playmaker may not have developed into the tour de force that many anticipated, but has shown enough to prove that he is still far more deserving than being unused in all seven of his previous competitive games with the national side.
In his place, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain failed to seize the spotlight, potentially still smarting from his appearance in Arsenal's chastening defeat by West Brom before the EPL's break.
A lack of guile in unlocking Lithuania's defence allowed the visitors to emerge with a slightly more credible scoreline which belied their status as international football's cannon fodder.
Southgate has largely picked players on form rather than familiarity, continuing the antithesis of Hodgson's tenure that had briefly begun under his predecessor Sam Allardyce.
Doing the opposite with Barkley, however, needlessly continued a trend which will have the 23-year-old questioning whether he is better served turning his back on his country for now.
2) Hart proving Guardiola right
Pep Guardiola may well have observed proceedings at Wembley yesterday morning with a celebratory glass in hand.
The Manchester City manager continues to be roundly condemned by his decision to sign Claudio Bravo but, in equal measure, offloading Joe Hart appears to have vindicated him.
Torino's on-loan goalkeeper, he was told, was a much-needed safe pair of hands that his successor has failed to prove as City's bid for the EPL title slipped by the wayside.
But, while Hart's persona as the chest-thumping, rabble-rouser reminiscent of an archetypal Englishman abroad may have disappeared, the unflattering sense of self-confidence has not.
Only teammate John Stones prevented Guardiola from cracking open something stronger after Vykintas Slivka had headed past the advancing stopper and toward an empty net.
It was well-intentioned at best and completely reckless otherwise.
Southgate has been given some serious food for thought ahead of his next squad in June.
By then, Hart should know where he truly stands with England as much as he will at City.
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