Fixtures like Andorra away represent something of a hiding to nothing for England, which also happens to be what they dished out in the Pyrenees on Saturday night.
But with World Cup qualification not in any danger, this 5-0 win was more encouraging for the hints of evolution in Gareth Southgate’s plans that it revealed than the scoreline.
Southgate made 10 changes, fielding in essence a shadow XI, and they delivered a commanding performance that underlined the depth of talent at his disposal.
Most eye-catching was the outstanding Phil Foden, deployed in a deeper midfield role than he is used to playing either for England or Manchester City.
Foden sprayed defence-splitting diagonal passes behind the Andorran defence with such regularity that Roy Keane likened him to an NFL quarterback during ITV’s coverage.
England’s first two goals, scored by Ben Chilwell and Bukayo Saka, sprung from Foden through-balls and he dictated play all evening.
It raised the tantalising prospect of filling England’s long-held vacancy for a midfield playmaker, and Southgate conceded Foden’s relocation might be a more regular occurrence as he attempts to fine-tune before next year’s winter World Cup in Qatar.
“That’s something that we’re intrigued by,” he said. “I think at his club he’s generally playing wide, occasionally as an eight. It’s an interesting experiment for us over the next 12 months to see these midfielder positions, different profiles and players, to see where we may be able to take the team.”
Abraham advances case to be England back-up centre-forward
Almost a year on from his last England appearance, Tammy Abraham justified his international recall with a goal and a lively display.
Competition to be Harry Kane’s understudy is wide open, with the former Chelsea striker fighting it out with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins for the role.
The 24-year-old is on the up again, having scored four times in a promising start to life at Roma this season, even if he has slightly underperformed by expected goals data.
Abraham is the type who needs two or three chances and might have been more clinical in Andorra, especially with one header, but the energy, link-up play and height that he offers make him one of Southgate’s more compelling centre-forward options.
Grealish in the goals – and Southgate is expecting more
Jack Grealish rounded off a satisfying night for him and England with a goal that was more park kickabout than World Cup qualifier – in the best possible way.
The £100m man has only scored double figures in one of his nine seasons and Southgate said he expected more netbusters from the serial assister.
“I think he’s more than capable of getting the goals,” he said. “Quite often it’s making sure he’s in the right positions. He’s got the quality and the goals will come.”
England suddenly have goalkeeping options
Grealish’s goal owed much to the quick thinking of goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who found his gallop into space with a laser-guided overarm throw.
Johnstone, who appears to be Southgate’s favoured back-up to Jordan Pickford, was another to enhance his stock.
With Aaron Ramsdale, who has made a bright start to life at Arsenal, on the bench, England suddenly have an abundance of keepers with an eye for a pass.