One might laugh at the notion of England expecting something new and different under Sam Allardyce from essentially the same eleven players as under Roy Hodgson, but we've seen just that happen at Chelsea twice in the last twelve months alone (once for the worse, once, so far anyway, for the better). Faced with a rematch from Euro 2016 against Slovakia, there was every opportunity for Allardyce and England to make a statement.
Granted, England do not have an N'Golo Kanté to effect major positive change in midfield, but they do have promising youngster Adam Lallana and above-reproach Wayne Rooney and out-tactic-ing master Sam Allardyce, so what could possibly go wrong?
"Wayne played wherever he wanted. He was brilliant and controlled midfield. I can't stop Wayne playing there."
"I think he holds a lot more experience at international football than I do as an international manager. So, when he is using his experience and playing as a team member, it's not for me to say where he's going to play."
-Sam Allardyce; source: Guardian
In Wazza we trust. Should've just made him manager then.
Fortunately for England, a couple more things were the same old, same old. Gary Cahill was as solid as ever as the one true defender alongside Kyle Walker, John Stones, and Danny Rose. And Martin Škrtel was as Skrtelian as ever, accumulating about five yellow card-worthy tackles and one red card-worthy stamp before finally getting his marching orders in the 57th minute.
In fairness, England looked a bit better once they were faced with just 10-men behind the ball as opposed to 11. Still, it took until almost the final kick of the game to find the breakthrough. But found it they did, so Allardyce's World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign is off to a winning start. Best ever!
Sam Allardyce is statistically England's best-ever manager, with a 100% win ratio #SLOENG https://t.co/0iFzffkV4P pic.twitter.com/9W0qVcycBI— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) September 4, 2016
Elsewhere, there were wins for Denmark (Andreas Christensen playing the full match in a back-three as usual in the 1-0 triumph over Armenia) and Burkina Faso, who clinched their berth at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations with a 100th-minute winner against Botswana. The game featured three yellow cards and a second-half wind and rainstorm.