it was a good game for those who were missing.
It was also good for Conor Gallagher – making his first start for England ahead of a summer where he could prove one of the Premier League’s most important bargains.
The versatile midfielder has been one of the stories of the season.
His form on loan for Crystal Palace convinced Chelsea to include him in their first-team squad next season – in direct competition with N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
Thomas Tuchel has seen enough – and Gareth Southgate is also on board, with Gallagher looking increasingly like a notable improvement on the side that lost on penalties to Italy in the Euro l final ‘last summer.
Privately, Tuchel believes the 22-year-old shares many of Kante’s qualities. He certainly has a game based on limitless energy. But there is more than one attacking element at Gallagher.
Importantly, for Southgate he is an option in an area of the pitch that has been problematic for England.
He’s ready to break down lines in a way Declan Rice or Kalvin Phillips cannot – adding another dimension to a midfield that favors caution over creativity.
Phillips was a revelation – and was one of the stars of the Euros – but his side passes are too often limiting.
Gallagher enjoys driving with the ball at his feet – or running past opposing midfielders without it.
It was his first-half cross, as he pressed high on the edge of Switzerland’s penalty box, that provided the assist for Luke Shaw’s equalizer after Breel Embolo headed the visitors before.
Earlier, his goal-bound effort had been directed clearly looking down the path from the top corner.
With the weight of Bryan Robson and David Beckham’s No. 7 on his back, there was no sign the opportunity was fading him.
He takes on every new challenge, which is why his return to Chelsea this summer offers such reason for optimism at Stamford Bridge and could yet see them pass up the opportunity to sign long-time target Rice.
If it was a day when Gallagher’s reputation improved, so did the players missing from Southgate’s starting XI.
The absence of Harry Maguire, John Stones, Rice and Phillips underscored how England lack control and protection without this quartet.
They could have cashed in at least three times in the first half as the Swiss twice hit the woodwork and Jordan Pickford was repeatedly called into action.
Without the central defensive partnership of Maguire and Stones, the visitors were treated to too many sightseers in goal. It was only made worse by the lack of screen provided by that midfield wall of Rice and Phillips.
When Rice came on in the second half, there was improvement on that front – even though it was Gallagher who he replaced. Southgate have time to start working on a change for their squad ahead of the start of the World Cup in November.
And if he has to make any notable changes to his team, it’s like Gallagher, who will have to be drafted.
In this sense, it was curious that Jude Bellingham did not start. It’s another who could make a significant difference in the center of the pitch to stretch England’s game.
Instead, it was Jordan Henderson who anchored Gallagher, almost certainly because of his experience, but if now is not the time to experiment, when is?
A Bellingham-Gallagher axis certainly deserves attention. Maybe it will happen against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.
While it was lucky to see Marc Guehi and Ben White – who was a late replacement for the injured Stones – it’s hard to imagine Southgate will be convinced to smash their favorite defence.
England looked vulnerable for much of the first half, with Embolo opening the scoring after 20 minutes when he came between White and Kyle Walker-Peters to head Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross past a Pickford at the flat foot.
It could have been two soon after when, this time, the England keeper produced stunning reflexes to drive Remo Freuler’s shot over the bar.
Shaqiri then nearly scored straight from a corner – hitting the post before Ricardo Rodriguez called Pickford again and Embolo fired the rebound wide.
When England equalized in first-half stoppage time, they put a shine on a scorching 45 minutes.
They pressed high with Phil Foden who forced Fabian Frei to clear the Swiss line. Walker-Peters cut it off and Gallagher crossed for the oncoming Shaw.
The Manchester United full-back had plenty to do but managed an early effort to level the score.
The England winner was a gift from Switzerland, with substitute Steven Zuber managing Guehi’s header.
A penalty was awarded after a VAR check and Harry Kane netted his 49th goal for the Three Lions to put him alongside Sir Bobby Charlton as No.2 in the all-time scoring charts for his country. He needs five more to pass Wayne Rooney’s total of 53.
While Southgate will be in no doubt who should lead their line at the World Cup, Gallagher has given them plenty to think about in midfield.