Next week the biggest stage of all will kick off with Brazil taking on Croatia in Sao Paulo. The moment all football fans across the world have been waiting for will finally be underway. If the nation wasn’t brimming with excitement already then come Saturday 14 June, England will be putting all their excitement together and unifying as one massive fan-base to roar on the lads in the late kick-off between the Three Lions and Gli Azzurri: England vs Italy.
But there seems to be one question hanging over the fixture. Who will be the attacking players that find their self in the starting 11?
This season has seen a lot of fantastic and promising moments for the English team attacking wise. When combining goals and assists together we see four Englishmen come in the top ten, three of which are situated in the top five. In terms of Strikers we have Daniel Sturridge on a combined number of 29, Rooney on 27 and Rickie Lambert on 23. There's no doubt that this creates a problem for Roy Hodgson. But more than likely, one that he will welcome.
In the recent game against Peru we saw Roy play a new formation of two central midfielders, with two wingers and a number ten sitting behind an out-and-out striker, effectively a 4-2-3-1. There should be no questions asked about the man up top. The Liverpool man Daniel Sturridge has been in blistering form all season and with his habit of using pace to find space behind defenders as well as clinical finishing he has done more than enough to put him in the starting 11.
The two central midfielders are expected to be skipper Steven Gerrard and fellow Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson after the both linked up all season for the reds and were very impressing throughout. But then Roy is faced with the choice of which three attacking options does he place behind Sturridge? This season has seen England’s golden boy Wayne Rooney and fellow team-mate Danny Welbeck’s club Manchester United plummet to an humiliatingly low position. Whereas the competitors for positions such as Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana have all had fantastic seasons for their clubs.
Many pundits including Manchester United legend Paul Scholes have called upon the gaffer to utilise the pace that the players possess and adopt an attacking mentality similar to that of Liverpool. In the same column he also suggested that they should play four or five players from the Merseyside outfit. After the fantastic seasons they have had it would only make sense for Hodgson to play Sterling and Lallana in the wide positions. Leaving one position up for grabs. The ‘Number 10’ role.
Last season Rooney was an instrumental part of title winners Manchester United team by playing in the role that would link up the midfield to top goalscorer Robin Van Persie. However, this season under David Moyes he was mainly played up top to replace injured Van Persie and doesn't really contain the pace the rest of the forward line do.
Whereas Ross Barkley burst on to the scene playing the role for Everton to a very high standard. He was a constant threat for the Blues and used his power and pace to damage a lot of teams. Going from form Ross Barkley would definitely be the man to pick. However, compared to Rooney he has no previous international experience and could possibly be a risk.
Obsessed with Rooney, the country has never questioned his starting position. However, there’s been few pundits over the weeks that have brought this into question. Creditable BBC pundits such as Pet Nevin and Kevin Kilbane have started to mention his form over the last six months and his inability to perform at big tournaments altogether.
So far the Liverpool born player is yet to score at a World Cup final and proved that he wasn't able to play in a team that had a lot of pace in the friendly at Wembley against Peru last Friday.
In the fixture against Italy, England will need someone to occupy the legendary midfielder that is Andrea Pirlo. Many think that Rooney would be perfect for that role with Pirlo not being the quickest of players. In fact, none of the Italian team are quick. Setting it up perfectly for Hodgson to send out a team full of pace that will blow them away similar to what Liverpool have done all season. Because of this Ross Barkley gets my vote.
Playing with Lallana, Barkley, Sterling and Sturridge the Three Lions can play a passing style due to the similarities of the playing styles each of the players play at their clubs. They can also link up with the two midfielders Gerrard and Henderson who again play a passing style with their club. Finally, turn defence to attack in the matter of seconds, get in behind defensive lines, stretch them and cause all sorts of problems. If England are to be successful this Summer then using the pace will be key.
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