England are now just eight days away from their World Cup opener against Italy - but what can be learned from their friendlies so far?
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's pace is brilliant. He can power forward, he can cover the wingers when playing in centre midfield and he can track back very well also. In fact, it would be very interesting to see how he and Steven Gerrard would perform in the centre together, especially after a mildly disappointing performance by Jordan Henderson alongside Gerrard vs Peru, and Jack Wilshere more often sitting on the floor than actually kicking the ball.
On the evidence so far though, I think it will be Henderson and Gerrard, who have played together all season for Liverpool, forming England's spine in the defensive midfield role of a 4-2-3-1, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has proven that he can be very effective, be that in centre mid., or on the wings.
Glen Johnson remains England's best option in right back. Whilst I believe Roy Hodgson was right to test out Milner at right back, the experiment clearly didn't work. He looked uncomfortable in the position, and seems far more assured when played in right midfield, covering the advancing right back. As attacking is what Glen Johnson is best at, a Johnson/Milner partnership on the right would seem reliable, although as previously stated, Oxlade-Chamberlain could fill in the right midfield role as well.
Whilst remaining one of England's brightest young talents, It still appears a little too early for a starting role for Ross Barkley. Although he made some positive runs, his decision making was questionable as he was often caught in two minds about when to pass and when to shoot. In Hodgson's eyes, the position just off the striker still firmly belongs to Wayne Rooney.
To recap, the best line up for England in Brazil would, I believe, be: Joe Hart of course, with the standard back four of Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill and Baines. When holding against more attacking teams, a central midfield duo of Gerrard and Henderson, but, against a defence such as Uruguay's, runs from Oxlade-Chamberlain could easily exploit a slow back line.
On the flanks, again when holding, James Milner would be the safe option on the right, especially to cover Glen Johnson and I think Adam Lallana has done enough to secure his position on the left. This leaves us with an attack of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge.
What one must also note, is that England now have impressive strength in depth. The aforementioned starting lineup would leave England with a bench of Rickie Lambert, Raheem Sterling, and Ross Barkley among others: players who could massively impact games, and all players that are challenging for a starting spot (except Rickie Lambert, perhaps, but then anybody would struggle to take Daniel Sturridge's place).
On a final note, it is difficult not to notice the large number of Liverpool players in the England squad (6 in total, with Adam Lallana perhaps to become the 7th). Brendan Rodgers is surely proving that even if the national team has for so long been unable to, he can bring the best out of England's youth, which in turn, can only be good news for Roy Hodgson.
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