England's loss against Italy on Saturday may have provided some positives, yet there was still an inevitable wave of criticism directed at some players. The most common complaint was Wayne Rooney’s performance and that Roy Hodgson should consider dropping him for the next game. But is this really the best course of action?
Against the Italians Hodgson deployed Rooney on the left wing and, although he has played there a few times for Manchester United, he was able to offer little other than the assist for Daniel Sturridge. Alan Shearer has said that Rooney 'should be number 10 or not play' and considering his record when playing a more central role it’s hard to disagree.
At United, Rooney has been forced into a deeper position since the arrival of Robin van Persie and has maintained his role as one of the most vital members of the squad with his ability to seamlessly switch between midfield to attack. He is undoubtedly one of the better players England have to choose from and as the number 10 would have the freedom to play the way his does for United.
Another option for Hodgson to consider is a formation change to accommodate both Rooney and Sturridge. Against the Italians both Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck were monumental in attacking and defending, with both players willing runners and recovering the ball effectively.
With their defensive capabilities superior to Rooney's, it could prove fruitful to change to a 4-4-2 diamond. A version of 4-4-2 has proven useful for both Liverpool and Manchester City this season as both teams challenged for the title and, considering the number of players that represent England from the former, it could be a smart move for England to implement.
If England were to play a diamond the team would practically pick itself; Sterling and Welbeck would play on the wings, Adam Lallana or Ross Barkley would play at the top and either Steven Gerrard or Jordan Henderson would play in front of the defence. The familiarity of playing this way would help get the best out the players. Sturridge, Gerrard, Henderson and Sterling all had fantastic seasons playing for Liverpool, making the transition an easy one. Having a midfield that have played this way for the most part of the season would allow both Rooney and Sturridge to focus solely on attacking.
Being deployed as either a number 10 or a striker would certainly improve Rooney’s performances, while the rest of the squad would benefit from the familiarity. Playing in a more central role will help get the best out of the man most people believe is pivotal in England’s chances of success. Rooney made his name as a striker and if England allow him to play in his preferred role could be the move that sees them progress from the group stages and possibly on to glory.
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