Football

Hodgson has plenty of attacking options other than Rooney..

Rooney's injury allows Hodgson freedom to pick from talented crop of England strikers

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Wayne Rooney faces a race to find fitness and form for Euro 2016 after picking up a knee ligament injury earlier this month that will leave him sidelined for at least six weeks.

However, whilst many fans may fear the worst for the Three Lions should they be without their talismanic captain and leader, a Rooney-less national side may not pose a big problem for Roy Hodgson.

Granted, the Manchester United skipper has enjoyed an upturn in form recently, the Englishman scoring seven goals in his last ten appearances for the Red Devils, but England are not short of striking options.

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Daniel Sturridge has looked sharp since returning to action for Liverpool and found the net against Aston Villa recently, whilst Arsenal's Danny Welbeck is also back in contention after scoring a crucial last-minute winner against Leicester City.

The latter 25-year-old has previously impressed in the absence of Rooney, scoring the winning goal for England against Sweden in the Euro 2012 group stages.

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Then there is the small matter of Premier League record-breaker Jamie Vardy, whose chances of heading across the Channel will have been boosted by the doubt surrounding Rooney, not to mention his stunning Premier League form.

Some will point to Rooney's influence during qualifying as evidence of how important he is to England, but the fact remains the 30-year-old's form always dips when it really matters at tournaments.

In fact, Hodgson may even find himself liberated in the absence of Rooney - a player who attracts an intense amount of scrutiny from the press when on international duty.

At the last World Cup, for example, the England manager found himself dogged by questions concerning the striker's position in the team.

England v France - International Friendly

Having started the competition with Sturridge in his preferred central striking role - a position from which he scored against Italy - the pressure to pick Rooney in the centre forward role proved too much to bear.

Facing a 'damned if he does, damned if he doesn't' scenario, Hodgson relented with Rooney going on to score against Uruguay but also miss a glut of golden opportunities as the Three Lions exited the tournament.

Without the United man to consider, Hodgson has free rein to pick and shape a starting eleven of his choosing.

Hodgson knows the merits of a Rooney-less England team at a major tournament, having dealt with a similar scenario at Euro 2012 where suspension ruled the Red Devils star out of the Three Lions’ first two games.

Switzerland v England - UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier

What followed was a series of spirited, attacking performances in which England drew with a highly fancied France team before beating a Sweden side featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his prime.

In just over 180 minutes of football in Ukraine, the likes of Andy Carroll, Welbeck and Theo Walcott stepped up with the goals and attacking guile to help England advance.

Upon Rooney's inevitable recall to the team, however, England’s form dipped with an underwhelming 1-0 win over co-hosts Ukraine, followed by a dour exit on penalties against Italy in the quarter-finals.

As England’s record goalscorer and a player capable of astonishing things on the football pitch, Rooney’s status as a great of the game is unquestionable.

England v France - International Friendly

However, when it comes to picking the best team based on those that are in form and fit together as a unit, Hodgson and the Three Lions may actually cope well without their national icon.

Back in 2006, then Spain manager Luis Aragones made the difficult decision to turn his back on Real Madrid record-breaker Raul.

The Spaniard was still in a rich vein of form for Los Blancos at the time and among Spain's greatest ever goalscorers.

However, his omission freed the Roja boss to build a team of his own suiting and also allowed him to introduce several attacking stars that had been waiting in the wings.

Rooney's England career is far from over, but his potential absence from this summer's finals in France could prove a more palatable and liberating prospect than many first feared. Imagine if the Three Lions won the European Championships without him.

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Topics:
Manchester United
Premier League
England Football
Wayne Rooney
Football
David Beckham

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