The aftermath of the confirmation of Wayne Rooney’s three-match ban has begun, and already many are looking at who could step in for the talismanic forward.
The immediate problem lies with the one-dimensional nature of England’s replacement forwards. Granted, Rooney is like no other hence his title as one of the best players in the world, but England don’t have a single player who even resembles the Manchester United man.
You could make the argument that Joe Cole, in that deep lying forward role, is similar to Rooney, but given his rare appearances for his country, yet alone in that position, means he’s unlikely to be considered.
Despite playing alone up front against Bulgaria, Fabio Capello now appears set on partnering Rooney with a fellow striker as oppose to relying on him to lead the attack, similar to his role at club level.
Add to that Capello’s insistence that England play with two holding midfielders, namely Scott Parker and Jack Wilshere, and there appears to be only one option; Steven Gerrard.
England mangers past and present have attempted to accommodate Gerrard in their side, but rarely has he been played in his favoured position of behind the striker.
Capello had the problem of trying to introduce the returning Gerrard in his England side anyway, but given Rooney’s impending suspension, he may have been handed the ideal opportunity to bring in Gerrard without disrupting his first choice XI.
If Capello needs any convincing, he need only look at the relationship he struck up with Fernando Torres to prove that the Liverpool midfielder can make it work.
England may not have a Torres at their disposal, but with Gerrard, Ashley Young and Theo Walcott in support, any chosen forward would have a bundle of opportunities to feast upon.
The role would ideally suit Darren Bent, a player who despite his limited football ability, appears at present to be England’s most potent striker.
We can expect to see the likes of Danny Welbeck and Gabriel Agbonlahor tried in the role, but Bent’s goals in qualifying should earn him the prestige of travelling to Ukraine and Poland as England’s No.1 striker.
In addition, having been out since March with a groin injury, Gerrard, who has been eased back into action by Kenny Dalglish, could go to next summer’s European Championships without the prospect of being burnt-out.
If England qualify from their group, upon Rooney’s return, the Capello would have succeeded with a system that both him and Gerrard can thrive, something unheard of in major competition.
Rooney has been handed the responsibility of leading England’s fight since Capello took over in 2007, but given the way he irresponsibly cut his European Championships by three games, it’s time for the Italian to hand the onus to a player, who on the pitch, has never let down his country.
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