Danny Mills has claimed that England's early exit from the World Cup could become a watershed moment. Of vital importance, as Mills rightly stipulates, is the need to "choose a style and teach it".
This is all well and good, but without substance the statement loses it's clarity and impetus. Clear styles exist within International football, the flair of Brazilians, the counter-attacking Chileans and the vibrant, athletic French, to name a few that have come to the fore at the World Cup. It begs the question, which style best suits the current crop of English footballers.
One attribute we have in abundance is pace. Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, Daniel Sturridge and Kyle Walker have searing acceleration, whilst Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andros Townsend and Danny Welbeck are powerful runners when at full speed. In order to access this pace, England need to stretch the pitch, with a switch to a 4-3-3 formation necessary, as mooted by Gary Lineker, removing the cluster of bodies in midfield, and allowing the front three to fully focus on attacking.
This switch would pose a problem for Wayne Rooney. If the Daily Mirror are to be believed, incoming Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is looking to play Rooney in central-midfield, and this would be a godsend for England. Alongside Ross Barkley and either Jordan Henderson or Jack Wilshere, England would possess power, guile and match-winning ability in the midfield, an aspect sorely lacking when Steven Gerrard and Henderson combined in a midfield axis.
Where England aren't particularly strong is in defence. England have little to lose dropping Leighton Baines, who looked out of his depth at all times during the World Cup, and identifying how Luke Shaw adapts to international football. The 18-year-old bristles with confidence when playing for Southampton, so it would be no surprise if he continued to impress on the international stage.
If Kyle Walker is able to get himself fully fit, and play in a settled Tottenham defence, he should have no problems supplanting Glen Johnson as England's first-choice right back. Johnson showed glimpses of his attacking talent against Uruguay, but he has rarely carried his Liverpool form into England duty.
Another duo who need a strong season at club level to strengthen their international claims are Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Smalling has started to rid his game of the mistakes and nervousness that blighted his early United career, but Jones has failed to live up to his undoubted potential. Louis van Gaal will give them a massive confidence boost, if he is willing to utilise them as United's first choice centre-back pairing. Smalling gains little from playing right-back, whilst Phil Jones' versatility has worked against him under previous managers, and it would be refreshing to see both played in their natural positions.
Alternatively, England could turn to John Stones, although this will depend on whether Roberto Martinez thinks his Everton future lies at right-back or centre-back. With the addition of Gary Cahill, arguably England's only world-class defender, Roy Hodgson is then able to call upon three young defenders, with Gary Cahill playing the role of leader at the back.
In Goal, Joe Hart still has at the very least five years in and England jersey, whilst Jack Butland and Fraser Forster are also young enough to challenge Hart for the jersey for the significant future.
Based upon the integration of these young players, England's style becomes slightly more coherent, rather than a farfetched rant as many "experts" tend to stipulate. Pace, power and flair, with an emphasis on counter-attacking football and a 4-3-3 formation suits the crop of England players that will be heading into Euro 2016.
Possession is no longer the be-all and end-all of international football, and this evolution suits England. We have the tools to become a quick, counter-attacking side, but Roy Hodgson needs to be brave and ditch the likes of Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka and force the young England squad to quickly adapt to the harshness of international football.
This is a brief overview of what in reality is an extremely arduous challenge, ensuring England compete on the international stage once again. Style is, in my opinion, a crucial factor, but England's mentality must be assessed as well. This is where the naiveness of youth can be a benefit rather than a hinderance, especially if Hodgson is able to instil a confident attitude in the squad well in advance of Euro 2016.
England have to perform in two years time, and they have no excuses, with an exciting group of young, hungry English footballers, to fail in the same manor as they did at the World Cup. Hodgson needs to trust in youth, and throw caution to the wind, and maybe, just maybe, England can finally perform at a major tournament!
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