Having completed a faultless campaign with ten wins out of ten, England coach Roy Hodgson is now faced with a serious selection dilemma concerning his captain.
Just over a month since overtaking Sir Bobby Charlton to become England’s all-time leading goalscorer, Wayne Rooney’s position in the England side is becoming increasingly scrutinised, ahead of Euro 2016.
With the coaching staff seemingly settled on a 4-3-3 formation, due to years of inability to control possession against the top sides, Rooney’s spot has become increasingly unstable.
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Though many have long felt Rooney is best suited to the No.10 role, behind a more conventional striker, such as Harry Kane, the 4-3-3 formation doesn’t accommodate this position whilst the experiment of playing the Manchester United captain on the left during the World Cup, left left-back Leighton Baines exposed, and Hodgson will not be prepared to try this again.
The crux of the matter is Rooney either plays as the central striker or not at all.
Rooney’s record in major tournaments, Euro 2004 aside, is poor and this coupled with his inconsistent form for Manchester United this season, means questions must be asked.
Whereas at Euro 2012 Hodgson chose to call on Andy Carroll in Rooney’s absence through suspension, he is now more fortunate with striking options. Kane is yet to fire quite like last season when he scored 32 goals for club and country, however, the 22-year-old has still looked sharp and managed to showcase his effective link play.
Daniel Sturridge is only just returning from his latest alarmingly long line of injuries, however, the Liverpool striker will be energised by Jurgen Klopp’s arrival, and could quite feasibly reassert his case to be England’s leading striker.
Danny Welbeck is another hampered by injury, however, the Arsenal forward is a favourite of Hodgson and if fit, will be taken to France 2016.
Rooney is no longer England’s only option but he is, for now, their best bet. This youthful England side will require experience next summer and not only does Rooney have 107 caps but he has also emerged as a highly popular captain since Steven Gerrard’s retirement.
Dropping Rooney could prove to be divisive in the dressing room while his international goal record remains exceptional. Though the pace and power that characterised the 18-year-old sensation has faded, Rooney is still technically the best of England’s striker’s whilst Theo Walcott and Raheem Sterling could provide pace in abundance on the flanks.
Though his current club form is a concern, Louis van Gaal is facing similar cries for Rooney to be dropped; Hodgson should publically back his captain. If Rooney continues to struggle and subsequently loses his starting place at Old Trafford then this debate must be reopened, especially considering Rooney’s obvious need for game-time to produce his best form, but for now England must continue to build around their skipper.
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