England’s performance in the 2014 World Cup could be viewed as abject failure – or simply as narrow defeats against two countries ranked higher than us in the most recent FIFA rankings. I believe it sits somewhere in between, writes Will Sparrow.
Yes the bigger picture regarding the lack of coaches in England compared to our European peers is quite shocking and the technical flaws of the majority, but not all, of our top players needs to be addressed, but that’s for another day.
First, why is it that when we had five Liverpool players in the starting XI for the opening game against Italy did we not follow the successful formation that had bought them so close to the Premier league title? This would have allowed five players to continue to flourish.
In particular Jordan Henderson was shackled from his usual swashbuckling box-to-box energetic performances. It would have also crucially meant Wayne Rooney could have played in his best position as striker – when can everyone stop thinking he is a number 10?
Danny Welbeck, although an honest, talented hard-working player, was also not used to his full potential. The likes of Ross Barkley and in particular Adam Lallana coming off the bench could have also been used in the positions they have been used to and successfully playing all season.
Yes, you could argue top players could and should be able to adapt but why should they need when we have the personnel to make this formation work?
The addition of another conventional midfielder in Jack Wilshere would have also allowed full-backs Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines to bomb forward with the knowledge that further cover was there – not the situation we had against Italy where Welbeck and Rooney where expected to do a lot of tracking back.
The future line-up, without Gerrard and Lampard, appears to have a gaping hole in the midfield quartet and a lack of experience in the dressing room. But it opens opportunities for regular starts for others and the progression of under-21 squad members into the main squad.
We now need to give the young players who have been talked about for years as the future the chance and confidence to shine – Phil Jones and Wilshere in particular. Both players have been hindered for various reasons over the past few years; however I believe they both can fill vital positions.
Wilshere has the composure and vision to play in the front of the back four – his decision-making and positional sense will continue to improve with games. Jones has all the attributes you’d want in a centre-half, he just needs to regain the confidence and consistency of playing in his best position.
I favour John Stones at right-back because I want one whose main attribute is defending – to complement the attacking prowess of another outstanding young player in Luke Shaw at left-back. Shaw should be given more license to attack than Stones, with the legs of Henderson and positioning of Wilshere to help cover with the base of Stones, Jones and Gary Cahill keeping a solid line. Jones replaces Phil Jagielka in the back four, with an eye on the future alongside his greater pace.
With Wilshere sitting behind Henderson it will give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain licence to join the attack and use the space in the right wing area too.
Chamberlain, in my opinion, is the most exciting talent of all. He had a great grounding at Southampton and is now playing for one of the great managers in terms of nurturing young talent in Arsene Wenger.
He is the total package: pace, awareness, passing range, composure – and he will flourish playing more centrally joining the attack with Henderson and Wilshere as the base behind him.
Raheem Sterling shone towards the end of last season at the tip of the diamond and can do the same for England. Daniel Sturridge and Rooney are mobile forwards ahead of him and therefore have the ability to pull wider and interchange allowing more space for Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain to exploit.
Sturridge and Rooney should work well together as a proper pair. Sturridge is a very confident, sometimes-greedy, striker and I wouldn’t change that one bit. Rooney’s all-round ability alongside him to both come deeper and link the play as well as his ability to pull off the shoulder of the last defender gives our midfield options when breaking forward.
Substitutes can be key in turning round a deficit and turning a tight game in our favour. And I would pick a forward-thinking bench.
Defenders like Kieran Gibbs andd Southampton’s Luke Chambers should be involved while midfielder James Ward-Prowse is a viable replacement for both Wilshere and Henderson with his all-round game.
Barkley is the attacking midfield option and could quite easily oust Sterling.
Theo Walcott in many ways is the fall guy of this formation based on the position he has and will continue to play at Arsenal; however I would have him as an option.
We have an abundance of great attacking options but a lack of depth in defensive areas – therefore we need to pursue an attacking philosophy for the foreseeable future.
There is hope in the defensive area – we have players in Stones, Jones and Shaw who, if they fulfil their potential, can be around for the next three or four tournaments.
In midfield, I am hopeful for the continued progression of Jake Livermore (still only 24) now he has secured a permanent move to Hull.
Jay Rodriguez, although clearly nervous and played out of position for his only cap to date, is another who is used to this type of formation and will be close to replacing Welbeck on the bench.
I’m also excited and hopeful about the level of performance Danny Ings can show at Premier League level as a young, quick goalscorer.
My team for autumn qualifiers: Hart, Stones, Jones, Cahill, Shaw, Wilshire, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Sterling, Rooney, Sturridge. Subs: Baines, Foster, Ward-Prowse, Barkley, Walcott, Welbeck, Chambers. Other squad players: Forster, Rodriguez, Lallana, Lambert, Livermore, Milner, Caulker, Ings.
And last but not least, Wayne Rooney should become the next England captain.
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