Despite the fact they lost to Italy, England looked more positive than they have in recent tournaments, when the default setting was to try not to get beaten and nick one from a set-piece. That’s how it has been down the years, but now Roy Hodgson is lucky enough to be blessed with lots of young, exciting players and the dynamic is changing.
But Roy has some big decisions to make ahead of the Uruguay game as he has a lot of players to accommodate. He has to think about how he can get the best from his team and the best from the individuals he has at his disposal. He has to continue the positive changes he has made and push on by improving his team even further.
I think everyone has seen now that Ross Barkley absolutely has to start the Uruguay game through the middle, or be given the freedom to roam across the pitch. He showed against Italy in his late cameo that he can beat people and that is a rare quality.
You compare him to the kind of midfielders other countries have at the World Cup and players of that quality are starting every game; at the moment Barkley comes off the bench for England, but that must change immediately. He has to play that position in and around Daniel Sturridge.
Wayne Rooney will be the most difficult player to accommodate. If he does start against Uruguay, and he probably will, it will only be because he is Wayne Rooney, not the best man for the job. We are still hoping Rooney will finally show us he can play in a World Cup, but at the moment all we are getting from him is brief flashes. It isn’t enough to dispel those doubts.
Yes, it was a great cross for Sturridge’s goal, but if you compare the input of Rooney and Andrea Pirlo across the whole game, there is a gulf there. Pirlo runs everything and Rooney’s not anywhere as near as influential. I know they play in different positions but Rooney doesn’t get involved enough in play. England aren’t getting enough from him.
Barkley, by contrast, has already made a big impression on the team. The Everton man has to start because he gives England something they don’t have. He is like Paul Gascoigne with discipline. The way he beats people and takes the ball forward gives England another dimension.
Still, there is a real dilemma in that No. 10 position. Sterling played very well in a central role against Italy and as he drifted wide as the game wore on it was noticeable that he became less effective and that’s how he lost his edge temporarily.
He used to be seen as more of a winger but he can comfortably play as a No. 10 because he has added so much to his game. He is a much better version of Theo Walcott in some ways; he can do what Walcott can’t in the middle of the park. Sterling has plenty of pace but he doesn’t rely on it.
The way he got the ball from deep and ran through the middle with pace was reminiscent of Arjen Robben against Spain and in this World Cup, with the way the refereeing is, it’s a good strategy because you’ll probably get a free-kick or a penalty.
He also has lots of arrogance, in a good way, and has enough intelligence to drift wide and pose a threat from multiple areas of the pitch. So maybe Hodgson has to find a way to accommodate both Sterling and Barkley in central positions. Other countries can be flexible like that; maybe England need to find that within them. They need both Sterling and Barkley in the team against Uruguay.
Jordan Henderson didn’t show enough against Italy, for me. He needs to play in a system which suits him and is based on running. But in a team that plays with a slower tempo he is going to struggle. Maybe Barkley could replace him to inject some impetus from deep.
You have to make brave decisions in major tournaments. In 1990, when I played for England, Bobby Robson changed the shape of the team to a 3-5-2 after drawing against Ireland and it had the desired effect.
Roy is in a similar position: he knows he has flaws in his team and he knows Uruguay is a must-win game. He shouldn’t play the same way after seeing players like Barkley come on and make an impact and he has a big decision to make over how to set his team up.
Fortune favours the brave...
- Sports & Recreation
- Roy Hodgson
- Wayne Rooney
- Ross Barkley