Roy Hodgson yesterday announced the squad that he plans to put out to face Costa Rica, injury permitting. If TBR was in control, this is who we would have selected, given the abysmal showing in Brazil by Gerrard’s England over the last couple of weeks.
England’s disappointing World Cup has led to debates over both the personnel and tactics that England should employ in the future. The team played well against Italy, but against Uruguay gave a performance similar to England of old, with slow attacking play and a lack of purposeful movement.
In goal Hart is by far the most adept ‘keeper and none of the other two can seriously challenge him at the moment, but given that this game is now meaningless to England it would be nice to see one of the other ‘keepers given a chance to play at a World Cup. Ben Forster will probably not be involved in another World Cup, so this opportunity should go to him.
The defending against Uruguay was very poor and Jagielka in particular had a bad game. I would like to see Smalling come in for him as he is a player who could potentially be a starting centre-back for England in the future. Phil Jones should also come into the team, but I feel he should play at right-back rather than in the middle. Gary Cahill is our best centre-back by some distance and to drop him would leave us very weak in the middle, whilst Glen Johnson has not had the best tournament. The other obvious change is Luke Shaw for Leighton Baines, Shaw is one of England’s brightest talents and it would be wrong for him to leave the World Cup without featuring.
Steven Gerrard has had a very poor World Cup and he simply can’t function properly in a midfield two. With his England future in doubt he should definitely miss this game out and Wilshere should play in his place. The Arsenal man gives you more penetration through the middle and moves the ball on faster. Henderson has not been the same Henderson we saw at Liverpool, but I think that is more down to tactics than form, he has not been allowed the same freedom as Rodgers gave him and that has been to the detriment of the England side as we’ve had no one properly able to move the ball forwards. I would stick with Henderson but try him with a slightly different role in the team so he can express himself better.
Lallana and Barkley both need to play as neither have been given enough game time yet. Both had great seasons at their clubs and are deserving of a chance to show what they can do. Lallana should start off the left, Barkley central with Sterling on the right. Hodgson sets those attacking midfielders in a very rigid way without a lot of movement, and I completely disagree with that. These players should be allowed total positional freedom so they can find little pockets of space and cause danger. All these players are excellent at turning on the ball and running at defenders, and this quality would be maximised if these players were given more choices.
There has been a significant Rooney debate after his underwhelming performances for England. Whilst he is a good player, he doesn’t really fit in this England side. Daniel Sturridge is a better finisher, and when you play Rooney at number 10 you lose the running abilities that the likes of Sterling and Barkley possess. It leads to a more predictable and slow side, and for that reason Rooney shouldn’t start this final game. At present Rooney is a square peg in a round hole, whilst technically strong there’s no obvious place for him.
So, my team would be: Foster; Jones, Cahill, Smalling, Shaw; Henderson, Wilshere; Sterling, Barkley, Lallana; Sturridge.