Rooney, Lallana, Shaw, Cole: Hodgson's World Cup dilemmas
Who should the England manager take to Brazil? Let the debate begin
THE friendlies are over and Roy Hodgson must use what he saw at Wembley last night to help pick his squad for the World Cup.
There are only 23 places up for grabs but there are dozens of players vying for a place on the plane. Some positions are already decided, but in others Hodgson has to make up his mind.
Here's a rundown of some of the key issues for Hodgson
Cole or Shaw? The most clearcut dilemma involves who to take to Brazil as reserve left-back. Leighton Baines is clearly first choice in that position, but should England gamble on 18-year-old Shaw as back-up, or the immeasurably experienced Cole, who is not longer first choice for Chelsea and, at the age of 33, now on the wane? Taking Shaw would be a bold move, but at a World Cup surely it is better to have a player like Cole on the bench? Not so says Rory Smith in The Times. "If there is so little between them, if the quality differential is so slender, simply take the younger man... Shaw is the man for 2016 and 2018. It is in England’s interests to grant him as much experience as possible."
Where does Rooney play? If, as seems likely, Hodgson has decided to model his side on Liverpool – there were five Reds in the team against Denmark – then Rooney will presumably be cast in the role of Suarez alongside Daniel Sturridge. But the pair "will need to develop the same awareness of each other's games for the Anfield plan to work at international level", says the Daily Telegraph. What's more, against Denmark Rooney took up the central striking role, with Sturridge forced out wide. It may be an issue of seniority in the England camp, but it meant neither player was in their preferred position. Sturridge must be allowed to play centrally.
Is Adam Lallana the key? The Southamnpton midfielder put in "the most eye-catching cameo", says The Guardian, and teed up the goal for Sturridge with a clever cross. But what is his position? He came on for Jack Wilshere, who himself was playing in an unfamiliar position on the left of midfield, but combined well with Shaw on the flank(more of that later). Martin Keown told the Daily Mail that he saw Lallana as a kind of Rooney replacement. "He's certainly a useful squad member but I don’t know who he would displace in the starting line-up," he says. Others are more effusive. "Lallana’s skills – ambidexterity, imagination, vision, patience – mark him out from his peers," purrs The Independent.
What's happening in central defence? Chris Smalling played alongside Gary Cahill in central defence against Denmark, something he rarely does for Manchester United. His versatility is a virtue, but it illustrates how limited England's resources are at centre back. With John Terry and Rio Ferdinand out of the picture, Smalling, his team mate Phil Jones and Joleon Lescott are the three main contenders for back-up to Cahill and Phil Jagielka. None of them are first choice centre-backs at their clubs. Is it really too late for someone like Michael Dawson or Steven Caulker to emerge?
Wing combinations? In the World Cup qualifier against Montenegro it was Spurs duo Kyle Walker and Andros Townsend marauding down the right wing, against Denmark Hodgson paired Liverpool fullback Glenn Johnson with clubmate Raheem Sterling on that side. And during the second half at Wembley, England's left wing was populated by Southampton pair Shaw and Lallana. It's starting to look like a deliberate tactic, with the wide players' club understanding put to good use for England. If so it could have a big impact on the make up of Hodgson's squad, and spell good news for Shaw and Lallana in particular.