Despite delivering a performance which drew much praise from fans and pundits alike, England’s young lions succumbed to defeat in Manaus on Saturday night. With Costa Rica’s shock victory over Uruguay earlier in the day, Thursday’s clash with the South Americans is now decisive for Roy Hodgson’s men.
Although he produced the assist for Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser, Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney bore the brunt of the criticism in the post-match inquisition. Shunted out on to the left, the 28 year old struggled to influence the game and serious question marks have been raised over whether he merits a starting berth against Uruguay.
Whether the forward is moved into a central role or dropped altogether, Rooney is certainly causing his manager a headache. In England’s squad of twenty three, there a number of other players of fulfilling the wide role.
Bearing this in mind, here’s an assessment of the SEVEN players that could replace Rooney in England’s left wing slot.
Having been in such fine form for Southampton this season, it was perhaps a surprise that Lallana didn’t start in Manaus on Saturday. The 26 year old had looked to have played his way into Hodgson’s first eleven around the turn of the New Year.
The Liverpool target recorded a number of impressive strikes including this effort against Newcastle.
Lallana looked dangerous following his introduction against the Italians, and the midfielder has flourished out on the left for his club. However, he perhaps lacks the explosive pace which Hodgson has sought to exploit in England’s attacking play.
In England’s recent draw with Ecuador, the Ox was by far and away the most impressive performer in Hodgson’s experimental side. The Arsenal midfielder demonstrated great confidence and power in his direct running at the South American defence.
After this performance, there were those that believed his absence against Italy was crucial.
To be honest Roy’s tactics were excellent last night I think if Ox was there on the left we would have done even better
— Gerard Deulofeu (@PariSeanGermain) June 15, 2014
If fit, the 20 year would likely be viewed by many as the best solution to England’s troublesome left wing slot. However, if ANY question marks linger over the midfielder’s recovery, Hodgson should not gamble in such a crucial fixture.
Hodgson’s wildcard selection, Barkley has already shown that he will not be overawed by the occasion. The Everton midfielder looked confident on his full debut against Ecuador, with many viewing him as the ideal like-for-like replacement for Rooney.
The 20 year old even netted a incredible strike against Manchester City at Goodison Park that reminded many of the current Manchester United forward’s first ever Premier League goal.
On Saturday, Barkley came on as a substitute and actually played out on the left for the closing stages. However, like Rooney, Barkley is a central attacking midfielder and would be a square peg for a round hole if he was to start out wide against Uruguay.
In the aftermath of the defeat, Sterling was almost unanimously named by most as England’s man of the match. The 19 year old excelled in the number ten role, driving at the heart of the Italian defence with pace and providing the pass which released Rooney for the goal.
If the Manchester United man was moved into his preferred role, Sterling’s performance suggests that he possesses the necessary confidence and attributes to cause any full back problems. For some, that represents the logical solution.
It’s pretty simple why Rooney should play at no.10 and Sterling on the wing. Rooney’s a no.10, Sterling’s a winger. Fairly simple really.
— Rich Laverty (@RichJLaverty) June 18, 2014
But having thrived in the central role, can Hodgson justify selecting the Liverpool forward in any other position?
A two-time winner of the Premier League with Manchester City, Milner seems doomed to forever be viewed as England’s “utility” man. Hodgson experimented with the 28 year old at right back against Ecuador, although he struggled against Jefferson Montero.
A consistent hardworking performer, Milner would certainly put in a shift on England’s left. But although he would shield Baines better than Rooney, the Manchester City man lacks the dynamism and pace that the other alternatives possess in their attacking play.
As it stands though, the 28 year old may be more famous for “his” boring tweets rather than his footballing ability.
Told Luke Shaw that Spain had been knocked out. He said I know, I watched it. I said Casillas had a poor game. He said I know, I watched it. — Boring James Milner (@BoringMilner) June 18, 2014
A player much maligned by many England fans, Welbeck nevertheless remains one of Hodgson preferred attacking options. The Manchester United striker’s pace at times caused the Italian defence problems.
Who could possibly forget the forward’s finest moment in and England shirt to date, THAT back heel against Sweden.
With Leighton Baines struggling against the impressive Antonio Candreva, Hodgson moved Welbeck to the left and the 23 year old did provide greater cover for his full back. Although his attacking output is questionable, the Manchester United forward’s pace would certainly cause Uruguays’ shaky defence problems.
The beneficiary of Rooney’s perfectly placed cross, Sturridge seems to have cemented his status as Roy Hodgson’s preferred striker with his performances in recent months. The 24 year old was the leading Englishman in the Premier League goalscoring charts, netting on twenty one occasions.
One of Sturridge’s career ambitions was recently achieved with the release of his very own Subway advert.
Having played on the left for both Chelsea and Liverpool, there is the option to simply swap Sturridge and Rooney over. But in the midst of such as prolific streak in front of goal, would it really be wise to displace the 24 year old from the fulcrum of the attack?