The Rooney Problem
The problem that England face during this World Cup campaign is something we haven’t had to deal with in quite a while: the England team actually has blistering pace up front.
June 16th, 2014
Between Sturridge, Sterling and Welbeck we have a spearhead that can cut teams apart in the blink of an eye. Sturridge and Sterling shone this season in the fast-paced Liverpool attack that should have, would have, could have won the title if it weren’t for a few ‘slips’. Welbeck meanwhile slugged it out in an abysmal Manchester United season, showing glimmers of brilliance on Champions League nights, terrorising the Bayern Munich defence over two legs. This left Roy Hodgson with a headache when picking the England starting line-up to face Italy in their World Cup opener, asking himself the question: where do I play Wayne Rooney?
On paper the team looked strong and in my opinion the performance overall matched this. There was, however one problem come the final whistle; we had lost, 2-1 to the Azzuri. Rooney, once seen as England’s only hope, did not do a great deal in the match other than assist in Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser. Perhaps this was because he had been pushed into a completely unfamiliar position out on the left of England’s fast-paced attack. Offering little cover, Rooney’s performance wasn’t particularly terrible but the promising show of the young guns may have papered over the cracks.
The Italian wizard Andrea Pirlo punished England once again, as if he had carefully planned for two years to do so. The match itself could be described as a runaway train heading towards a broken bridge. It was an end-to-end affair, thrilling to watch with so much hope, but ultimately ended desperately for the Three Lions.
Now England have two games to put it right. Two must-win matches and Hodgson has to make the call on whether to drop out–of-form Rooney for someone like Ross Barkley or Adam Lallana, or change his system altogether and push the attacker up front. The problem is, with two group games left, now is not the time to be tinkering with starting line-ups. Roy has a big decision to make – act now, or suffer the wrath of the media should we crash out in the group stages. Either Rooney could score the goal that drags England out of the group or he could be blamed (unfairly) as the sole reason such a promising team couldn’t cut it in Brazil because of his inability to play out of position.