It seems more than a bit odd that Wayne Rooney (read Wayne Scholes) could be accommodated in central midfield because his best position is ‘anywhere on the pitch’ yet Roy Hodgson could only find place for only one of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, and Daniel Sturridge on Sunday against a very poor Russia. No, based on his creditable performance that evoked shades of Paul Scholes, Wayne Scholes deserves to continue, although it will be an interesting time to see him against a midfield that will pressure and press him. We’ll see how his first touch is then.
What’s the reason for one striker and the inclusion of Raheem Sterling? Please don’t say pace against old Russia centre backs. We all know how slow Sturridge and Vardy are.
On talent alone nobody can argue against Sterling. God and humans with brains know the youngster is talented. His Jamaican birth is very much in evidence (as is the heritage of many of English wide players) with that pace. He’s a fine dribbler with tremendous potential. Manchester City wouldn’t have forked over £49 million on a whim but he’d do well with a brain once he gets into the final third. It’s as if the talented youngster’s brain is replaced with that of a West Indies cricketer who has one run to win with three deliveries left once he gets a sniff of the goal. Too often he decides to carry the ball to the by-line when he should cut in, pass when he should carry it, or ignore open teammates at the wrong time. Yes, he’s one of those high risk, high reward players by type such as a Luis Suarez, Alexis Sanchez, or Angel Di Maria and yes those players do frustrate with misplaced passes in dangerous areas. The feeling is though that they make errors of execution more often than not with ambitious, potentially incisive passes do not come off. The worry is that Sterling is making a different error too often. He’s simply making the wrong choice.
No, there needs to be no reminder of his age, and decision making is something that can get better and trained for him to instinctively make better choices. Can you teach instinct? The brain can be taught to process these situations better and make the higher percentage decision. Then it isn’t instinct; it’s football knowledge. It just seems that after a good dribble he wants to do too much, show too much. At just 21 years old, and under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, he can improve significantly. He has all the raw tools. However, England must win now.
It has been said that the 4-3-1-2 diamond with Rooney as a 10 was abandoned because he pushed too far forward, forcing front men Kane and Vardy wide and ineffectual. Rooney must be experienced enough to rectify this. If Rooney must play, then he must play in his best position. It also means that two strikers who are in better form than a Lallana or Sterling will start. Sturridge was good in limited minutes for Liverpool and he’s the classiest, most rounded, and frankly, best English striker regardless of wherever they might be currently lined up right now. He should start. Kane should also but if he continues to struggle without a creator of the talents of Erik Lamela or Christian Eriksen, then Vardy with his pace is a worthy replacement. Nobody wants to face a fresh Vardy on 70 minutes, and as such, he should be a substitute of effect until Kane proves otherwise.
One should think that the players on form for an entire season should be preferred over those who showed well against nobody in qualification or in some friendlies.
England dominated a poor Russia and will face two bigger tests in neighbours Wales and Slovakia. They can’t afford another slip-up and Hodgson must abandon the timidity and fear of entertainment long enough so that England can advance despite him.