To the surprise of few, if any, England succumbed to Italy in their opening World Cup fixture 2-1. I myself predicted the score a few days prior, and while I will refrain from tooting my own horn throughout this article, I will say that so many of us saw the writing on the wall. Despite the evidence being abundant and glaring, Roy Hodgson still feels nothing needs to be changed.
First thing’s first here, shall we? Danny Welbeck has to go. Not only does he need to be dropped from the starting XI, but he needs to be dropped from the national side all together. I understand that he made the squad considering Jay Rodriguez, Andros Townsend and Theo Walcott all are missing via injury, but that doesn’t mean you start him. The only thing Welbeck brings to the table is his pace – his technical ability is poor and he goes missing for 90% of his time on the pitch. Why on god’s green earth was Lallana not selected ahead of him is beyond me. Welbeck’s pace off the bench makes him a late threat, but that’s really about it.
Secondly, and probably most painful to admit (because, let’s face it, so many have not broached this topic until last night and this morning), Steven Gerrard was incredibly poor throughout yesterday. Captain he may be, close to becoming the most capped outfield player for England, but he should be dropped. That is not to say that he needs to be dropped for the tournament, but he must understand that he as well as others need to earn their place in the side. He was incredibly poor on the ball, his work ethic was near non-existent, and did nothing by way of trying to keep Andrea Pirlo or Claudio Marchisio quiet.
In his new role where he is deployed deeper, is that not his job? Well cheers to you Steve-G, you failed in all respects last night. What’s more, is that you have under performed for the national team for quite sometime in truth. Like so many Premier League stars that shine at club level, you have never truly done the same for England – currently, you’re in the same boat as Wayne Rooney. But perhaps the great Andrea Pirlo put it best not only about Gerrard, but all English midfielders of the last decade plus;
“The only great English midfielder in my career was Paul Scholes. The others were all pretenders”
And speaking of mr. Rooney himself, first, I’d like to turn our attention to the following words from beloved manager Roy Hodgson;
“I thought Wayne did very well. We know he can play in different positions and he can be satisfied with his performance.”
W-H-A-T?! I have been openly critical of Rooney as of late, well actually, for the past eight years (when it comes to the national team) but I like to think that I am at least objective and can admit when a player puts in a good shift. If that performance from Rooney yesterday is being deemed acceptable by Hodgson, then that sums up England in one ridiculous sentence.
Was his delivery to Sturridge for England’s only goal quality? Yes, yes it was. But apart from literally taking the ball away from Ross Barkley at the moment the youngster was about to have a crack on goal, as well as completely botching a legitimate scoring chance by dragging his effort wide of the mark (when we have seen that same play from him for Manchester United result in a fantastic goal), Rooney was MIA for the entire match. It got to the point that Italy basically forgot he existed, and for someone that is suppose to be his country’s talisman, it was and has not been good enough for years.
When Roy Hodgson selected this England team, there was so much hope that the younger and new crop of players that were called upon were going to be given the chance to shine. Raheem Sterling certainly did well yesterday, and he was the man of the match for many and rightfully so. But what about Barkley, Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere? When Barkley came on for Welbeck, he did more in his first 45 seconds on the pitch than Welbeck’s entire evening. Lallana did not have enough time to settle in, but he’s always the lively and direct type of player that England currently crave. Wilshere is always willing to get forward and support the front four, thus allowing Henderson to shine in his more effective role of defensive midfielder and getting rid of the notion that Gerrard should still feature prominently for England.
England’s only chance against Italy, their group and the tournament as a whole, was to bring something different. England needed to be new, fresh, vibrant – they needed to the the Premier League. Sterling’s performance is being lauded by all, and that is a big step in the right direction. The performances of the likes of Rooney, Welbeck and Gerrard however, are three steps backwards.
Hodgson must ring in the changes against Uruguay, who will be hungry and eager to bounce back from their 3-1 loss to group minnows Costa Rica. With so many expecting the same old England, it’s time for them to be anything but that same pragmatic side everyone has grown so frustrated with – it’s time for them to be lions.