Last week friendly against Denmark will be the last opportunity Roy Hodgson gets to gather his troops and scrutinize them up close and personal. As he now waits for the Premier League season to concludes, we ask our writers several things as the World Cup looms ever closer.
After the game against Denmark, what adjustments (tactically or personnel) do you think Roy Hodgson should make?
David_Wyatt: I really think that we need to flirt with the idea of dropping Rooney. We seemed much more fluid when he went off and Sturridge was given more license to just stay inside instead of drift out to the wings. I like Rooney and individually he is probably our best player. However we need to play as a team to win a tournament and he can't win it on his own. I think we need to go with speed, which means I'd want to see Sterling and Lallana on the wings, Wilshere in a more advanced role with Ox playing in the middle and Sturridge up top. I don't think it will ever happen, but that's what I think we should do.
ThatJayHawk: I'd agree with David, but we all know Roy's not going to change, he's a create of the old game, so he's going to stick to whose gotten him there. Ox, Sterling, Lallana, and Shaw should be in the starting lineup, half their age, half they play the real game that's out there now. They're not tied down to the old type of matches. But we'll see.
SJSAFC: For me this is simple, Sturridge has to play upfront. Too many England managers have made the mistake of trying to cram as many quality players into the team as possible whilst employing a formation that simply does not work. Sturridge is wasted out wide and I am fed-up of Rooney's non-performances for England. Play Sturridge as the striker even if this means we have to drop Rooney.
Michael_Townsend: I think tactically we should have a youthful midfield three of Barkley, Gerrard and Ox. Supported by Lallana as well. I'd love to see Roy picking players based on form and ability and not on reputation and the club they play for. We should build for the future and put some trust in our younger talents.
versatility: The game against Denmark really shows that in a 4-3-3 formation, Sturridge should be on the tip of our spear, instead being deployed out wide. Trying to put him there just for the sake of having our best player starting and because he has familiarity with the role won't help England. If Roy insists on playing Rooney and Sturridge together, he should consider an alternative formation such as 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 with Rooney playing off Sturridge in between the lines. Another thing would be to play with more directness, especially because we have a lot of pace in our squad with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sterling especially, its something that seems to be lacking against Denmark and if our winger could not penetrate Denmark's defense, it would only be tougher against the likes of Italy or Uruguay.
Who's the biggest winner of last week's friendly? and who's the biggest loser?
David_Wyatt: I think the biggest winner was Adam Lallana. If his spot wasn't already safe for Brazil, I think it is now. I thought he played very well. Was direct and attacking, always looking to go forward and he got several dangerous balls into the box. It will be interesting to see how he develops but I would start him against Italy. He works hard but he has that extra little bit of quality. I think the biggest loser may have been Jordan Henderson. There is a spot up for grabs in central midfield and he was given the opportunity to claim it. Instead he looked very timid, his passes seemed to always be going sideways or backwards and I barely saw him within 20 yards of the opposition goal. That's not why he got a place in the squad.
ThatJayHawk: Winner - Lallana, really looks like he belongs at the top level, he's going to look good at Liverpool or Manchester United next year. Loser? Jordan Henderson.
SJSAFC: Biggest winner for me was Adam Lallana. He looked after the ball in a manner totally different to any other England midfielder the other night whilst oozing confidence and class, couple this with his assist and he certainly had a good night. The biggest loser for me is a close call between Rooney and Wilshere. With news emerging that Wilshere was actually playing with a broken foot I'll let him off. Rooney was just pathetic. His shooting was woeful and his general attacking play uninspiring, he needs to seriously buck his ideas up rather than just expecting his place.
Michael_Townsend: The biggest winner was probably Sturridge. Purely based on the fact that he continued his goal scoring form on the international stage. If he carry on he can cement his status as one of the most dangerous strikers in Europe and then on the World stage. His confidence is refreshing to see. The biggest loser on the night for me was Roy Hodgson. From how he set out at the team and the changes he made it looks like he was testing out his strongest XI that he had available to see if we could get some goals and play some attacking, flowing football - neither of which we achieved. However, I feel this wasn't the night for that and it should have been a night to give some of our second and third choice keepers a run out, a night where our young talents like Barkley, Ox, Shaw and Lallana were giving a chance to shine and not just with short cameos. Roy had the chance to show that he wasn't scared to pick new players and players in good form. He predictably stuck to who the media and FA thinks should be in the team - which is a great shame.
versatility: The biggest winner would be Adam Lallana, in the short amount of time for audition he shows that he can give something different to England's general play. He might not be the speediest, but he can compensate for this by his tireless running (which is not aimless contrary to James Milner). In a night when England's wide players doesn't really threaten to penetrate Denmark's defense, Lallana's directness definitely proves fruitful. I'm tempted to say that Wayne Rooney is the biggest loser since he wasn't that inspiring and should be reconsidered for a staring spot, but since that's very unlikely, I'm going with Jack Wilshere. He was a near certainty for the squad, but the injury (which can be prevented in my opinion) throws his World Cup prospects in jeopardy. Henderson would be a close second since he was a bit subdued in his performance in the middle of the park.
Who is more deserving of a place in England's World Cup squad, Ashley Cole or Luke Shaw? And who would you bring?
David_Wyatt: I have to say the more deserving is Luke Shaw. Shaw is playing week in and week out for a good premier league side. Ashley Cole can't get a game for his club and his international career is in its twilight. Shaw can get experience behind Baines this year and then he will be ready to start in France at Euro 2016. If Baines was a young lad then I may go for Coles Experience, but Shaw needs to be groomed as the next left back as Baines is hardly going to be around for the next 10 years. Saying that I think Cole goes and Shaw stays at home.
ThatJayHawk: Shaw, because Cole is slipping, and he will probably be replaced by Shaw at Chelsea anyway.
SJSAFC: This is a really tough call for me. Cole has been there and done it, whilst in my view being one of the few of our better players not to go completely missing at major tournaments. Shaw is obviously young, quick and England's future left-back. I'd probably go for Shaw as Baines would be my first choice so the experience of a major tournament would likely do him good.
Michael_Townsend: Luke Shaw. He thoroughly deserves his spot on the plane and you could almost argue he deserves a starting role. Cole was very good against Denmark but I just can't see the benefit of leaving our future talent behind for a player who would be playing in his last World Cup. Cole made his england debut aged 21 so why not give another youngster a chance?
versatility: Tough. In terms of merit, Shaw is deserving since he's been playing regularly and giving performance that is well beyond his age. Cole though might be useful as he has tons of top-level experience which may come in handy if there's a case of injuries or suspensions. That being said, I think it's high time that England went all in with the youth project, so I'll go with Shaw.