For the first time in what seems like forever I actually enjoyed watching England play a game of football. Gone were the overhyped prima donnas of Terry, Cole, Lampard and Gerrard, as a fan of a small club I found it difficult to get behind the media hyped men who were clearly awful people off the pitch. Furthermore these players who were supposedly world class could do no better than scrape through a group containing Algeria, Slovenia and the USA before being given a master class in football by the Germans (no now is not the time to debate Lampard’s goal). Now 6 years later a young England side has gone to Berlin and won 3-2 against a Germany side of reasonable strength. Yet one shadow still looms over this team of young stars in the form of Wayne Rooney.
Wayne Rooney to his credit is England’s record goalscorer of all time; however looking closely at those figures he has scored 6 goals at International tournaments. 5 of those were when he first burst onto the scene at Euro 2004, since then his solitary tournament goal was a tap in against Uruguay in a 2-1 defeat at the 2014 world cup. Obviously we shouldn’t forget all the goals against San Marino that make for vital preparation before taking on Europe’s finest this summer, but my opinion is that Rooney’s international career has been rather disappointing since the impressive burst onto the scene.
Here is the conundrum though, to Roy Hodgson, Wayne Rooney cannot be dropped when fit, Roy loves to wax lyrical about his captain. When he broke the record if you watched in HD you could almost see the glisten of a tear in Roy’s eye like a proud father of Rooney’s. To the credit of Mr.Hodgson, Wayne was the top goalscorer in qualifying however the campaign begins almost 2 years before the first ball is kicked in France this summer. The team must be picked on not just the best individuals but making this team look cohesive.
Now I don’t intend to make this article purely about Rooney’s abrasive character although I am of the belief he is a thoroughly unlikeable character that isn’t why he should be left out. Let us look tactically at the England team and how they should start at the Euros. It has become clear recently that a flowing 4-3-3 that changes into a 4-2-3-1 at times is the system suited to England. On an International stage the very best teams will over power you in the midfield if you start with a 4-4-2 system, with each of the best nations boasting strength in depth in midfield, for France see Pogba, Matuidi, Germany see Kroos and Khedira, Spain see Iniesta and Xabi Alonso. Now the conundrum begins, is Rooney a number 9 furthest forward spearheading the three or is he the number 10 as the creative one of the midfield three?
Let us first look at the midfield, against Germany, the team sheet showed Eric Dier sat at the base of the midfield (a job he did brilliantly removing Ozil’s presence from the game), Jordan Henderson provided the leg work as he has done superbly at Liverpool for the last two seasons and most importantly Dele Alli in the number 10 role. Alli for me was the second best performer against Germany after Eric Dier, he looked to create, his first thought was always to be in the right place to not just receive the pass but to also move the ball forwards. Furthermore and this could be invaluable at the Euros his partnership with Harry Kane is immense. I could stroll happily down hyperbole lane describing how well suited their games are to each other. How many times have we seen on Match of the Day this year the pundits go into detail about another brilliant through ball without even looking played by Alli and Kane rarely misses the target. If Alli should get injured in his place we have the tenacious Ross Barkley waiting in the wings, described by many as a young Wayne Rooney, yet he has a hunger in him to prove himself. If you were to take 2 number 10 players on the plane to France my picks currently would have to be Alli and Barkley.
The issue with Rooney in the number 10 role is quite often he is found out of position and his passing is rather suspect. Too often he will look to shoot and when he isn’t shooting an issue he has had throughout his career is the way he hares around the pitch. He has been praised often for winning the ball back in unlikely situations, but if I was a manager I wouldn’t want my striker or creative midfielder winning the ball back 40 yards from my own goal, I want him ready to run onto the through pass for the counter attack providing an advanced option. For Manchester United what’s the point in Rooney winning the ball all the way in defence if Michael Carrick would have achieved the same result five seconds later, and for England Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson will put the foot in to win the ball.
Now the number 9 role, the main striker, the focal point of attack. Any sane man can surely see that Harry Kane is the perfect outlet, he has all the attributes of the perfect modern day striker and has recently become a 20-goal a season striker for the second year running. If Roy Hodgson picks Rooney over Kane then I despair for the power the media and the captain’s armband plays. Making a striker captain always seems a foolish choice to me and Rooney has never shown the greatest leadership qualities, and the armband has this power at times to prevent a player from being dropped which should never be the case. Furthermore as the striker off the bench no one has shown a hunger for goal quite like Jamie Vardy this season, a man who looks possessed behind the eyes in front of goal. His subtle flick against Germany just oozed quality, factor into the argument that Daniel Sturridge is regaining fitness and coming back into form then we have to say maybe don’t start packing your luggage just yet Wayne.
Feel free to debate or argue with anything I’ve said about Rooney though any suggestions that he could start on the wing may be laughed away. As Bob Dylan sang “the times they are a-changing” and perhaps now Wayne Rooney should make way for the new, hungry generation of England players and we might actually enjoy the Euros.