Tuesday, 3 June 2014

It Is Roy Hodgson's Trial, Not Wayne Rooney's

The 2014 World Cup is upon us. There is a plethora of debates doing the rounds in different countries about the squads Head Coaches have picked, and the form of some individual players.
Rightly or wrongly, Head Coaches get demonised for one thing or the other at this stage. In 1982, before and during the World Cup finals in Spain, the Italian World Cup winning Coach, Enzo Bearzot, was in the firing line for his squad selection, and for his tactics in the tournament per se, after three draws from their opening group games, prompting the late coach to practically boycott the press - silenzio stampa  (press silence) Suffice to say, Italy went on to win the world cup that year.
England Manager, Roy Hodgson has enjoyed a cordial, and at times cosy relationship with the media than quite a number of his predecessors managed. When the Manager announced his world cup squad a couple of weeks ago, there was little or no fuss overall over his choices. Not even at the exclusion of Ashley Cole, the 107 times capped left back, for 18 year old Southampton green horn, Luke Shaw.

It is scandalous the media have at this late hour contrived to take issue with Wayne Rooney's form, and starting place In Hodgson's team, rather than highlighting the manager's queer decision to over load on young, inexperienced attacking midfielders. Neither have they been able to play any meaningful role in fostering an agenda around the England Team leading up to the world cup. The team has set sail for South America without really connecting with the aspirations of its supporters. 
Manager Roy Hodgson on the other hand, has been bland and tepid with his messages. He has barely pronounced or declared a jot on the state of the team’s evolution under his stewardship, and the media have played lip service to all of this. 
Maybe, it’s about avoiding unfulfilled expectations that the England team has been saddled with in the past; but you do not necessarily succeed by running away from stating your aims before tournaments   

Picking  Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wishere, in midfield, looks brave. Add four strikers, and the squad starts to look asymmetrical, especially given that Wayne Rooney's talent and technique straddles the play maker cum striker genre.

I can imagine Roy Hodgson was disinclined to selecting Garreth Barry and Michael Carrick  due to the possible stigma of having four over-thirty's in his squad of midfielders. Whereas, the rational point should be: aren't they needed? if Captain Steven Gerrard picks-up a debilitating knock in the tournament, there would be potentially huge problems. Only Jack Wilshere has the distributive skills of Gerrard, but he has no experience at world cup level; neither did he have a good season for his Club. 

 Daniel Sturridge is flavour of the month, and the media see him as worthy of the alpha-striker status in the World Cup. Yes, the Liverpool striker had an outstanding season, and was the top English goal scorer in the premier league, but it's deluded, an idea to relegate Wayne Rooney, who at 28, has 38 goals in 90 England games; 158 goals in 307 premier League appearances, to the bench. Who does that? Sturridge is on a hot streak, but it is best not to heap unneeded pressure on him.

Wayne Rooney has been derided and scorned by sections of the media in an unfair and hypocritical way over the last year. He was thrash-talked for asking for a transfer from Man Utd this time last year, when his relationship with Alex Fergusson  soured. Even when he played his way back into the Man Utd team, some in the media ridiculed him for not being as good as Luis Suarez, nor Robin van Persie.

The England XI in the World Cup need Wayne Rooney, and Rooney needs the players around him to fire. If as it appears, Roy Hodgson is committed to playing straight-forward attacking football, then Rooney is needed, and the team benefits from his experience. He is a goal scorer, an all round forward, an intelligent team player. I suppose the media fantasise Wayne Rooney as a wrecking ball, and as that has not materialised over the years, their expectation has morphed into disdain. Persecuting Wayne Rooney is a misplaced agenda, churlish and misguided.

In my opinion, England would be better of with a 4-3-3 formation, simply because it is suitable, sustainable and natural to what Hodgson's first choice eleven would be The back four picks itself; the midfield should be a unit of Lampard, Gerrard. and Wilshere, keeping it tight, efficient, and steady - feeding a trio of runners, creators, and goal scorers in Rooney, Sturridge, and Sterling. These three have the talent to play easily in the attacking channels, with the requisite combinations, skill, speed and penetration coming naturally. These three must not be overly choreographed by the manager. Best left to their own devices, I would reckon. What is needed is encouraging support from the full backs - Baines and Johnson.
No one should forget, nor underestimate how Atletico Madrid's simple but effective brand of football brought them the Spanish title in the land of "tiki-taka"; as well as getting them to the champions league final. 
England's best chance to win the World cup would manifest via pragmatism and efficiency. Simplicity is genius. But I guess after years of self-deprecation and condescending advice from a legion of foreign players and managers who have graced  the premier league, Hodgson may opt to play to the gallery.
Whatever be the case, the world cup is Roy Hodgson’s watershed moment. If England do well with this crop of players, he would be hailed as a genius. The man who introduced young, bold attacking players to a sterile and labouring team. In the absence of him ever stating any clear objectives, his silence would seem golden. 
How ever, if England fumble their lines, Hodgson will be the poster boy for another world cup heart ache. Then his equivocal vibes might well come to haunt him. He would then have to explain where England are heading, and how he intends getting  them there. The penny would have truly dropped after two years of treading water.