International Football

Is Wayne Rooney Right to Say Current England Strike Force Is Best in 10 Years?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14:  Wayne Rooney of England runs with the ball during the International Friendly match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium on August 14, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterOctober 9, 2013

Steven Gerrard says it's "frightening." Wayne Rooney says it's England's "best group" of the past decade.

So what are we to make of England's current strikeforce?

To put it in bite-sized form: Plenty of talent is present, but the right combination—if it exists—remains elusive. As for the best in 10 years part? Well, maybe.

As England prepare this week for crucial World Cup qualifiers at home to Montenegro (on Friday) and Poland (on Tuesday), manager Roy Hodgson has a strong group of attackers at his disposal in Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Jermain Defoe and Rickie Lambert.

At least, that's what Rooney is saying. 

"Since I have been in the squad it’s probably the best group we’ve had in terms of goalscoring ability," Rooney told the Daily Mail this week. Rooney added that the current group constitutes "a good blend of forwards."

Gerrard, meanwhile, has delivered extra praise for Rooney and Sturridge, the pair the captain sees as England's ideal starting partnership.

"The potential in that partnership is frightening. They are both very skillful, they can both create and they can both score. All the boxes are ticked," Gerrard said, per SportingLife

"They just have to prove they can make it happen. That is the most difficult thing but I have belief in both of them."

That last part is where it gets complicated.

Rooney has scored five times already for Manchester United this season and Sturridge has netted eight goals for Liverpool. Together, however, the two have played just 30 minutes for England, during the friendly against the Republic of Ireland in May.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 29:  Daniel Sturridge of England in action during the International Friendly match between England and the Republic of Ireland at Wembley Stadium on May 29, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

As a whole, England's strikeforce of Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Defoe and Lambert scored 49 goals in the Premier League last season. But throughout Hodgson's tenure as manager, goals have been hard to come by.

As Kristian Walsh of the Daily Telegraph writes, England have struggled not only to score in competitive matches under Hodgson but also merely to shoot on target:

Simply put, England do not score enough goals in competitive fixtures. The 18 goals against Moldova and San Marino will be used as a rebuttal, but San Marino are alongside Bhutan and Turks & Caicos Islands as the official worst team in the world, while Moldova are just above global superpower Turkmenistan.

Against Poland, Ukraine and Montengro, England have scored three goals. Apart from their 3-2 win against Sweden in Kiev (at Euro 2012), they have failed to score more than one in any competitive game under Hodgson.

Admittedly, scoring comes down to not just the forwards but to the entire team, as well as the manager's tactics.

In addition, this is a problem that preceded Hodgson. At the 2010 World Cup, under Fabio Capello, England scored just three times in four matches. Rooney and Defoe were members of that squad, but Sturridge, Welbeck and Lambert were not.

So the question is, have England's forwards suddenly become better?

Recent results in qualifying provide an ambiguous answer at best. Certainly, though, the current group provides plenty of variety in styles with Welbeck, Defoe and Lambert present to support Rooney and Sturridge, who appear to be strong favourites to start. 

As Glenn Hoddle wrote last week for B/R:

Sturridge and Rooney are far and away the top two candidates. Rooney is able to drop deep into midfield when necessary. I’ve been saying for some time that Sturridge has the ability, but he’s now realised something had to change in his game or his personality to facilitate that step forward.

There's no doubting the quality of Rooney and Sturridge in the Premier League with their respective clubs. At the international level, though, they are untested.

Is this really the best England strike force of the last decade? Head back to that Daily Mail article to see some of England's attacking selections over the past 10 years—and you might just be convinced that Rooney has a point.

But are they good enough—and have they played together enough—to take England safely through the end of World Cup qualifying? Only one way to find out.

 

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