Questions remain over Roy Hodgson's starting XI for England's first World Cup game against Italy on June 14. Should Wayne Rooney start, despite his poor form? Is Glen Johnson playing well enough to justify his role in the side? And who exactly should be in Hodgson's midfield?
And it's the answer to the last of those questions which will disappoint Frank Lampard the most. The released Chelsea midfielder, who has 105 England caps, can no longer be considered a guaranteed starter, and if everyone remains fit between now and Saturday's showdown with the Italians, he will have to watch from the sideline.
Hodgson, to his credit, has employed a 4-2-3-1 formation, a system which negates England's age-old left-wing problem. A succession of England managers stuck doggedly to a 4-4-2 despite England never having a player capable of offering natural width on the left. Joe Cole, Trevor Sinclair, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson and, most absurdly, Paul Scholes have all been tried there over the years with limited success.
A deep-lying pair now offer protection to the back four and are expected to launch attacks with their passing, with a three-man forward line behind one central striker expected to create chances and score goals. It's a far more balanced side, utilising the strengths of the England players more successfully.
Lampard is vying for a place in the defensive midfield two, but with Steven Gerrard certain to start given his role as captain of the side, as well as his suitability to the role because of his superb range of passing, it leaves him needing a partner with more defensive nous than Lampard.
It's become clear Lampard and Gerrard, despite what England managers of the past have suggested, do not combine well at all, proving on many occasions to be less than the sum of their parts. Hodgson, it seems, won't be falling into the trap of persevering without success.
Lampard was given a chance to impress against Ecuador in England's recent friendly in Miami, but he failed to deliver. He played alongside Jack Wilshere, but a lack of bite made England look susceptible to being caught out defensively. Better sides would almost certainly have exposed their weaknesses.
Jordan Henderson, Gerrard's Liverpool teammate, is in pole position to start against Italy, with his mobility and understanding alongside the England captain making him a better choice than Lampard. He has more energy and physicality than the released Chelsea man, and after a superb season for Liverpool in which he proved to be one of the most improved players in the league, he deserves to play.
He must, however, show a little more willingness to take risks with his passing. His conservationism, particularly in England's last game against Honduras, suggested he needs to be braver in possession if he wants to impact the World Cup positively. He may be in pole position right now, but he has some way to go before he can be considered an automatic choice.
James Milner, who appears to be Hodgson's utility man, could be an option, but given his time in recent friendlies has been spent in a wide position or at right-back, it seems he is unlikely to challenge Henderson too fiercely.
The likelihood of Lampard—a near-permanent fixture in the England midfield for the last 10 years—starting against Italy appears remote, and England will very likely be better for it.
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