England Manager Roy Hodgson Must Use His Exciting Youngsters Wisely

Glenn HoddleFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2014

England national soccer team manager Roy Hodgson listens to a media question, during his press conference at the team's training facilities at the Urca military base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, June 10, 2014.  The England soccer team are staying in Rio de Janeiro as their base city for the 2014 soccer World Cup.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Who partners captain Steven Gerrard in the centre of England's midfield is the big area of concern for England manager Roy Hodgson as he ponders the final two pieces of the jigsaw for his team to open the World Cup against Italy in Manaus on Saturday.

Deciding between Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck will be the big topic of debate, and it might be that Roy opts for Sterling's pace as it is vital England find a way of getting behind defences in this tournament, and there has been little evidence so far that they can do so.

As I have always thought, Roy showed his hand against Honduras in the final warm-up game, naming the side he would anticipate playing against Italy—although, of course, he was unable to field Sterling due to his red card, and it is clear he has it in mind to play Sterling against Italy.

While that is an obvious one for Roy to reflect on, I would start with Welbeck and bring Sterling on from the bench. However, Roy showed his hand by selecting Jordan Henderson to play alongside captain Gerrard.

I am not convinced this is the right way to go, and as midfield is going to be such a vital area for England, this needs looking at very carefully by the manager.

Raheem Sterling had a fine season with Liverpool.
Raheem Sterling had a fine season with Liverpool.Jon Super/Associated Press

There are a number of candidates for midfield, including Jack Wilshere and James Milner. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been another had he been fit, while everyone has assumed that Roy will go with Henderson because of his outstanding end-of-season form alongside Gerrard for Liverpool.

Frank Lampard hardly gets a mention, but I would go with Lampard alongside Gerrard because of Lampard’s enormous experience. I would play Lampard square of Gerrard to offer as much protection to England's back four as possible, protection they are going to need in Manaus.

If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said Wilshere was a certain starter. It seems a long time ago that he was hailed as the great new discovery, the bright young new star, but the Arsenal player has failed to push forward in his development.

There are reasons for thisa succession of injuries and also high expectations. Of course, he is no longer the new kid on the block; now England have Ross Barkley to debate as the new midfield inspiration.

But Roy needs to be prudent in his first World Cup team selection. He cannot afford to have a rush of blood to the head against Italy. 

Two points are crucial for England. Firstly, they are going to need to dictate the centre of the park. Lampard played a deep role all season with Chelsea—when, of course, he got into the team.

Lampard and Gerrard—that combination has come in for an awful lot of discussion in the past about whether they could play together.

But that was the past, when both liked to bomb forward in search of goals. When they were both in their prime maybe they didn’t gel together, although I never thought they couldn't dovetail in central midfield.

In Manaus it will be vastly different. Under the extraordinary circumstances England will encounter, Lampard's know-how will be vital from the start.  

England will need to dictate the midfield, and to achieve that, much will also depend on the interplay between Wayne Rooney and Adam Lallana, how they link in midfield when England are not in possession of the ball, as much as when they are.

I would start Lallana on the left as he he is much more suited to coming inside and driving forward on his left. Against Denmark, he was outstanding on his left-hand side.

Secondly, the game in Manaus will hinge on how each side copes in the final 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes are when it will be won or lost because of the conditions.

England should use Everton's Ross Barkley off the bench, according to Glenn Hoddle.
England should use Everton's Ross Barkley off the bench, according to Glenn Hoddle.Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Conditions in Manaus will lead to fatigued players and mistakes in the last 20 minutes. Players will be vulnerable if they are out there for the full 90 minutes.

The players are going to need to play in bursts of high tempo. There is no way they can keep it going all the time. Five minutes of high tempo, then pace yourself, and go again for another five-minute burst.

That is why England's young guns are so crucial in this match—but coming off the bench.

Roy is fortunate to have so many players at his disposal who can come off the England bench and affect the game. That is the time to use them. They will be fresh, raring to go and able to use their youthful energy to make a huge impact in those final 20 minutes.

Let's face it, the players are going to be dead on their feet in those last 20 minutes.

We all talk about Andrea Pirlo being the man to run the game for Italy and the player for England to fear most, but at his age, he cannot possibly last the full 90 minutes, no matter how much he tries to pace himself, no matter how much he plays in that deep role these days conserving his energy.

These are incredibly testing conditions, and Pirlo will be exposed in the open spaces in the final stages of the game.

That is the time to bring on Sterling to scare the Italians with his pace, with the Liverpool flyer using his speed and dribbling skills to run at the Italian defence at a time when they will be flagging.

Again, that is the time to bring on Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere. Those youngsters will then have far more freedom to express their skills to make a huge difference in the game.

That is the time for Roy to produce an injection of pace and energy. England is in a fortunate position that the outstanding youngsters coming through have all had good seasons with their club sides and are all familiar with the system that is being played at the international level.

Roy has a really good, strong bench, and as a manager, it is really comforting to know that you have that up your sleeve. When Barkley came on against Honduras, he had that injection of pace, that injection of exciting play.

I know England ended up with two draws against Ecuador and Honduras, and they would have liked two wins going into the World Cup.

But results only serve to bolster confidence, and I am not sure that the two draws have dampened the spirt or confidence within the camp.

For me, Lallana is the man to make a significant contribution from the start, but it is imperative that Hodgson works on ways to get Lallana on the ball far more than he has in these two warm-up games in Miami.

Adam Lallana is good enough to start for England, says Glenn Hoddle.
Adam Lallana is good enough to start for England, says Glenn Hoddle.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Lallana has the guile, skill and technique to enable England to play through the pitch quickly, but that means getting him on the ball far more. That has been noticeable to me and is a key area for Roy and his coaching staff to work on in the final days training before the opening World Cup tie.

He might even be tempted to cause a shock and play Milner on the right to tighten things up, with Lallana on the left. Milner didn't look comfortable at right-back, but he did his best, and his strength and power might prove useful on the right to give the side a more solid look.

There is going to be a big Liverpool influence with Glen Johnson at right-back, Daniel Sturridge leading the attack, Henderson a leading contender to play alongside Gerrard and Sterling to become one of the stars as the tournament progresses.

I have always thought Roy would play Sturridge up front with Rooney supporting him and aiding the midfield, as it is vitally important not to be overrun in that area.

The back five pick themselves: Joe Hart, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Johnson. Roy is going to have to protect a back four that does give room for concern, so he will have Gerrard sitting in front of the two centre-halves because the opener is one England dare not lose.

It's all very well to push for a more effusive stylethe Liverpool way as it has been suggestedand go out on the offensive and take the game to the Italians. That is a recipe for being caught on the counter.

No, the strategy must be to protect the England defence and counter themselves with a bit more pace in the side, and that's why I can see why Roy will be tempted to go with Sterling on the flank instead of Welbeck.

But the red card against Ecuador will make Roy think twice about whether he can trust the 19-year-old's temperament as it was a reckless tackle that got him sent off.

Welbeck has never let Roy down, so I think he will stick with him at least to start with.

I can see Barkley emerging as the tournament progresses, and I feel it is imperative that someone like the Everton midfielder grows into the tournament if England progress to the knockout stages.

But for now he is going to start on the bench. The Italy match is not one for taking too many risks with too many relatively untried youngsters. That can come after.

Oxlade-Chamberlain did well enough against Ecuador to force his way into the team, but his injury is a big setback for England, as he was looking so sharp and positive.

So it's great news that he feels he can make it, and Roy is hopeful he'll join the team for the second match against Uruguay, according to The Guardian.

I hope that the England defence can come good and prove themselves to be of the highest international quality defenders—much of England's chances of progressing to a healthy run in this tournament will depend upon it.

Glenn Hoddle is part of the star-studded ITV team for the World Cup. He is also one of Sky’s top pundits.  He is technical director of F30, which staged the highly successful Legends Cup. Read more from Glenn at ZapSportz.com.


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