Five England Questions To Be Answered...

The first is about Wayne Rooney and will dominate the back pages regardless of the result. But we also have queries about Tom Cleverley and that dodgy defence...

Last Updated: 13/08/13 at 16:10 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Football People On TV: Garth Crooks

26 comments

Famous, not to say legendarily well-known, notorious and generally celebrated for posing interview questions that take the form of long sentences with...

Football365's Final Day Quiz - Questions

Post comment

As the Premier League season reaches its denouement, we bring you 20 questions regarding the final day...

All Articles

1) Will Rooney make his point?

Whether you believe that Wayne Rooney's 'shoulder injury' is caused by the massive chip he has been carrying since Manchester United took his advice and brought in a world-class player ("a midfielder...I meant a bloody midfielder") or is a figment of somebody's imagination designed to keep old foes Rooney and David Moyes apart in pre-season, Rooney's whole-hearted and whole-shouldered training session with England on Monday made a mockery of any notion that he is unfit to play. The message is clear: I am fit to play for anybody except Manchester United.

On Wednesday he will play as the focal point of England's attack - the position he wanted to occupy for United and now presumably wants to occupy for Chelsea. Perhaps an excellent goalscoring performance will see Moyes beg for forgiveness after his wilfully misconstrued comments appeared to suggest that Rooney was merely a back-up option for Robin van Persie or perhaps it will jolt Chelsea into making a ridiculous offer that simply cannot be refused. At the very least, it will crank up the media-led pressure for some kind of resolution.

Of course, the problem with making yourself the main man is that failure comes on a grander scale with a bigger audience. But Rooney scored seven goals in seven games for England last season as Roy Hodgson showed the faith he feels is missing at United, and he will surely fancy keeping pace with that ratio against a Scotland defence featuring players from Brighton, Coventry and Blackburn. He will rarely be more motivated; there will be goals or there will be cards.

2) Will Gerrard-Wilshere be as good as we remember?

Before they faced Brazil in February, they had played only 13 minutes together and yet we all suspected that this was the central midfield partnership that should lead England to the World Cup. Then they were truly excellent in that 2-1 win at Wembley and the suspicion turned to certainty. Hodgson has tried Scott Parker, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Tom Cleverley, Leon Osman and even Phil Jones in central midfield since taking over from Fabio Capello but it is the Wilshere-Gerrard combination that promises the most both on paper and on the pitch.

In that partnership there is potential for discipline, energy, vision, commitment, incredible distribution, leadership and movement. Scotland will not provide their biggest test but it's vital that they log more minutes on the pitch together before the autumn qualifiers against Moldova, Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland. Rio Ferdinand has been talking this week about England lacking an 'identity'; this pair could form the basis of that 'identity' as England's most naturally talented and versatile central midfielders of the last decade. Another hour in the bank would make us all feel much better.

3) Will Hodgson shoehorn Cleverley in somewhere?

He's an "exceptional player", according to Hodgson, who selected Tom Cleverley to start every game for which he was available last season. We cannot pretend to understand the fascination which has led to Cleverley - a player not known for his shooting prowess - playing as a No. 10, a traditional central midfielder or even as a left winger for his country. Contrary to what you may read in a national media convinced that Hodgson plays only a 4-4-2, he has often changed formations but always found a place for Cleverley.

We assume the same will happen again on Tuesday, but where will he play? The answer can probably be found in that 2-1 win over Brazil in February, when he played behind Rooney and ahead of Gerrard/Wilshere despite a return of just two Premier League goals in 32 games for United suggesting that he lacks the dynamism for that role. That trio were flanked by Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott and it would be no great surprise to see that front six reunited against Scotland. Against inferior opposition we would hope to see him introduce rather more invention to his safe neatness. Perhaps then we will begin to understand Hodgson's faith.

4) Who will play at centre-half?

When this latest England squad was announced we looked at the list of central defenders and thought that there was surely somebody missing. Could Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill really be the sum total of our options for a position that has traditionally been an area of England strength? The answer is yes - unless you count Joleon Lescott, and Hodgson clearly doesn't unless he's desperate. So who will play against Scotland and put themselves in the frame - should they keep Jordan Rhodes quiet - for the autumn qualifiers?

Jagielka and Cahill started England's last two friendlies against Ireland and Brazil but it was his excellent performance against the latter at Wembley in February that earned Smalling the No. 6 shirt for the following two qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro. And then there is Jones, who has played a grand total of 26 minutes for England at centre-half. We honestly have no preference; we just really, really hope that the promising Steven Caulker has a blinding start to the season for Cardiff City and joins that short and slightly depressing list of options.

5) Will Lambert be more than Kevin Davies?

Nobody will ever be able to take away Kevin Davies' status as an England international but few memories survive anywhere outside his family about the 20 minutes he spent on the pitch in a 0-0 draw with Montenegro in October 2010. You will be unsurprised to learn that he was booked. Rickie Lambert is a far, far more talented footballer than Davies but he risks being consigned to the same list of English Premier League strikers who was given one cap when times were desperate (in this case, the absence of Andy Carroll and Daniel Sturridge), unless he does something eye-catching with his probable 20 minutes.

Statistics from last season would suggest that Lambert is far more creative and dangerous than Danny Welbeck but his lack of pace and youth will undoubtedly count against him when future squads are named. It would be lovely to be proved wrong.

Sarah Winterburn

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

N

ow is the time for Allardyce to finally get a chance at a big club please. He is likely to have a number of great offers for his services this summer, but who will he choose? Will it be Liverpool, Real Madrid, Dortmund or Man City?

medina_sod
Allardyce leaves West Ham

I

thought exactly this when the Match of the Day pundits were peddling this line. Is it really not okay for fans of a club to have some ambition these days then?

damoceltic
Bored Of Big Sam? It's Your Right...

H

ow magnanimous off him - to leave if he's asked to by the owners? What's the alternative, bunker down in his office claiming squatter's rights if FSG want rid?

feed the bear
Rodgers: I'll go if owners want

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich: Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond strike as Canaries seal immediate return to Premier League

Norwich City gained promotion to the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Yaya Toure will stay at Manchester City, insists agent Dimitri Seluk

Yaya Toure will stay at Manchester City, according to his agent.

UEFA chief Michel Platini says it would be good for football if Sepp Blatter loses FIFA election

Michel Platini is backing Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan in Friday’s FIFA presidential election.

Mail Box

Can We Combine Danny And Theo?

The finishing of Theo Walcott and the hold-up play of Danny Welbeck would be just perfect. Plus, lots of Brendan Rodgers, some Big Sam and all hail Degsy...

Only One Real Manager Of The Year

Winning the Premier League with the best squad in the Premier League is only par; Ronald Koeman did a whole lot better. Plus, the last word on Raheem and...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company