Five Questions For England Against Moldova

Will Roy Hodgson go balls-out against the 141st-ranked team in the world? Who will play up front? And do we really have to talk about Gerrard and Lampard again?

Last Updated: 07/09/12 at 11:36 Post Comment

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How attacking will Hodgson's England be?
Roy Hodgson is not a naturally cavalier manager. His teams are not, it would be fair to say, Keegan-esque. We do not have an English Zdenek Zemen managing the national team.

This is not necessarily a criticism, but it creates an interesting question about how he will approach the trip to Chisinau. Moldova are, it is probably fair to say, not a good team. In fact, they're rubbish. While obviously not a great deal of faith need be placed in such things, they are ranked 141st in the world, nestling neatly between Malta and Kazakhstan. In their last World Cup qualifying campaign, they finished below Luxembourg.

Thus, it is not only the chest-thumpers that would expect a fairly comprehensive victory for England. With this in mind, does Hodgson try to 'send a message' (although to whom exactly is not entirely clear) and really give Moldova a shoeing, or be fairly conservative, reason that three points is three points and 'settle' for the fairly tedious 2-0 or 3-0 win? If the latter, James Milner can start buffing his tireless workrate in anticipation of a solid shift on the wing, but should Roy go nuts and opt for the former, then perhaps a front three of Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott to provide some attacking penetration? Or maybe even a start for Jermain Defoe, whose record against such minnows more or less guarantees a goal or two?


Who to start up front?
An interested spectator on Friday night will be sitting at home, wondering just who else will have to fall over before he gets his chance. After Andy Carroll was ruled out of the England squad with a hamstring twang, Hodgson decided against summoning Darren Bent (or anyone, actually), preferring to stick with Welbeck, Sturridge and Defoe as his striking options.

It's been much bemoaned in recent years that the pool of English striking talent is so shallow that managers can scarsely afford to ignore any goalscorers available (and no, sit down Henry Winter, Michael Owen doesn't count), which includes Bent. He might not have scored for his club this season, but neither have Welbeck or Sturridge.

Anyway, with no Bent, and working on the assumption that he will pick a lone forward (the previous section was written as a suggestion, rather than an expectation), the only logical choice for Hodgson is to play Danny Welbeck with two wingers either side of him. It was how England played in the friendly against Italy last month (albeit with different personnel), indicating that this would be his favoured 'Rooney-less' formation for the immediate future. It would be nice to have a few more options though...


Who will play out wide?
With that in mind, thoughts turn to who will start on the wings.

In part, this question will depend on the answer to the first - what approach will Hodgson take? James Milner will of course offer a dependable, predictable and dare I say vaguely depressing presence, and it won't be a huge surprise to see him there.

However, as the selection of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the first Euro 2012 game against France shows, Hodgson isn't averse to the odd wild card. If I may be so bold, I suspect Hodgson will select Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left, with Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott on the right.

But then again I am quite often wrong.


Will Michael Carrick do enough?
After having taken the stance of not wishing to be selected unless he was in a starting role, one assumes Hodgson has assured Carrick that he won't be spending much time on the bench.

Or perhaps not. Carrick said on Thursday: "I don't need assurances or guarantees of any kind, just a fair chance. If I am playing well then I want to get a chance. If I'm not, then fair enough.

"Anyone who knows me knows my ego is not big enough to think I should be here and expect to play. That's the manager's choice. It's just up to me to stay in the squad for starters and then hopefully push to get a place in the team."

So, having got that chance, and with Scott Parker likely to be fit for the next round of England fixtures, will Carrick make the most of it?


Must we do this again?
There is a school of thought that argues Roy Hodgson should effectively write-off the 2014 World Cup because, realistically, England will have little to no chance of winning the thing. That school preaches throwing out the 'old boys' and only considering players who will be around in 2016.

It's a bold theory, but a risky and slightly flawed one. For a start, there is no way of predicting which players will be around in 2016 - who knows, Steven Gerrard may drink the elixir of youth and live forever, while Jack Wilshere might never be able to stand up again. It's also a knee-jerk, rip it up and start again plan that is simply impractical, and is always suggested after England disappoint at a major tournament. And in any case, it's a moot point because Roy Hodgson doesn't subscribe to such a plan.

Hodgson said at the weekend: "I want to win matches and I won't be prepared to throw players of Terry, Lampard and Gerrard's quality away until I'm sure there are much better options to take their place. Frankly that's not happening at the moment."

Indeed. So this leads us to the old debate - which actually long since ceased being a 'debate' because people are just so sick of talking about it - but one that with Hodgson's comments and the presence of both in the squad, is inevitable. So, with apologies, where do Gerrard and Lampard fit with this version of the England team?

In fact, the idea that the two cannot play in the same team is false (the 2010 qualifying campaign saw both play under Fabio Capello), and Lampard's new/current role for Chelsea makes it easier for him to play alongside Michael Carrick, with Gerrard slightly ahead of both. Indeed, it's the latter that might prove to be more problematic, given his mild underperformance for Liverpool this season, and perhaps more pertinently his lack of a defined role in their side.

You might not like it, but for the forseeable future it looks like these symbols of the old guard are both going to be in the England side. Sorry.

Nick Miller - bring up more old debate with him on Twitter

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