Should Rooney break up the Welbeck-Carroll partnership?
England boss Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Wayne Rooney will start in his side’s crucial match against Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk tonight (19th June).
Rooney has had to watch the Three Lions’ first two Group D matches from the sidelines after needlessly getting sent off in the final game of the qualifying campaign against Montenegro.
Despite the Manchester United striker’s show of petulance, Hodgson has expressed his confidence that Rooney will keep his cool in the intimidating atmosphere created by the home fans at the Donbass Arena.
But is the former West Brom manager right to break up the promising partnership of Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck after the pair both scored in the thrilling 3-2 win against Sweden last Friday?
It is perhaps a sign of how far England have come over the short time Hodgson has been in charge that Rooney is facing strong competition for his starting berth rather than walking straight into the side tasked with saving his side from elimination.
The much-maligned Carroll, who has failed to justify his hefty £35 million price tag during his time with Liverpool, scored an excellent header against the Swedes and did plenty of running as he looked to close down the opposition backline at every opportunity.
Meanwhile, Welbeck bagged a classy winner in the same game and has shown himself to be capable of holding up the ball, an excellent skill to add to his pace and trickery.
Should Hodgson break up this winning formula?
As one of England’s only true world-class players, Rooney is surely needed by the England side which is severely lacking in flair and creativity.
The promising run of results achieved under Hodgson has been built on a solid defensive unit and a high level of work rate perhaps unseen under previous regimes. All the players also appear to be well-drilled on their roles within the team, but this is not enough to reach the latter stages of a major tournament.
Top players win matches and the former Everton forward is undoubtedly one of the finest in his position. If England need a goal against Ukraine to secure a quarter-final place, fans and players alike will look to Rooney to provide something special to turn the contest around.
One of England’s main failings at the tournament so far has been their inability to hold onto the ball and Rooney’s ability to drift in between the lines and start moves from a deeper position has been sorely missed during his suspension. This is something that is not offered by the less mobile Carroll and the raw Welbeck, who lacks Rooney’s tactical nous.
It may appear harsh to ditch either Carroll or Welbeck but both are young and inexperienced on the international stage (the Liverpoolman has just five caps to his name while Welbeck has seven). In such a crunch clash, experienced pros are needed to guide their team through any rough patches and Rooney will be a calming influence on those around him. Furthermore, the 26-year-old’s international goal scoring record of 28 goals in 74 appearances compares favourably with his contemporaries and especially against those of his two younger teammates, who have just two goals each in an England shirt.
Despite announcing his starting place, Hodgson did not allude to the position Rooney will take up, but one would assume he would play in the free role behind the main striker.
With Welbeck and Rooney already showing signs of a fruitful partnership at Old Trafford, Hodgson could look to recreate that dynamic on the international stage. Anyone who saw the pair tear apart Everton during the famous 4-4 draw at the end of last season will be well aware of the potential of the strike duo and they would appear to be the front-runners for the two spots up front.
Carroll has also failed to deliver since his switch to Anfield and he would perhaps be best used as an impact sub if England need to change things up later in the game.
However, with Rooney now ready to be unleashed, Hodgson will hope he does not need to risk a gamble to keep England’s Euro 2012 hopes alive.