The supposedly conservative England manager Roy Hodgson surprised many when he picked five strikers – alongside offensive midfielders Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Ross Barkley – in his final 23-man squad for the UEFA Euro 2016. With just three specialist center backs, the plan was clearly to outscore the opponent.
In the final warm-up friendly against Portugal, Hodgson toyed with a formation containing two strikers ahead of a midfield diamond with Rooney at its apex. It’s fair to say that Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, the strikers chosen to spearhead the attack, flattered to deceive with England’s attack looking toothless and disjointed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hodgson then decided to start with three upfront against Russia in the first game of the European Championship, with Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling on either side of Harry Kane.
Nevertheless with Andros Townsend left at home, there really are not any other players that can debutize for Sterling or Lallana on the wing. This is especially worrying considering Sterling’s awful form. Vardy has looked uncomfortable in a wide position in an attacking three in the warm up friendlies while Daniel Sturridge has repeatedly said in the past that his position should be central. James Milner has played in such a position in the past but is hardly the swashbuckling forward that Hodgson is looking for. Alli and Barkley tend to impress when playing centrally while Marcus Rashford is untried on the wing.
Do you persist with a 21 year-old lacking confidence or do you change to a formation that failed so miserably against Portugal but which seems to open up a slot for another striker?
This is the dilemma that the England manager faced at half-time against Wales as his side trailed to a Gareth Bale free-kick. Hodgson decided to go for the latter of the choices mentioned.
Sterling and Kane were hauled off with Sturridge and Vardy coming on. The move paid dividends as both strikers found the net in a 2-1 victory. As the dust settled from that pulsating game, the attention is firmly focused on the front line Hodgson will pick in the last group game against Slovakia.
As former England winger Chris Waddle alluded to on BBC’s Match of the Day, Kane looks absolutely knackered this summer having played no less than 118 competitive games during the past 22 months. Consequently, he has lacked the dynamism required of a central striker in a fluid front three. Thus, a role as one of a front two with a supporting striker such as Sturridge or Vardy may be more suited to him.