Skip to content

Roy Hodgson’s starting XI against Italy – combinations and permutations

Jun 11, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

Britain Britain Soccer England Hodgson

In the weathered hands of England manager Roy Hodgson rests a seemingly infinite number of combinations and permutations from which to pluck a starting XI for the World Cup opener against Italy on Saturday.

Attack is where the discrepancy lives. Joe Hart will start in goal, Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Glen Johnson will be the starting back four, and Steven Gerrard has locked down one of the central midfield spots.

That much we know. But from there on forward, things get sticky.

The general issue is whether Hodgson will go aggressive and deploy a diamond midfield behind two strikers or whether he’ll opt for the balance of a 4-2-3-1, utilizing two holding players behind three attacking midfielders and a lone striker. But formation is only one component of Hodgson’s prescription. A considerably larger concern is one of personnel and with a number of talented young stallions at his disposal, the England manager has some very difficult decisions to make.

So let’s take a look at a few different setups Hodgson has available to roll out against the Azzurri.

THE TASTE OF LIVERPOOL

The most talked about formation for England, the 4-4-2 diamond midfield, happens to be the same shape Liverpool used to claim second place in the past season’s Premier League. Brendan Rodgers perfected this setup with a rotating group of midfielders but always present in the bunch was Gerrard, at the fulcrum, and Raheem Sterling, in any one of the three advanced roles. Proving himself capable of opening defenses up from the left or right side, Sterling’s game rose to a new level late in the season when Rodgers inserted him into the center of the pitch where his quickness and evasive nature proved too much for stiff-legged central defenders.

source: Getty Images

Adam Lallana looks poised to exchange his Southampton shirt for a Liverpool kit.

Another key to the diamond midfield is balance, which is achieved through utilizing fit outside midfielders who have no issue playing both sides of the ball. And there’s no better man for that job than Jordan Henderson, who makes 90 minutes of sprinting look like a walk in the park.

A fellow Liverpool player, Henderson has an intimate understanding of Gerrard and Sterling as well as how to correctly use the diamond shape to his advantage. Henderson’s ability to drop deep, at times even alongside Gerrard, allows Hodgson to select a fourth member of the midfield with slightly more aggressive tendencies.

And who better for that role than Adam Lallana, the $34-42M transfer target of Liverpool, who looks primed to join the Reds by the end of July? The 26-year-old excelled on the left side for Southampton this past year, is not opposed to running himself ragged for 70 odd minutes and provides devastating trickery to compliment that of Sterling.

Opting for a four man midfield with Liverpool connections may feel biased but it’s a proven commodity that sparks goals. Factor in the Daniel Sturridge connection up top and this feels like a balanced yet aggressive lineup for Hodgson to utilize in the event he truly desires to take the game to Italy.

THE (ROONEY-LESS?) YOUTH BLITZ

If Hodgson really wants to throw a curveball at Italy he’ll unleash the youth, likely in a 4-2-3-1, which provides a bit more protection than the diamond. The youth setup would partner 22-year-old Jack Wilshere alongside Gerrard in what would be a clever pivot. Wilshere’s love for the tackle compliments that of Gerrard while the Arsenal man’s knack for creating off-the-dribble would provide a key link between the attacking midfielders and the striker.

source:

Many pundits feel Wayne Rooney‘s starting spot could be in jeopardy. Will Hodgson pull the plug?

In front of Gerrard and Wilshere would be 19-year-old Sterling on the left wing, 20-year-old Ross Barkley in the central attacking role and, ideally, 20-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right wing. The obvious issue currently facing this system is that Oxlade-Chamberlain is nursing a knee issue that may keep him out against Italy. While his speed and two directional play would devastate and provide balance to this shape he’d be well deputized by Henderson or Danny Welbeck, who would then swap sides with Sterling.

One downside of a youth blitz in a 4-2-3-1 is that Wayne Rooney may be the odd man out. It’s a predicament many pundits believe Hodgson may be inclined to move forward with given the United man’s sub-par Premier League season and poor World Cup history. That said, charging forward without Rooney in the starting lineup feels like a titanic miss and one that Hodgson would be wise to avoid risking. Instead, Hodgson could push forward with a youth blitz and Rooney, who could partner with Sturridge in front of a diamond midfield made up of Gerrard, Sterling, Barkley and Ox/Henderson/Welbeck/Wilshere.

Regardless of using a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 diamond, the key to the youth blitz would be giving England fans that which they fiend for the most: Sterling alongside Barkley in what would be a freakishly athletic, skillful and audacious pair that few opposing defenses, including the Italians, would be equipped to handle.

THE RUNNING MAN

As we know by now, heat and humidity will play a large role in this World Cup meaning many a match will come down to a battle of the fittest. And no venue will provide a greater challenge of the conditions than the sweltering jungle of Manaus, where England faces Italy. To hedge against those conditions, don’t be surprised if Hodgson opts for an attacking group of running men, which means James Milner becomes a real possibility to start.

source:

James Milner’s third lung may be enough to get him into Roy Hodgson’s starting XI.

The City man is as fit as the come. Inserting him on the right side along with Gerrard in the fulcrum, the inexhaustible Henderson on the left, and Sterling at the point of a diamond midfield could prove a very wise play.

If Hodgson opts for a 4-2-3-1, Rooney could drop into the attacking midfield role, Sterling to the bench and Wilshere alongside Gerrard.

It’s a lineup that would allow England to put Italy under pressure and bring veteran leadership into the side. While not the most exciting play, Milner’s work rate could break down Italy’s left side for a sub like Sterling or Oxlade-Chamberlain to then capitalize.

THE OLD GUARD

The most conservative and downright uninspiring attack Hodgson could play would be to pair Gerrard with Milner and Frank Lampard.

source: Getty Images

Frank Lampard can play a role for England in the World Cup, hopefully just not as a starter.

Whether in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 and regardless of who is played on the left side, such a lineup would reek of a lack of ambition and spell doom for England.

Fortunately, while such a makeup could have been foreseeable under Fabio Capello’s tenure as manager, it seems unlikely that Hodgson would revert to such a level of conservative tactics. There is a freshness about this England squad that is just begging to be unleashed on the world.

What better stage to make it happen than to kickoff Brazil 2014?

 

 

 

Latest Posts
  1. Report: 76ers owner close to buying Crystal Palace

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:51 PM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Neil Warnock could be answering to a new boss if American billionaire Josh Harris purchases Palace.

  2. Major League Soccer suspends referee after arrest for fraud

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v Colorado Rapids Getty Images

    Jose Carlos Rivero was charged with two felonies earlier this month but continued to work games for the MLS.

  3. WATCH: Red Bulls sign five-year-old with rare genetic disorder

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    The New York Red Bulls made a young girl’s dream come true as she signed a one-day contract with her favorite team.

  4. Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Arsenal

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch the Black Cats host the Gunners at 9:45 a.m. ET online via Live Extra.

  5. Serbia awarded win but docked points after melee against Albania

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-SRB-ALB Getty Images

    UEFA handed Serbia a 3-0 win but deducted points after their match against Albania was called off due to violence.

  6. Rio Ferdinand plans to retire after this season

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The former England captain and Manchester United legend plans to retire after his season at QPR.

  7. Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Leicester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch as Leicester City travels to Liberty Stadium tomorrow live on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  8. Juventus agrees new deal with Premier League transfer rumor mill mainstay Paul Pogba

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Pogba broke through with 9 goals and 10 assists across all competitions for Juventus last season and a goal and assist at the World Cup.

  9. A coach tells a fan tells a ticket rep… How soccer fans and the Red Bulls created this adorable goal video

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    newyorkredbulls.com newyorkredbulls.com

    It’s a little dusty in here. Godspeed, Irelyn. May a cure be found in short order!

  10. Still defending racial incident, seething at bite talk, Suarez returns for Barcelona

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Luis Suarez, Neymar AP

    It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona.

  11. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  12. Americans Abroad preview: Eyes on BuLi – Green, Brooks, Johnson tested

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Fabian-Johnson-Borussia-Moenchengladbach-Getty-Images Getty Images

    Perhaps a respite for Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, as their clubs face lesser competition this week in Burnley and QPR, respectively.

  13. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 9 of the PL.

  14. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Manchester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup

    It’s a top-four battle — no, seriously — as Manchester City rolls into Upton Park to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.

  15. An end-of-season (mostly) uncapped MLS XI for Jurgen Klinsmann’s approval

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v FC Dallas - Pre-Season Friendly Getty Images

    Who makes the cut as MLS players deserving of a look at USMNT camp?

  16. Two left flying MLS flag in 2015 CONCACAF Champions League quarters

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Ignacio Piatti, Connor Lade, AP

    An all-MLS final appearance is impossible thanks to seeding, and Montreal and DC can only face-off if they win in the quarterfinals this winter.

  17. Introducing: “The 2 Robbies ‘Football’ Show” on NBCSportsRadio.com

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:38 AM EDT

    Earle-Mustoe

    The purpose of the show is for the Robbies to hear from the fans on this call-in show, so dial 855-323-4622 and have your say.

  18. El Clasico: Luis Suarez, Barcelona and Real Madrid together at last

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-BARCELONA-CLASICO Getty Images

    El Clasico is upon us, and my goodness will it be a doozy between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday at the Bernabeu.

  19. Tear gas and rubber bullets used by Lille police against Everton fans

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:31 AM EDT

    France Lille Fan Violence AP

    French police had arrested a man for selling drugs, according to the BBC, and that earned the ire of already on-edge Everton supporters.

  20. Top European clubs prefer to play Qatar World Cup in May

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The European Club Association includes at least one club from every nation in UEFA and includes Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?