World Cup 2014: Gary Lineker questions Wayne Rooney role at World Cup, saying Roy Hodgson has a 'conundrum'

‘Sturridge is a threat behind the opposition defence’

Miami

Gary Lineker has added his voice to those saying that Roy Hodgson must consider leaving Wayne Rooney out of the England team during this World Cup, with Daniel Sturridge now the lead striker for the tournament.

In a considered video blog for the BBC, the former England striker, and now leading Match of the Day presenter, treads a diplomatic line in discussing Hodgson’s options but he leaves no doubt that he believes the key forward is Sturridge, around whom the team must be built.

Lineker has been extremely critical of Hodgson’s England in the past, describing them as “awful” during the goalless draw with Ukraine in Kiev in qualifying. This time he argues that it is a team that must work on the premise that Sturridge starts as the leading striker who will push defences back and create space for England in front of the opposition’s area.

Lineker said: “But then you’ve got the conundrum – if Sturridge is up top in the system, where do you play Wayne Rooney? Wayne can play anywhere. He can play on the right, he can play on the left, he can even play a forward midfield role.

“But the question then is, ‘Have you better players in those particular positions than Wayne Rooney?’ We’ve got all sorts of options. You could have [Raheem] Sterling playing on one side, the possibility of [Adam] Lallana playing on either side, [Danny] Welbeck, of course, which has been favoured by Roy in his teams and you’d expect him to play on the left-hand side because he covers a lot of ground.

“So it will be interesting to see which way Roy Hodgson goes. Or whether he sets back to that old way we played two years ago against Italy, with two lines of four, Rooney and someone else up top. So all sorts of possibilities. It will be fascinating to see which way he goes.”

 

Paul Scholes last week raised the possibility of Hodgson dropping Rooney, asking whether the England management would have the “balls” to do it. Rooney played his first game since 26 April with 66 minutes against Peru on Friday and thus far Hodgson has said that it is premature to judge his form.

That game was Rooney’s 90th cap for England and he is 11 goals behind Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record of 49. That record has now stood for 40 years and it is remarkable how England strikers Lineker (48) and Michael Owen (40) have fallen fractionally short, having looked like they would comfortably surpass it. The expectation has always been that Rooney will eventually get there.

Nevertheless, the question of Rooney will dominate the build-up, with the player unlikely to start against Ecuador on Wednesday, when Hodgson will opt for a more experimental side. Sturridge’s goal against Peru underlined his ability to pose a threat to opposition teams but it is the space he creates that Lineker also identified as a major factor.

Lineker said: “For me there’s one thing that should be permanent, given fitness and form, and that’s that Sturridge plays up front, in the middle. From time to time in different systems, Roy has used him on one side or the other, and had Rooney up front in the middle. But Sturridge gives us different options. He gives us a threat behind the opposition defence and that’s something Rooney doesn’t do so frequently. He’s very good at coming off, creating space, turning, hitting shots and bringing other people into the game, working hard.

“But... behind the opposition’s defence, that’s Sturridge’s territory. And that makes the opposition nervous, so they edge further back, which creates more space between the defence and midfield for others to exploit. If we can do that, it makes teams think.”

With or without Roo? Lineker’s musings

Option One:

“You could, of course, play some sort of diamond in midfield, like Liverpool did so successfully, and put Wayne Rooney in that natural position, just behind Sturridge, the No 10, if you like.”

Option Two:

“You could play 4-3-3, which has worked well for Roy. It gives a nice balance and a bit of depth in midfield. If we play two lines of four, with two in the middle, we get outnumbered and the strikers get separated from midfield.”

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