Having played the football powerhouses of Spain and France in the last fortnight, it is abundantly clear that Roy Hodgson’s side remains years away from winning a major international trophy.
With a number of significant issues still up in the air and a manager clearly out of his depth, the European Championship in France is set to host arguably England’s greatest footballing failure.
The all-too-familiar sense of national disappointment looks likely to continue. Indeed, it is easy to picture the England manager scratching his head, dabbing his pen on a blank team-sheet in a desperate attempt, through some heavenly miracle, to produce a stellar line-up capable of taking on Europe’s best.
Arguably, his greatest selection problem is the one posed by his captain.
Despite breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal-scoring record, Wayne Rooney has continued to fall from grace and now rests uneasily on his previous successes. The facets that once made Rooney a world-beater have now abandoned him. The talisman player has lost his aggressive drive and uncanny ability to create chances out of thin air.
With next-to-no pace, a general lack of conviction and arguably the worst first touch of any outfield player in the squad, he simply drags himself across the turf, making aimless runs and eagerly waiting for something to happen.
Where is the fight and aggression, the power and brute force that once pulsed through his game? The sooner England realise he is no longer their Zlatan or Müller, the better. Sadly Hodgson – like much of English football – remains intoxicated by Rooney’s previous honours and successes.
Resultantly, he is not only undroppable but also, in the eyes of many, the focal point around which the entire team should be built. Of course, this conundrum poses a number of tactical issues for his manager. After all, where can you fit a miss-firing player in any competitive team?
With the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, and Theo Walcott all patiently waiting in the wings, Rooney’s presence in both the centre-forward and number 10 position is unwarranted. The simple fact remains that he is not the best player in either position, and so, rather than aimlessly being moved around the front four, should graciously take his place on the bench.
Evidently, Rooney plays at the expense of young players that offer far more to the team’s overall play. Alongside Kane and Barkley, Dele Alli has that special something that every team craves. Add in the likes of Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and England have a youthful side, blessed with a fearless mindset and are capable of running any defence ragged.
Rooney’s cemented position in the starting line-up sadly contorts their exciting play and naturally caps the abundant flair they possess. Therefore, by starting his captain at the Euros, Hodgson will be digging his own grave, making his sacking a mere inevitability. And yet, the goals have not abandoned him. Bafflingly, Rooney has scored nine times in his last 11 appearances in an England shirt. Whilst appearing impressive on the surface, these goals were largely scored against mediocre sides, and none were part of an impressive performance.
Rooney now dangles precariously over the cliffs of degradation. Redundant and wasteful, only the stubborn nature of an ill-suited manager and the memory of his former glory days prevent him from plummeting into the graveyard of English football.
Rather than playing with pace, aggression and a devil-may-care attitude so frequently seen in the Premier League, England will continue without punch, perilously depending on moments of brilliance from the team’s young stars.
Rather ironically, Rooney will go down in history as one of England’s brightest talents while simultaneously hindering the squad from achieving the immortality associated with winning an international tournament.
Photo courtesy of hiilkubad