Alan Hansen: Hodgson risks leaving Rooney frustrated, isolated and worn out
Published 18/11/2013 | 01:00
ROY HODGSON has plenty of problems to address if England are to have a hope of making any kind of impact at the World Cup next summer, but his biggest concerns getting the best out of Wayne Rooney.
To avoid misinterpretation, I do not believe for one minute that Rooney is the root of the problem, but it is one for which I can see no genuine solution.
The issue is the lack of an English centre-forward who is good enough to be relied upon to allow Wayne to perform for England as he does for Manchester United.
Wayne's best position has always been playing just behind an out-and-out centre-forward and, in Robin van Persie, he has one of the very best in that role at Old Trafford.
And if you go back to Euro 2004, when he was outstanding for England, he produced his best performance at a major tournament while playing just behind Michael Owen – another world-class centre-forward.
But as Hodgson now looks towards the World Cup in Brazil, the harsh reality is that England do not have a centre-forward and it is an issue which risks Rooney becoming frustrated, isolated and worn out.
Just go through the names. Rickie Lambert has scored a couple of goals for England this season, but you cannot see him playing in a World Cup finals.
Andy Carroll has had injury problems at West Ham that have stalled his international progress, while Peter Crouch is seemingly no longer under consideration. Danny Welbeck is deployed wide by club and country, while Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe are not line-leading centre-forwards.
So against Chile, Rooney found himself playing as the most advanced forward and that role, in itself, automatically diminishes the prospects of him producing his best and most dangerous form.
It was evident against Chile that Wayne needs to fine-tune his game for England and that is as much down to him as Hodgson.
Wayne (right) spent much of the first half chasing shadows as the Chilean defenders moved the ball around quickly, but he was the only England player who was pressing the opposition when they had the ball.
When he is wearing a United shirt, Rooney will press the ball and chase down defenders because he knows that each of his team-mates will be behind him, supporting him and doing the same job.
It is why he can perform that role so effectively, as he did in the victory against Arsenal.
With England, the same support was not there against Chile, but if Rooney is chasing shadows on his own, the manager or captain should ensure that everybody does it or that nobody does, and that the opposition are allowed to have the ball.
At the moment, England are falling between two stools and doing neither properly and Rooney is suffering for that.
Wayne is old enough and experienced enough to know, however, that he cannot allow himself to play that way for no reward for England.
But his frustration was clear to see last Friday, with television cameras showing him vocally urging his team-mates to help him out.
It is a problem for Hodgson. It is an accepted rule in football that you play your best players in their best position, but the lack of options up front is denying Roy the opportunity to do that with Rooney.
Unless a solution is found, though, Rooney has to alter his game with England because there is no way that he will be able to chase the ball and press so energetically during a summer World Cup.
It is asking too much, and also taking him away from where he is most dangerous, to expect him to do that job in Brazil.
Hodgson knows he has issues to address and Rooney is the most crucial.
There are other areas of concern that simply cannot be rectified no matter what England try before Brazil.
Even when I was at Liverpool, in arguably the best-ever technical team of British players, we knew that continental opponents would be better than us technically.
It was always the same scenario and nothing has changed, save for British players perhaps going backwards technically in the intervening years, so there is little point talking about philosophies and how England want to pass the ball.
You cannot play possession football if you have a back four who are unable to pass the ball and a midfield quartet who are not comfortable in possession. The key is to vary your tactics – play it short when you can and even play it long when the need arises. You must keep your opponents guessing.
England's problems are nothing new, but the biggest concern for them is that the solutions are looking thin on the ground. (© Daily Telegraph, London)