England take on Montenegro tonight in a game that can practically make or break the nation’s chances of automatic qualification for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
And already the papers seem to know who is playing. Most the daily’s believe that Roy Hodgson will line up with an uninspiring 4-4-2, with the only real shock being Jack Wilshere dropped from the starting line-up.
Personally, I hope it isn’t true.
Montenegro are a lot of things - organised, strong, defensively sound and surprisingly good with the ball at feet. But one thing they are not is fast or inventive.
So playing a bog-standard and lifeless formation from the prehistoric age is just what they will want. They will line up with two banks of four and come away with a 0-0 draw - like they did the last time they visited Wembley.
The England team needs to be more fluid, less vapid, and spicier to take it to the tiny Balkan nation.
Or are we scared of Montenegro?
So here is the team I would personally play.
Firstly, the formation. It lines up as a 4-2-3-1 from the get go, and here is why. This formation is so translucent. It can morph into a 4-5-1, a 4-3-3 or even a 4-1-3-2 without having to change personnel, and allows for transitional play in the final third that sees positional interchanging and fast break attacks far more likely than the rigid system proposed in today’s papers - much more like the Premier League football these players are used to playing.
So who lines up and where?
Here is my starting XI…
GK: Joe Hart
DC: Phil Jagielka
DC: Gary Cahill
DR: Kyle Walker
DL: Leighton Baines
MC: Michael Carrick
MC: Steven Gerrard
ML: Danny Welbeck
MR: Andros Townsend
AM: Wayne Rooney
ST: Daniel Sturridge
The defence basically picks itself, but at least Ashley Cole is injured so that Leighton Baines can get a deserved start.
The midfield, the noticeable absentees will probably be Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere. Arsenal midfielder Wilshere has been poor recently, despite his goal against West Brom. He needs a wakeup call, and coming off the bench as an animal backed into the corner, he will be a far more efficient weapon.
Lampard is of course a big player to drop from the team, but I prefer Carrick as the team’s pendulum. He is more ambitious in his passing, attempting to go forward more often than not - and is probably the only United player to have any credit from this season so far, apart from Rooney.
Rooney’s attacking midfield role means that, attacking. The space between midfield and defence will be ably covered by Gerrard while the tireless Welbeck will also put a shift in.
The full-backs attacking mentality should force Montenegro into their own half as well, minimising their threat.
Andros Townsend is a wildcard, but a far more attacking option then James Milner. Why we are worrying about defending from the start against Montenegro baffles me.
As for Sturridge, he is in breath-taking form and deserves the chance to lead the line - with Welbeck, Townsend, Rooney, Baines and Gerrard all joining in.
This is simply my opinion … and I am 100% certain this will not be the team Hodgson puts out at Wembley this evening.
But while we should always be cautious against any nation, that does not mean sacrificing ambition.
For once, I hope England just go for the win … for once.
How do you think England should line up against Montenegro this evening?
image: © whereareyousimon