After England’s narrow 3-2 win over Sweden in Kiev last night only heaps more pressure on the manager regarding his selection for the all-important final group match against the co-hosts Ukraine on Tuesday evening. Both Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll netted in the win which eliminated Sweden who previously lost to Ukraine 2-1 thanks to a double from Andriy Shevchenko.
The tie on Tuesday pits England against Ukraine in Donetsk, where Hodgson’s men previously held France to a 1-1 draw. The match sees the return of Wayne Rooney who has been promised a start by Roy Hodgson when he returns from that suspension. He will most likely replace either Welbeck or Carroll but they are two completely different types of player and two different threats that they each bring.
Welbeck wasn’t given a fair crack in the opening contest against France as he was isolated up front whereas Andy Carroll has come into the side knowing that he needed to prove himself in order to earn a berth against Ukraine. Had the same side started in Kiev last night then Welbeck certainly wouldn’t have been to replicate Carroll’s opener and likewise when the Man United frontman cleverly netted the winning goal.
With Wayne Rooney returning from suspension it leaves just the one attacking berth up for grabs. Jermain Defoe hasn’t done enough to warrant a start and with both Welbeck and Carroll proving their worth in the 3-2 win over Sweden, Hodgson is left with a difficult task.
James Milner less than fitting performances in the opening two matches leaves his role truly up for speculation. When Walcott came off the bench against Sweden he turned the game on the head, bringing the pace and creativity which unfortunately for the Man City midfielder, he doesn’t possess.
I believe that Milner perhaps suits more of a central role in midfield but with Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard nailed on selections at the heart of the England midfield it leaves Milner for a place on the bench. For the latter stages of the tournament, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doesn’t hold the sufficient experience if England are to face the likes of Spain, Germany and Italy in the knockout phase.
That leaves just Theo Walcott who had proved himself in tournament football last night, for the 30-minute cameo, he has created enough waves for England to warrant a place in the starting eleven. With Walcott on the right-wing and presumably the same set-up in the back five and centre of midfield it leaves the trio of Andy Carroll, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck fighting for two places against Ukraine.
Andy Carroll isn’t capable of playing on the left wing which automatically pits both United forwards in a battle for left wing. Because of Welbeck’s lack of experience and versatility, he can only be stuck up front for the match on Tuesday, ensuring Ashley Young – despite how off colour he may have been last night – retains the left wing place.
The real dilemma is faced when you pit Carroll and Welbeck together though. Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck have developed an understanding over the past year of playing their club football together at Old Trafford and despite being similar players they have proven they can be effective together.
A good example to point out was the 8-2 win over Arsenal in August last year, a match in which Ashley Young was influential when he cut in from the left wing. Assuming that these players take up those positions, the United three could prove deadly against a less than impressive Ukrainian defence.
The duo of Shevchenko and Tymoshschuk cause threats for Ukraine but when you look across the board, there’s no room for improvement for the co-hosts and with the ability that England possess, they should be dispatched with ease.
Let’s not forget that Ukraine are on home turf. That is a big reason why Andy Carroll could be replacing Danny Welbeck up front. Ukraine are a physical side and especially in the Donetsk cauldron, they can look tougher than they actually are. Carroll’s brute force up front could strike some fear into the hearts of the opposition defence, as opposed to the more technically gifted Welbeck.
The dilemma pits the deadly Manchester United trio which holds diminutive figures or the sometimes off colour, sometimes deadly Andy Carroll who proved he can get a goal out of anywhere.
I think I’ll leave it to Roy.