Football philosophies have endured a bumpy old ride this week.
Are forward-thinking fixations all they’re cracked up to be? Should parking the bus be commended or condemned? Or as Madrid’s star turns showed us, does a mixture of pragmatism, purpose and panache always trump a side that practices one trick more than the other? To win things I’d tend to go for the latter, but it’s still all rather confusing.
With 12 days to go until Roy Hodgson names his provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup, I’m not convinced the England gaffer knows what doctrine he’ll adopt either.
Having watched Liverpool rip through the Premier League this season – with many of his boys at the fore – I sense he’d love to mimic the attack-minded Reds.
Yet, as we saw at Euro 2012 and throughout his managerial career, Hodgson’s natural inclination as a coach is to play it well and truly on the safe side. It will be fascinating to see which way he goes.
First up though, Hodgson has to choose the right players and to save him the hassle I’ve whittled his needlessly large short list down to 23 for him right away…
Joe Hart, John Ruddy, Fraser Forster
I’m told Ben Foster is a really nice bloke, but there can be no place for a man who wants to pick and choose when he makes himself available for his country. The moment Foster opted to chuck a custard pie in Fabio Capello’s direction, he put himself before the team, and that’s not OK.
Of course, Joe Hart starts and heaven forbid, if something happens to him I’d have to plump for the untested Ruddy as back-up. Let’s hope it’s not a situation Roy has to deal with.
Glen Johnson, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw
I really don’t think this selection will be as hard for Hodgson to make as we imagine.
Voted by the players into their Premier League Team of the Year, Luke Shaw has been a teenage revelation. It would be criminal to hold him back. So, even though he’s shown there’s life in the old dog yet, Ashley Cole has to sit this tournament out.
The likely absence of Kyle Walker is no biggie, and I wouldn’t have selected him anyway. Phil Jones would be my choice to slot in at right-back or at centre-half if any of the first choice players get a knock.
It’s not the strongest defence I’ve ever seen, but with JT ruled out for obvious reasons, it’s the best we have.
Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Gareth Barry, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley, James Milner, Raheem Sterling
I can’t find a place for Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young or Adam Johnson – and I don’t think any of them could have major complaints. All have dipped this season, been inconsistent, or on the periphery of their club sides for too long.
Based on his performances in 2013/14, Gareth Barry should be on the plane. He won’t be though, and I’m not sure why. I believe he’d be the ideal experienced head to cover Steven Gerrard in that sitting role, should we lose him.
There’s a nice vibrancy about the midfield options available to the England boss.
In fact all of the youngsters are capable of playing out wide, in central midfield or in the hole behind a striker. There’s pace and there’s intelligence. It’s our strongest area by far.
Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert, Danny Welbeck
It’s hard to make a case for Andy Carroll’s inclusion this time around, and I do think England have moved on from the inevitable route one football that would be deployed as Plan B should he get game-time.
While Rickie Lambert doesn’t quite possess the same aerial prowess, the Saints star has more mobility, greater technique, the flexibility to play out wide – and crucially he is arguably the squad’s most proficient free-kick taker. For me, it’s a no-brainer.
There’s no reason why Rooney and Sturridge can’t hit it off in Brazil either. Both men can drop into the hole, both are happy to drift wide to make things happen, and both will run in behind when the time is right.
Too similar? I don’t think so. If the midfield can get the right service into them, these two can provide unpredictability, as well as goals.
Who would you take to Brazil? England are 30.00 to win the World Cup.