Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hodgson's Decision to Axe Ox Comes out of Left Field

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hodgson's Decision to Axe Ox Comes out of Left Field

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley in Warsaw

LOST amid the water torture England suffered last night was Roy Hodgson's team selection which implied a cautious rather than cavalier approach to navigating the toughest assignment in Group H so far.

Hodgson's decision to drop Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is an intriguing one because it would appear to imbalance the team. Assuming England will line up in a 4-2-3-1 system in the rearranged match this afternoon, Oxlade-Chamberlain's omission leaves the team without a natural left midfielder to play in the triumvirate behind a lone striker.

With captain Steven Gerrard returning, it would have been assumed that either Michael Carrick or Tom Cleverley would make way. But Hodgson has decided to field all three.

Presumably Carrick will slot in alongside Gerrard, James Milner will take his customary right-wing position and with Wayne Rooney the pivotal attacking force, that only leaves Cleverley to play on the left flank.

Cleverley has never played in that role for Manchester United and his game is suited far better to picking passes from central positions rather than scampering up and down the flanks.

Gerrard and Rooney have played on the left at various times in their careers but both form the spine of Hodgson's side and to move them out wide would nullify their influence on the game.

Cleverley is not particularly blessed with pace, so it seems likely he will be asked to perform a disciplined role similar to Milner on the opposite flank. Width will have to come from overlapping full-backs Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole, with Cleverley and Milner dropping in to cover should England lose possession.

Ball retention will be key on what is still likely to be a difficult playing surface.

Danny Welbeck could feel a little hard done by to sit this match out as Jermain Defoe returns but the Tottenham striker has made a decent fist of playing that lone striker role for his club and deserves to retain his place. …

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