Britain Britain Soccer England Hodgson

Roy Hodgson’s starting XI against Italy – combinations and permutations


In the weathered hands of England manager Roy Hodgson rests a seemingly infinite number of combinations and permutations from which to pluck a starting XI for the World Cup opener against Italy on Saturday.

Attack is where the discrepancy lives. Joe Hart will start in goal, Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Glen Johnson will be the starting back four, and Steven Gerrard has locked down one of the central midfield spots.

That much we know. But from there on forward, things get sticky.

The general issue is whether Hodgson will go aggressive and deploy a diamond midfield behind two strikers or whether he’ll opt for the balance of a 4-2-3-1, utilizing two holding players behind three attacking midfielders and a lone striker. But formation is only one component of Hodgson’s prescription. A considerably larger concern is one of personnel and with a number of talented young stallions at his disposal, the England manager has some very difficult decisions to make.

So let’s take a look at a few different setups Hodgson has available to roll out against the Azzurri.


The most talked about formation for England, the 4-4-2 diamond midfield, happens to be the same shape Liverpool used to claim second place in the past season’s Premier League. Brendan Rodgers perfected this setup with a rotating group of midfielders but always present in the bunch was Gerrard, at the fulcrum, and Raheem Sterling, in any one of the three advanced roles. Proving himself capable of opening defenses up from the left or right side, Sterling’s game rose to a new level late in the season when Rodgers inserted him into the center of the pitch where his quickness and evasive nature proved too much for stiff-legged central defenders.

source: Getty Images
Adam Lallana looks poised to exchange his Southampton shirt for a Liverpool kit.

Another key to the diamond midfield is balance, which is achieved through utilizing fit outside midfielders who have no issue playing both sides of the ball. And there’s no better man for that job than Jordan Henderson, who makes 90 minutes of sprinting look like a walk in the park.

A fellow Liverpool player, Henderson has an intimate understanding of Gerrard and Sterling as well as how to correctly use the diamond shape to his advantage. Henderson’s ability to drop deep, at times even alongside Gerrard, allows Hodgson to select a fourth member of the midfield with slightly more aggressive tendencies.

And who better for that role than Adam Lallana, the $34-42M transfer target of Liverpool, who looks primed to join the Reds by the end of July? The 26-year-old excelled on the left side for Southampton this past year, is not opposed to running himself ragged for 70 odd minutes and provides devastating trickery to compliment that of Sterling.

Opting for a four man midfield with Liverpool connections may feel biased but it’s a proven commodity that sparks goals. Factor in the Daniel Sturridge connection up top and this feels like a balanced yet aggressive lineup for Hodgson to utilize in the event he truly desires to take the game to Italy.


If Hodgson really wants to throw a curveball at Italy he’ll unleash the youth, likely in a 4-2-3-1, which provides a bit more protection than the diamond. The youth setup would partner 22-year-old Jack Wilshere alongside Gerrard in what would be a clever pivot. Wilshere’s love for the tackle compliments that of Gerrard while the Arsenal man’s knack for creating off-the-dribble would provide a key link between the attacking midfielders and the striker.

Many pundits feel Wayne Rooney’s starting spot could be in jeopardy. Will Hodgson pull the plug?

In front of Gerrard and Wilshere would be 19-year-old Sterling on the left wing, 20-year-old Ross Barkley in the central attacking role and, ideally, 20-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right wing. The obvious issue currently facing this system is that Oxlade-Chamberlain is nursing a knee issue that may keep him out against Italy. While his speed and two directional play would devastate and provide balance to this shape he’d be well deputized by Henderson or Danny Welbeck, who would then swap sides with Sterling.

One downside of a youth blitz in a 4-2-3-1 is that Wayne Rooney may be the odd man out. It’s a predicament many pundits believe Hodgson may be inclined to move forward with given the United man’s sub-par Premier League season and poor World Cup history. That said, charging forward without Rooney in the starting lineup feels like a titanic miss and one that Hodgson would be wise to avoid risking. Instead, Hodgson could push forward with a youth blitz and Rooney, who could partner with Sturridge in front of a diamond midfield made up of Gerrard, Sterling, Barkley and Ox/Henderson/Welbeck/Wilshere.

Regardless of using a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 diamond, the key to the youth blitz would be giving England fans that which they fiend for the most: Sterling alongside Barkley in what would be a freakishly athletic, skillful and audacious pair that few opposing defenses, including the Italians, would be equipped to handle.


As we know by now, heat and humidity will play a large role in this World Cup meaning many a match will come down to a battle of the fittest. And no venue will provide a greater challenge of the conditions than the sweltering jungle of Manaus, where England faces Italy. To hedge against those conditions, don’t be surprised if Hodgson opts for an attacking group of running men, which means James Milner becomes a real possibility to start.

James Milner’s third lung may be enough to get him into Roy Hodgson’s starting XI.

The City man is as fit as the come. Inserting him on the right side along with Gerrard in the fulcrum, the inexhaustible Henderson on the left, and Sterling at the point of a diamond midfield could prove a very wise play.

If Hodgson opts for a 4-2-3-1, Rooney could drop into the attacking midfield role, Sterling to the bench and Wilshere alongside Gerrard.

It’s a lineup that would allow England to put Italy under pressure and bring veteran leadership into the side. While not the most exciting play, Milner’s work rate could break down Italy’s left side for a sub like Sterling or Oxlade-Chamberlain to then capitalize.


The most conservative and downright uninspiring attack Hodgson could play would be to pair Gerrard with Milner and Frank Lampard.

source: Getty Images
Frank Lampard can play a role for England in the World Cup, hopefully just not as a starter.

Whether in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 and regardless of who is played on the left side, such a lineup would reek of a lack of ambition and spell doom for England.

Fortunately, while such a makeup could have been foreseeable under Fabio Capello’s tenure as manager, it seems unlikely that Hodgson would revert to such a level of conservative tactics. There is a freshness about this England squad that is just begging to be unleashed on the world.

What better stage to make it happen than to kickoff Brazil 2014?




Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool title talk: “I don’t care”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool applauds the fans following their team's 2-1 victory during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 22, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of your title talk.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

After Liverpool beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Saturday at Anfield and Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United all dropped points this weekend, plenty of people are talking up Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League title this season.

With nine games of the season gone, Liverpool sit joint-top with Arsenal and Man City on 20 points with Chelsea and Tottenham just behind them on 19 points.

It is tight at the top but whatever people are saying, Klop isn’t bothered.

“I don’t care. It is normal in football that when you are in a good position people start talking a little more positive. I don’t recognize so much what everyone is saying about us but of course I recognize the mood, I said it already, around LFC it is good. But we are still in October… unfortunately. There is a long way to go,” Klopp said. “Nothing to say about this. Hopefully you can ask these questions through the whole season and everything is good but at the moment I have no answer for it. It is good up until now. Not more but good. Let’s carry on.”

Liverpool’s attack has been mightily impressive this season with the fluid movement of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ripping teams apart. Klopp’s side are the highest scorers with 20 goals thus far but the one issues many have about them being genuine title contender is their defensive play. Klopp’s side have kept just one clean sheet in their nine PL games so far this season and they’ve conceded the most goals in the top six.

Klopp’s right, there’s a long way to go. But plenty are also correct to be positive about this Liverpool team.

Challenging for the PL title this season may just be beyond them but securing a top four finish certainly isn’t. Klopp is pushing Liverpool in the right direction. Any of us can see that, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

Moussa Sissoko handed FA charge over elbow incident

Leave a comment

This was always likely to happen.

On Monday the FA charged Tottenham Hotspur’s Moussa Sissoko with violent conduct after he caught Bournemouth’s midfielder Harry Arter in the face with his elbow during the 0-0 draw at the Vitality stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

Sissoko, 27, was a second half sub for Mauricio Pochettino‘s side but he will now miss the EFL Cup game against Liverpool and the Premier League games against Leicester City and Arsenal after Tottenham accepted the charge.

In a brief statement on their website the FA said the following about Sissoko’s charge:

Moussa Sissoko has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video. The Tottenham Hotspur forward was involved in an incident with AFC Bournemouth’s Harry Arter in the 79th minute of the game on Saturday [22 October 2016].

He has until 6pm on Tuesday 25 October to reply. Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite match officials. Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

Speaking on Monday, Spurs boss Pochettino revealed that the club had accepted charge and must now move on for the next three games without Sissoko.

“We accept that as a club after viewing the video. We accept the charge and now we move forward,” Pochettino said. “After the game it was difficult. When you asked me, it was difficult for me to appreciate the situation on what happened on the action. Then when it was on TV, I need to say that it wasn’t the intention, but the elbow was in the face of [Harry] Arter. It was clear. We accept the charge and now we are set to move forward and he has to miss three games.”

Sissoko’s actions were played down my Arter after the game but the French international who joined on Transfer Deadline Day from Newcastle United will now have to sit out some huge games in the next 10 days.

With the referees not spotting the incident, the TV footage was always going to be used and it was pretty damning as Sissoko drove his elbow into Arter’s face off the ball.

Renato Sanches beats Rashford to win prestigious Golden Boy award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Renato Sanches (top) and Portugal players celebrate their team's first goal scored by Eder (obscured) during the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Renato Sanches has been named the top player in Europe under the age of 21, picking up the prestigious Golden Boy award from Italian outlet Tuttosport.

Sanches, 19, moved to Bayern Munich from Benfica this summer and shone for Portugal as they won EURO 2016 and he was named the best young player at the tournament.

[ MORE: Conte the new Mourinho?

The central midfielder finished ahead of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford who was second, while Juventus’ Kinglsey Coman was in third. 

In total there were four Premier League players in the top 10 as Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli and Manchester City’s duo of Leroy Sane and Kelechi Iheanacho also got plenty of votes.

Below are the top 10 players under the age of 21 in Europe, according to the Golden Boy award.

1 – Renato Sanches (19, Bayern Munich)
2 – Marcus Rashford (18, Manchester United)
3 – Kingsley Coman (20, Juventus)
4 – Dele Alli (20, Tottenham)
5 – Ousmane Dembele (19, Borussia Dortmund)
6 – Gianluigi Donnarumma (17, AC Milan)
7 – Leroy Sane (20, Manchester City)
8 – Marco Asensio (20, Real Madrid)
9 – Mahmoud Dahoud (20, Borussia Monchengladbach)
10 – Kelechi Iheanacho (20, Manchester City)

VIDEO: Harsh to book Kei Kamara for twerk goal celebration?

Kei Kamara
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kei Kamara scored a beauty for the New England Revolution in their 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Sunday.

[ MORE: Who wins MLS Cup 2016? ]

Of course, the victory wasn’t enough to see New England through to the 2016 MLS Cup playoffs, but Kamara had a pretty unique way to celebrate his goal.

The former Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew star twerked in celebration.

Yep. You read that correctly.

Kamra has seven goals in 21 MLS games for the Revs this season but he has also had some bizarre yellow cards as he was recently booked for changing his shorts on the field of play.

Take a look at the video below to see if he deserved a yellow for a twerk. Personally, I think it’s harsh. What’s wrong with having a bit of fun with a goal celebration?