England fans are relatively sheepish when discussions of the recent World Cup crop up, but since the debacle in Brazil, when England were eliminated after just two matches, Roy Hodgson has got his three lions roaring with six consecutive victories.
Four of those wins came in Euro 2016 qualifiers that have all but virtually sealed their place in France for the main event. It would take a monumental loss of form for England to miss out – they are chalked up at 1/500 to qualify.
Moreover, Hodgson finally appears to be getting a tune out of his strike force too. Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney have been in top form for England, contributing 10 of the last 15 England goals between them. The Manchester United number 10 seems to be enjoying his football– which makes a refreshing change from the usual grimaces of frustration from Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in an England shirt. Hodgson still has the conundrum of fitting Daniel Sturridge back into the starting line-up when he returns from injury in the New Year.
So does the England manager need to look beyond the trio of Rooney, Welbeck and Sturridge?
In an ideal world, no: These three strikers currently best fit Hodgson’s system as illustrated with the current winning streak; Rooney is best deployed centrally with Welbeck and Sturridge either side. Alternatively, the Arsenal duo of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Theo Walcott can also replace Welbeck or Sturridge, by offering pace and experience at the top level.
If Rooney is missing, then Sturridge or Welbeck are both equally at home in the central role. However, all three strikers have got patchy injury records so Hodgson will need to have backups in mind who can step up to the required level.
Rickie Lambert has staked his claim with an impressive return of goals for Southampton last season, while he translated that onto the International stage with two strikes in his first two appearances for the three lions, but the 32 year-old appears to have frozen since his move to Liverpool over the summer.
It’s almost as if Lambert is trying too hard and playing with concrete in his boots. And by the time Euro 2016 comes around he will be 34 years old. If anything, Hodgson should be looking towards nurturing Berahino and Kane rather than persisting with Rickie Lambert.
Saido Berahino has made an impressive start to the season with West Brom and is currently the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League with seven goals. 10 goals in 13 appearances for the England U21 side also illustrate his potential. The 21 year-old plays as a lone central striker for West Brom and looks primed to make his mark internationally, if he continues developing. Hodgson had toyed with the idea of giving him his full international debut against Slovenia but decided against it for the time being.
Meanwhile, Harry Kane has already proved his worth to Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League. Kane has notched seven goals in six European appearances and wasn’t shy in demanding the free kick against Aston Villa in the dying minutes that clinched a crucial 2-1 victory for this side. Both of these young talents, who are now playing regular Premier League football, should be carefully nurtured by the England coaching staff, with an eye on the European Championships in 2016.
The upcoming U21 European Championships in the Czech Republic should provide a springboard for Kane and Berahino to make their presence felt in Hodgson’s plans – pushing the likes of Rickie Lambert, Andy Carroll and Jermaine Defoe closer to the exit door.