It had to be done Southgate had promised that form, and not reputation, would determine how his sides line up. The manager has finally delivered on his words – and rightly so, writes Mark Ogden
than half of his guests had omitted Rooney from their teams – my team including Danny Drinkwater ahead of Rooney in midfield and Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in the forward positions – but he nonetheless stuck to his own thoughts by selecting his captain against the Russians – albeit in a deep-lying midfield role.
The point of recalling that story is to confirm that the Rooney debate has now been building a head of steam ever since injury forced him to miss the 3-2 victory over Germany in Berlin in March, in which Eric Dier and Dele Alli both produced outstanding performances as England fought back from 2-0 down in the Olympiastadion.
Hodgson’s successor, Sam Allardyce, chose to keep faith with Rooney and Southgate started him against Malta at the weekend, when the player moved to within eight appearances of equalling Peter Shilton’s England record of 125 caps, before deciding over the weekend that he could no longer justify his selection in the first eleven.
Rooney, dropped at club level by Jose Mourinho, has admitted he now prefers to perform in midfield where, he believes, he can “control the game.”
As such, he has closed off the route to a place in Southgate’s front line, instead targeting either the No. 10 role or a deeper position in front of the back four.
Even if Rooney was in form, he would have to overcome pincer movement of Dier and Alli to claim one of those positions, but his 90 minutes against Malta betrayed a man bereft of confidence and one struggling to warrant his inclusion ahead of either of the young Tottenham midfielders.
Rooney’s problem, one identified by Mourinho and now Southgate, is that he has lost the dynamism of his younger days.
Heat-maps highlighting his failure to touch the ball in the opposing penalty area on Saturday miss the Group A (Savitskiy 80) (Joachim 85), (Toivonen 39, Hiljemark 45, Nilsson-Lindelof 58) (Pogba 30). Group B (Martinez 90+1) (Schaer 19-pen, Mehmedi 77), (Silva 12, 22, 37, Cristiano Ronaldo 65, Moutinho 90+1, Cancelo 90+3).
(Torosidis 1, Stafylidis 61), (Dzeko 70, 80) (Benteke 1, 43, 55, Witsel 19, Mertens 51, Hazard 79).
England’s striker Wayne Rooney attends a team training at Tottenham Hotspur’s training facility in Enfield, north London on Monday ahead of this morning’s World Cup qualifying match against Slovenia. –
Italy’s forward Ciro Immobile (left) scores during yesterday’s World Cup 2018 qualifying match against Macedonia at Philip II of Macedon stadium in Skopje. – AFPPIX 2018 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS EUROPEAN ZONE: Andorra 1 Switzerland 2 Faroe Islands