If there are two certainties in British football, it is hard to look beyond Roy Hodgson’s loyalty towards players who serve him well, and an Englishman’s love of having two strikers up front. It is this loyalty from Hodgson that saw Jack Wilshere named in the England squad, despite his lack of football for Arsenal this season, and it is this loyalty that saw Hodgson name an unchanged team for last Thursday’s fixture against Wales, from the 1-1 draw against Russia the previous Saturday.
Yes, England emerged as 2-1 winners against their Welsh opponents, but it is widely agreed that this result was only reached by Hodgson’s decision to throw caution to the wind and sub on Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge at half time. It was an attacking gamble that worked, and given the ineffectiveness of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in the matches against Russia and Wales, there has been an outcry from many for Hodgson to put his loyalty towards his original starting XI to one side, and start the final group match against Slovakia with two strikers.
It’s hard to disagree; England looked much more dangerous with two strikers, especially the probing runs of Sturridge. The only question that leaves Hodgson is which system to operate in order to accommodate two strikers; the diamond failed to reap rewards against Portugal in the pre-tournament friendly, but perhaps different personnel could prove more successful. If the two strikers (who surely must be Vardy and Sturridge following their impact on Thursday) stay more central than they did against Portugal, their impact could be greater. With Dele Alli at the tip of the diamond and Rooney deeper, to the left, England may have players more adapted to play the system than in that previous attempt. If this is so, Hodgson simply has to decide whether to play Adam Lallana, who has performed very well in the two group matches so far and regularly runs himself into the ground for the team, next to Rooney, or whether to sacrifice him in order to give Jack Wilshere, the best example of Hodgson’s player loyalty in the squad, his first start of the tournament.
What is in no doubt is that however Hodgson decides to line up tonight, based on the previous performances, two strikers is more likely to prove successful than one.