On Friday, May 30, England will face Peru for their first International Friendly before the World Cup. These three fixtures, against, Peru, Ecuador, and Honduras, give Roy Hodgson the chance to explore different player’s comfort levels at the International level, as well as give experience to some of the younger players. I expect that Hodgson will select an inexperienced starting 11 against Peru, and I think he should because it will help him evaluate the depth of his squad. Below, I have selected the 11 players I think should start in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and the reasons why. I have selected a 4-2-3-1 because it suits the strengths of the squad, and could be an effective formation to use at the World Cup.
Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster: One of the key mistakes before previous competitions was not giving any of our backup goalies the chance to get any competitive experience. I think that it is important that Hodgson lets Forster start. In addition to giving Forster more experience, it can also also be beneficial because it will make Joe Hart work harder to secure the number one spot, especially if Forster plays well.
Right Back: Chris Smalling: Yes, Smalling had a bad season. Yes, he is quite awkward at right-back. Unfortunately, with Phil Jones injured, he is the current backup to Glen Johnson, and given Johnson’s injury-proneness, it is important that Smalling gets comfortable playing within the England defense. Playing against a side like Peru, who England should beat, is also a good opportunity to boost Smalling’s confidence.
Center Back: Gary Cahill/Phil Jagielka: I do not believe that the center back pairing should be experimented with during these friendlies. Jagielka is still coming back from injury, so giving him as much game time as possible is extremely important. England also need their center-backs to be on the same wavelength, so they need to play as many minutes as possible.
Left Back: Leighton Baines: Baines is going to be pivotal to the success of this England squad. It is important that he gets an understanding with the left winger (preferably Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) as soon as possible. I would like to see Luke Shaw brought on around the 60 minute mark, but I think it is important that Baines starts.
Right Center Midfielder: Jack Wilshere: Wilshere has suffered from injury throughout this past season and it is important he is full of confidence when he plays in Brazil. If he can show the form that everyone knows he is capable of, then he will be a hugely important player at this World Cup. One of the best ways to get him close to this form is playing him throughout these friendlies. I would expect England to have a lot of the ball against Peru, and I think it is important that Wilshere is one of the players getting comfortable with the ball.
Left Center Midfielder: Jordan Henderson: What? No Gerrard or Lampard, but they’re captain and vice-captain? Yes, but they are very experienced already, and I would love to see Hodgson use this friendly to blood some of his younger talent. Henderson had a great season with Liverpool, and could be an extremely effective partner for Wilshere. I also do not think Lampard and Gerrard should start together, so testing other partnerships is important.
Right Winger: Raheem Sterling: Quick, exciting, and fresh off of a great season, Sterling deserves the chance to compete for a starting position at the World Cup. The game against Peru is a perfect time to give him that opportunity. My line-up thus far has placed an importance on giving the youngsters a chance, and if anyone deserves it, it is Sterling.
Left Winger: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Another Arsenal player who had their season dampened by injury, Oxlade-Chamberlain
is an exciting talent. With him and Sterling on both wings, England can look for quick counter-attacks, as well as another way to stretch Peru’s defense. I don’t expect Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain to start at the World Cup, but the game against Peru is a great chance to let them show how threatening they can be.
Attacking Midfielder: Ross Barkley: If Barkley doesn’t start this game, then Hodgson has made a huge mistake. This is one of England’s greatest talents and I think he could be their star at the World Cup, if Hodgson shows faith in him. I would have Barkley slotting in behind the striker because, like the two wingers, he offers extreme pace, with a knack for finding the right pass.
Striker: Danny Welbeck: England has pace at their disposal, and they should use it. Welbeck may be knocked for a lack of composure in the final third, but he scored his career-high goal tally this season, and makes extremely smart runs. With the service he would get from the wingers, the game against Peru could be a huge for his confidence because he would be likely to get several opportunities.
I want England to focus on playing attacking soccer against Peru. They have the players for it, and no disrespect, but they should beat Peru. Hodgson should use this game to evaluate his squad depth and boost their confidence. With only 23 players to choose from, he needs his squad full of confidence, and this is the game to try to build it.