Adam Lallana

Top Signing Per Club: A-L

The transfer window slammed shut last night and the Premier League sides will have to make do with what they have until January. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the top signing made by each club whose name begins between A and L.

Arsenal
Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona, £30m). Similarly to the capture of Mesut Ozil last summer, this signing has caught the imagination of Arsenal fans and has generated belief that The Gunners can be genuine title contenders once more. He may not have made a flying start to life in the Premier League but the Chilean should prove to be an excellent piece of business.
Other notable signings: Calum Chambers (Southampton, £16m), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle, £12m), David Ospina (Nice, £3m), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal, £16m).

Aston Villa
Philippe Senderos (Valencia, free). The arrival of the Swiss centre-back was greeted with caution by Villa fans as Senderos had never really proved himself as a totally reliable defender. However, he has struck an instant understanding with Villa skipper Ron Vlaar and Villa’s defensive woes now seem a thing of the past. If he can keep up this form, he will prove to be a marvellous addition.
Other notable signings: Aly Cissokho (Valencia, undisclosed), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United, loan) Joe Cole (West Ham United, free), Kieran Richardson (Fulham, undisclosed), Carlos Sanchez (Elche, undisclosed).

Burnley
Matt Taylor (West Ham United, undisclosed). Burnley have had a tough set of opening fixtures and, despite performing valiantly, they will know how difficult it will be to stay in this league. They were a side who needed to add Premier League experience to their ranks and Taylor certainly fits the bill. His know-how at this level could prove vital to The Clarets survival hopes.
Other notable signings: George Boyd (Hull, £3m), Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea, loan), Matt Gilks (Blackpool, free), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough £1.5m), Michael Keane (Manchester United, loan), Michael Kightly (Stoke City, undisclosed), Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion, free), Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers, undisclosed), Stephen Ward (Wolves, undisclosed).

Chelsea
Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, £32m). Costa has been a revelation since signing from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid and has scored four goals in his opening three matches. What has been more impressive, however, is his work-rate off the ball and willingness to battle and make defenders lives a misery. Jose Mourinho will be delighted with his contribution so far and he could easily prove to be the best signing of the season.
Other notable signings: Didier Drogba (Galatasary, free), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona,£30m), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid £20m).

Crystal Palace
Brede Hangeland (Fulham, free). Hangeland has been a quality performer in the Premier League for many years now and will be an excellent addition to Neil Warnock’s defence. He is a natural born leader on the pitch who is dominant in the air and will happily battle with opposition attackers.
Other notable signings: Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City, £900k), Kevin Doyle (Wolves, loan), Martin Kelly (Liverpool, undisclosed), Chris Kettings (Blackpool, free), Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United, loan).

Everton
Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, £28m). Roberto Martinez smashed Everton’s record transfer record by bringing in burly Belgian frontman Romelu Lukaku. He was the top scorer for The Toffees last season and is a constant menace going forward. Everton have put a lot of faith in him with such a big outlay and will hope he can fire them to Champions League football this season.
Other notable signings: Christian Atsu (Chelsea, loan), Gareth Barry (Manchester City, free), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros, undisclosed), Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea, free).

Hull
Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle United, loan). Hull were very busy on deadline day and surprised many fans with their capture of Newcastle midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa. Ben Arfa fell out with his parent club when he was fined for being overweight but has been given a lifeline by The Tigers. There is no doubting Ben Arfa’s quality if he can stay fit and Hull fans will be eagerly anticipating his debut.
Other notable signings: Michael Dawson (Spurs, undisclosed), Mohammed Diame (West Ham, undisclosed), Tom Ince (Blackpool, undisclosed), Jake Livermore (Spurs, undisclosed), Harry Maguire (Sheffield United, £2.5m), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United, £2.9m), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City, undisclosed).

Leicester
Leonardo Ulloa (Brighton, £7m). Ulloa, Leicester’s record signing, has made an excellent start to life in the Premier League and scored the equaliser in their most recent draw against Arsenal. He’s a powerful striker who is deadly in the air and The Foxes will be hopeful that his goals can keep them in the Premier League.
Other notable signings: Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa, free), Jack Barmby (Manchester United, free), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan, free), Ben Hamer (Charlton Athletic, free), Matthew Upson (Brighton, free).

Liverpool
Mario Balotelli (AC Milan, £16m). Balotelli has returned to English football, much to the delight of the media, and Liverpool fans will be hopeful that he can produce the world-class form that we know he is capable of on a regular basis. If he can put his troublesome ways behind him and focus on his football then he will be a steal at £16m.
Other notable signings: Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £8m), Adam Lallana (Southampton, £25m), Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4m), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, £20m), Javi Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, loan), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla, undisclosed).

 

Advertisements

Weekend Preview and Predictions

The long-anticipated first weekend of the new Premier League season is set to begin. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the opening round of fixtures and offers predictions as to who will emerge victorious.

Saturday

Man Utd vs Swansea (12:45)
This is the first competitive fixture of Louis van Gaal’s reign and the Dutchman will be keen to get off to a flying start. Wayne Rooney has been announced as the new club captain, so don’t be surprised to see him get off the mark this weekend. This is a tough start for Garry Monk in his first full season as a manager and it’s hard to see them picking up anything from this one.
Prediction: Man Utd 3-1 Swansea

Leicester vs Everton (15:00)
Nigel Pearson will hope that his newly promoted side can carry their title-winning form forward to this season and establish themselves as a Premier League side. The Foxes have been disappointing in the transfer market, despite having money to spend, and face a tough encounter in their first match of the new campaign. Roberto Martinez, in comparison, has splashed £28 million alone on Romelu Lukaku and the Toffees will be hoping to challenge for a Champions League place. This won’t be an easy match for Everton but they should return to Merseyside with a hard fought three points.
Prediction: Leicester 0-1 Everton

QPR vs Hull (15:00)
Harry Redknapp’s team are the favourites of the newly promoted sides to survive in the division and will be hopeful of securing a mid-table finish. Their new signings, such as centre-backs Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker, signal their intentions of doing just that. Hull’s ambitions will be similar to their opponents and they should steer well clear of trouble this season, although a venture into Europe could test the depth of their squad. The sale of Shane Long to Southampton was a surprise, given that he only arrived in January, and Steve Bruce will have to replace him sooner rather than later. This match has draw written all over it.
Prediction: QPR 1-1 Hull

Stoke vs Aston Villa (15:00)
Mark Hughes is building a decent side at the Brittania Stadium and has instilled a much more exciting style of play than Tony Pulis ever did. The Potters have added some stimulating signings this summer, such as Bojan Krkic and Mame Biram Diouf, and should finish in the top half once more. Aston Villa have opted to add experienced players to their youthful squad throughout the transfer window and are desperate to avoid yet another relegation battle. Stoke are notoriously strong at home and should edge Villa in this one.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Aston Villa

West Brom vs Sunderland (15:00)
These are nervous times for Alan Irvine’s team. There are question marks over whether Brown Ideye can provide the goal-scoring touch that was so desperately missing last season. If he fails to hit the ground running then this could be a very difficult season for The Baggies. Sunderland, on the other hand, will feel relatively optimistic after an encouraging run of form at the end of last season. The Black Cats have added some decent quality to their squad, with the likes of Jack Rodwell and Costel Pantilimon arriving, and the mood around the Stadium of Light is generally positive. This one could go either way so we’ll sit on the fence and go for a draw.
Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Sunderland

West Ham vs Tottenham (15:00)
The Hammers have been proactive in the transfer market as Sam Allardyce attempts to develop a more expansive style of play. Players such as Mauro Zarate and Enner Valencia will bolster their attacking options in the absence of target man Andy Carroll. Mauricio Pochettino believes that his Spurs side is strong enough to secure a top four finish and if they are to achieve that then they will have to win matches like this one. Pochettino will be confident of bringing the best out of Tottenham’s misfiring stars and they should emerge victorious here.
Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Tottenham

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace (17.30)
The Gunners have enjoyed a terrific pre-season and there is a real buzz surrounding Arsene Wenger’s side. The transfer of Alexis Sanchez has been widely proclaimed as the best signing of the window and Arsenal fans genuinely believe that their team can be successful on all fronts this season. Conversely, Palace have been rocked by the news that manager Tony Pulis has left the club by mutual consent. Palace have suddenly emerged as possible relegation candidates, such was Pulis’ effect on their fortunes. The air of uncertainty around The Eagles should work in Arsenal’s favour and they should run out comfortable winners.
Prediction: Arsenal 4-0 Crystal Palace

Sunday

Liverpool vs Southampton (13:30)
This is arguably the tastiest fixture of this round of matches due to Liverpool’s continuous raid of The Saints this summer. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren have all moved from St Marys to Anfield, which should add an element of spice to this match. Southampton fans have been extremely disappointed by the mass exodus this summer and will hope that Ronald Koeman and his new signings can adapt to the demands of the Premier League. Liverpool should emerge victorious in this one.
Liverpool 3-1 Southampton

Newcastle vs Man City (16:00)
The Magpies ended last season in appalling form and will hope that the new season brings a halt to their dreadful run. Alan Pardew has been very active in the transfer market and players such as Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong will be expected to stop their slide. City have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, only adding quality to specific areas. In truth, their squad is already strong enough to compete on all fronts and they should enjoy another good season. It won’t be straightforward but City will have enough about them to see off Newcastle.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Man City

Monday

Burnley vs Chelsea (20:00)
Burnley mark their return to the Premier League by hosting Chelsea, a side widely tipped to win the league. Sean Dyche’s team finished second in the Championship last season and are expected to struggle to maintain their Premier League status beyond this campaign. If they are to survive they will have to make Turf Moor a fortress and ensure that sides do not leave there with all three points. Chelsea have strengthened extremely well this summer and have added balance, as well as quality, to their squad. This could be a tough opener for the Blues as Burnley are likely to be tough to break down but Mourinho’s side should find a way through.
Burnley 0-1 Chelsea

Premier League Preview: Liverpool

There are only 4 weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Liverpool.

Liverpool were within touching distance of the title last season but fell just short. Since then, star man Luis Suarez has jetted off to Barcelona for a fee of £75 million and there will now be question marks around Liverpool’s title chances without their main attacking influence. There will be a greater concern as to whether they can even remain in the top 4 this season with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all strengthening and Liverpool having to play more fixtures due to their involvement in the Champions League. The battle for the top four has never been more intriguing and Liverpool will be at the heart of it.

The Manager
Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has really made a name for himself in English football. He earned promotion with Swansea to the Premier League and wowed people with their possession based and stylish attacking football as he kept them in the league. After such success with Swansea he was handed the task to turn Liverpool back in to title contenders after years in the wilderness and came desperately close to achieving his brief last season.

Rodgers is a young manager with an excellent reputation

Rodgers is a young manager with an excellent reputation

Biggest Signing
Liverpool have already been busy in spending the £75 million they received for Luis Suarez and have made some big signings. They brought in both Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana from Premier League rivals Southampton for £4 million and £25 million respectively. German Under-21 midfielder Emre Can moved from Bayer Leverkusen in a £10 million deal. However, the most exciting signing for Liverpool fans will be that of Lazar Markovic, the former Benfica wide man, who they have spent £20 million on.

Markovic is an extremely talented young prospect

Markovic is an extremely talented young prospect

Who is tipped to join them?
Rodgers may have already spent big but with Suarez’s huge move bringing in lots of money, he still has plenty to play with. They have agreed an £8.5 million deal to sign Loic Remy from Queens Park Rangers and that transfer is expected to take place sooner rather than later. Dejan Lovren is another major summer transfer target for Liverpool but Southampton are demanding a large fee for a move to take place. Finally, Divock Origi, who impressed for Belgium in the World Cup, is likely to complete a move to Anfield in the near future.

Loic Remy is set to join from QPR

Loic Remy is set to join from QPR

Who should they sign?
Liverpool, for all their attacking prowess, were defensively weak last season and Rodgers will be keen to sure that up. Dejan Lovren would be a good signing to strengthen their central defence but they could also do with a left-back as Aly Cissokho’s loan spell has finished. Ben Davies from Swansea is an option.

Dejan Lovren could prove an expensive signging

Dejan Lovren could prove an expensive signging

Key Player
Daniel Sturridge. After Suarez’s departure, the weight of expectation to provide the goals for Liverpool will be England’s main front man Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge has an eye for goal, a fierce left foot strike and makes intelligent runs that are a nightmare for defenders to keep track of.

Sturridge will be expected to bang in the goals to ease the pain of Suarez's departure

Sturridge will be expected to bang in the goals to ease the pain of Suarez’s departure

Prediction
The loss of Suarez is a big blow to Liverpool and it’s difficult to tell how they will cope with it. Some players are irreplaceable and Suarez definitely fits in to that category. The problem for Liverpool is that whilst they have been significantly weakened with the loss of their star striker, other teams around them have really strengthened. Furthermore, they will be playing significantly more fixtures this season due to their Champions League involvement, which will put more strain on their squad. Liverpool will be in and around the Champions League places but I see them falling just short. Expect Liverpool to finish 5th.

England 1 – 2 Italy : match report

A disappointing but not unexpected result in Manaus has left England’s hopes of group qualification looking somewhat precarious.

After a highly spirited performance, England will find themselves hard done by to finish the game without a point to show for their efforts.

England started so promisingly with early long range efforts from Sterling and Henderson, the former cruelly rippling the side netting in a manner that sent many England fans into a state of mistaken euphoria.

Antonio Candreva, who caused England’s left hand side no end of problems, forced Joe Hart into a less than convincing save from distance twenty minutes in. The Lazio man kept Leighton Baines constantly busy, who in truth could have done with more protection from his winger Rooney.

Shortly after, the first clear cut chance of the match fell to England. Welbeck beat his man on the right before sliding a low cross towards Sturridge who was ready to pounce in the centre, only for Andrea Barzagli to get a crucial touch, flicking the ball just inches away from the Liverpool striker.

The tempo dropped around the half hour mark, with both sides keeping the ball well when in possession and Pirlo looking increasingly threatening when allowed space.

England will be disappointed to have conceded in such a manner, but it was a well worked corner routine which put the Italians in front on 35 minutes. A clever dummy from Pirlo on the edge of the box allowed Marchisio to drill home from 25 yards. His low shot slotting through the legs of both Rooney and Cahill before finding the bottom left hand corner.

Just two minutes later however, England found themselves level. It was the perfect response, with an incisive counter attack allowing Rooney space on the left to play a perfectly weighted cross to Sturridge who still had a lot to do, but England’s number 9 made it look easy, converting coolly on the half-volley.

A nervous moment just before half time saw Joe Hart rush out to close down Mario Balotelli, who’s smart chip required a vital goal line header from Jagielka to see England in level at half time.

After the break Welbeck switched sides with Rooney to try and sure up England’s left hand side. It was to little effect however as once again Candreva had the better of Baines and supplied one of many superb crosses over Gary Cahill, leaving who else but Balotelli to nod in at the back post.

How England needed another quick response, but the Italians had learnt from their earlier mistake and bought on Motta for Veratti to sure up their midfield and suffocate the game.

Despite this, the best chance of the match fell to Wayne Rooney who picked up Baines’ excellent pass before cutting inside and fooling Sirigu who went the wrong way, but his shot rolled agonisingly wide leaving Roy Hodgson with his head in his hands.

In the last twenty minutes however, as England tried desperately to create chances, there were only free-kick efforts from specialists Baines and Pirlo to speak of. Pirlo’s strike was by far the more promising as he wickedly whipped the ball from right to left, only for it to plant the crossbar and fly over, leaving Joe Hart motionless and the crowd awestruck.

All in all, Italy probably deserved their victory but England will rue that Rooney miss which would have made their position in the group look far more promising. That said, with Uruguay’s shock loss against Costa Rica, England will fancy themselves to come out victorious in their next match if they can put in a similar performance, even if talisman Luis Suarez returns for the game.

England player ratings:

Hart : 6
A few nervous moments but generally solid. Couldn’t do much for either goal.

Baines : 5
Had a very tough afternoon against Candreva who was allowed to cross all too often. Did provide a good pass for Rooney’s chance.

Johnson : 6
Showed good attacking intent and generally solid, but perhaps should have been covering for Italy’s second.

Jagielka : 7
The best of our back four, looked assured and confident. Impressive.

Cahill : 6
Generally solid but caught out for Italy’s winner.

Gerrard : 6
A quiet night by his high standards, and wasn’t involved much going forward but kept the ball well on the whole.

Henderson : 6
Promising early on, with some good runs and a decent effort. Faded before being substituted.

Sterling : 8
Adventurous and dangerous for large parts of the match. Had a few great dribbles and put in some decent balls, also hit an excellent strike just wide.

Rooney : 5
Very quiet for much of the game. Didn’t provide adequate cover for Baines to help quell the threat of Candreva and Darmian. Missed the chance of the match but provided a sublime ball for Sturridge’s leveller.

Welbeck : 7
Never stopped running and showed his importance by winning the ball back on numerous occasions. Criticised for lacking drive going forward and taking easy options, but almost found Sturridge early on to put England in front.

Sturridge : 8
Found him self in good positions on a few occasions, had some good link up play with both Welbeck and Sterling and put away a superb finish for England’s equaliser. He should take a lot of confidence from that performance.

Subs: Barkley : 7 (on for Welbeck ’61) Showed promise, looking fearless and threatening going forward.

Wilshere : 5 (on for Henderson ’73) Looked to make things happen but gave away possession too easily.

Lallana : 6 (On for Sturridge ’79) Not given much time to make an impact, but looked good when he got the ball.

 

England Team Analysis vs Italy

I wrote an article a little while ago on what I thought England’s best Starting XI would be in the World Cup, as I stated then that was what I viewed as our ‘best team’ but necessarily the one I would play in our opening match against Italy in Manaus on Saturday. In this piece I will explain the team I would select vs Italy taking into account various factors such as Italy’s style of play and the conditions we will be playing in.

As has been well documented ever since the draw took place for the World Cup; our first game is in Manaus, a tropical rainforest in the north of Brazil. On Saturday the humidity is expected to be around 76% and temperature at 30 degree Celsius, they are extremely challenging conditions in which to be playing football. Despite preparing for conditions like this through our training camps in Portugal and Miami it will still be virtually impossible to play a high intensity pressing game. These conditions will be a perfect example of how this World Cup is going to be a 14 man game; substitutions will be of vital importance, as the differential in energy levels between the players that come on and the ones already on the pitch will be larger than usual.

The back 5 picks itself (not helped by the lack of options at right-back) with Joe Hart in goal, Glen Johnson at right-back, Cahill and Jagielka at centre-back and Leighton Baines at left-back. As with the majority of the matches England has played in the past few years under Roy Hodgson I would play a 4-2-3-1 formation with two holding midfielders. One of whom would be Steven Gerrard, who has performed that role so well for Liverpool in the second-half of the past Premier League season. I would start with Jordan Henderson alongside Gerrard not purely because of the natural chemistry that the two already possess from Liverpool but also because of the energy that Henderson gives to the team. Jack Wilshere would be a fine player to have coming off the bench for a game like this as he showed against Honduras on Saturday.

I believe Ross Barkley would also be best served as an impact player coming off the bench after about 65 minutes if all is going well, he is still perhaps not defensively up to scratch and in a game of this magnitude it’s important all players are tactically aware of what their roles are. If Ross Barkley played he would be playing in the hole behind Daniel Sturridge most likely, this would hand him the job of nullifying the threat of Andrea Pirlo. If lessons are to be learnt from Euro 2012 where Pirlo ran the show, it is important that we have someone dedicated to ‘doing a job’ on Pirlo and practically man-marking him. This is where the controversial selection of Danny Welbeck comes into place, Welbeck whilst not being the most technically gifted player England possess, has bags of energy and is willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of the team. I would start Welbeck and play him on the left when we are going forward but importantly when we are defending I would give him the job of closing down Pirlo in the central area of the pitch. In my starting XI, Wayne Rooney would interchange with Danny Welbeck depending on whether or not we are attacking or defending, going forward I would have him in the hole behind Sturridge but defensively on the left allowing Welbeck to mark Pirlo.

The final selection decision that has to be made is who to start on the right-wing, it’s between Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana as to who gets that last space. Personally I would give Adam Lallana the nod in this game, I can just see Sterling being a complete nuisance coming off the bench in whichever situation we are in – winning, losing or drawing. That pace he possesses will terrorise defences when they’re mentally and physically tired after 70 odd minutes of the Manaus heat. Lallana is a brilliant, technical player and one who is unlikely to give the ball away often which will be of vital importance in this match.

With this starting XI on the bench we would have lots of options in both attack and defensive. Sterling, Wilshere and Barkley can all come if we need some more attacking impetus; Ricky Lambert can offer us that plan B if the Rooney-Sturridge link-up isn’t quite happening and the ever versatile James Milner could come on in holding-midfield to sure things up late on or even do a job on either wing if needed.

I would also like to add that this is also the team I think will start vs Italy, the Honduras match was the last chance Roy Hodgson had to look at his team vs Italy and he chose the same team as I mentioned above. The only thing he could possibly change is bringing Sterling in for Lallana as Sterling was somewhat controversially suspended for the Honduras game.

Stone’s view: What have we learnt about England in Miami and what is our best XI?

In the past few days we have witnessed England play two World Cup warm up matches, firstly at Wembley against Peru and then on Wednesday against Ecuador in Miami. But what have we actually learnt from these matches if anything at all?

Against Peru the team was: Hart/Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines/Gerrard-Henderson Lallana-Rooney-Welbeck/ Sturridge. This to me looks like Roy putting out what, in his eyes, might be his starting XI vs Italy. In terms of performances of players, Sturridge scored a world-class goal but it should be noted that his partnership with Wayne Rooney didn’t click as hoped, with Rooney often dropping too deep in search of the ball. Other commendable performances include Danny Welbeck and Leighton Baines. For me there were some large question marks brought up as a result of this game, Glen Johnson (not for the first time in recent months) looked very poor and defensively at times was caught completely out of position. Wayne Rooney, as perhaps expected, having been injured for the past few weeks, didn’t look match sharp and, as mentioned above, continually dropped too deep in search of possession. However, the Gerrard-Henderson partnership in holding midfield showed signs of promise, obviously helped by the fact they played at Liverpool all season together.

There have been question marks over Johnson's recent performances

There have been question marks over Johnson’s recent performances

Going into the Ecuador game in Miami the main question marks were over the right-back position and Wayne Rooney. Roy responded by starting with the versatile James Milner at RB in the following team: Foster/Milner-Jones-Smalling-Shaw/ Lampard-Wilshere/ Ox-Barkley-Rooney/ Lambert. After floundering a few early opportunities we found ourselves 1 down after a cross from wide was headed in at the back post. The response to this will have pleased Roy Hodgson as we looked menacing on the attack, led by Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A superb Ross Barkley burst led to our 2nd goal for Rickie Lambert, but we couldn’t see the game through and conceded mid-way through the second half with the final result being 2-2. There were various positives to take from this game; the players seemed to have plenty of energy despite playing in high temperatures which they were perhaps not accustomed to. The Ox and Barkley were very good at times going forward and Luke Shaw showed promise in the 2nd half. A goal for Rickie Lambert will also have done him the world of good knowing that he will most likely get an opportunity to make an impact at some point in the tournament. There were, however, a few below-par performances including Chris Smalling, who honestly doesn’t look like an international footballer. Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere also gave the ball away in crucial areas at times throughout the game, which against higher-class opposition may have been more costly. The most important thing that we gained from this game is the knowledge that James Milner playing at right back simply won’t work; it’s a difficult position to pick up if you don’t play there regularly and this was evident throughout the match.

Is Chris Smalling good enough to play for England?

Is Chris Smalling good enough to play for England?

From the two warm-up matches I would say we learnt the following key points:

1)    Wayne Rooney needs to play vs Honduras to gain more match fitness.

2)    If we get any injuries to our regular back four we will be in trouble.

3)    Ross Barkley has got the ability to perform and make a difference at the highest level.

The following team I shall mention is the best XI that I think we could put out at this tournament (lack of injuries permitting). This may not, however, be the team that I would put out against Italy with it being the opening game of the tournament and the likely man-marking of Andrea Pirlo. I think the back 5 picks itself in Hart-Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines. After that I would go with a holding two of Gerrard and Henderson with Henderson just edging it ahead of Jack Wilshere. Daniel Sturridge up front is another obvious choice because of his superb form for Liverpool this season. The hardest part of picking this team is which 3 players you play behind Daniel Sturridge. From what I’ve seen of people’s ‘Best Starting XI’s’ I haven’t seen the one which I’m about to suggest very often, I would select Rooney-Barkley-Sterling as our 3 players in these positions. This may seem very harsh on Adam Lallana, who has had a fantastic season for Southampton, but I will explain why I have chosen these 3 players. Wayne Rooney has to play if he’s fit, he’s a vital member of the dressing room and our best player when fully fit. I feel to hurt teams we need to have pace in our team, we have this with Daniel Sturridge up front but another player is needed and this is why I’ve chosen Raheem Sterling (if the Ox hadn’t got injured I would have chosen him ahead of Sterling). This leaves one remaining space which, in my opinion, comes down to Barkley vs Lallana, I would go with the bolder option of Barkley who really has that X-factor in his play and is willing to run directly at opponents. This 3 behind Sturridge is very flexible and the players in question could interchange positions with all 3 of them capable of playing anywhere across the forward line, therefore always giving the opposition defence something to think about.

Will Ross Barkley play against Italy?

Will Ross Barkley play against Italy?

So to summarise my best England XI would be: Hart/Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines/Gerrard-Henderson/Sterling-Barkley-Rooney/Sturridge

Do you agree with Sam? Tweet @0riginal Footy to have your say on England’s best XI.