After 14 years of loyal service, Steven Gerrard has called time on his England international career.
The term ‘legend’ is bandied around all too frequently these days and, to use it in the context of the Liverpool skipper’s Three Lions career would see news.bwin.com/en/ commit an identical over-usage infringement, but his effort and commitment to the cause (114 caps worth, to be precise) warrants special commendation.
His influence in the dressing room will be sorely missed, but when it comes to on-pitch fortunes, could Gerrard’s retirement be a good thing for England?
For several seasons now, the team has been structured around the Anfield hero, with the holding-midfield role he occupied at the World Cup a classic example of how his square peg has been jimmied into a round hole.
While he may have performed admirably in that position on Merseyside last season, he is by no means a natural anchorman and, when taken out of Brendan Rodgers’ system – which provided added protection with two fellow central-midfielders in front of him – in Brazil, his shortfalls were evident.
Throughout Gerrard’s lengthy England career there have been numerous incidents of him being played out of position, take the years upon years in which managers tried and failed to make his partnership with Frank Lampard work as an example.
Had the focus been on structure, rather than personnel over the previous decade-and-a-half, the Three Lions may have savoured more success.
Now Gerrard has decided to call it quits, Hodgson has no such dilemma in his midfield; there is no longer a queue of superstars to satisfy and this could point to a change in formation.
Deploying either of Manchester United duo Michael Carrick or Phil Jones as the defensive screen has obvious advantages; both are disciplined practitioners in this field and their lack of adventure means that neither would take umbrage with mere possession-winning and water-carrying duties.
Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere are just a trio of talented, attack-minded individuals who could occupy the two central-midfield berths ahead of the holder, while Hodgson could choose between putting a point on the diamond or playing with two wingers and one striker with this solid foundation.