Ross Barkley is technically better but Wayne Rooney still has edge in battle of England's No10s

 
Trevor Steven
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England captain Rooney has found his place under threat from Barkley (Source: Getty)

It might have been a very weak group, Switzerland aside, but England’s 100 per cent record in qualifying for next summer’s European Championship is a great achievement.

There is no point putting a dampener on it. The players will have built up confidence from winning all 10 games and Roy Hodgson deserves credit for turning things round after last year’s World Cup disappointment.

My problem with this England team, however, is that they are all much of a muchness. Who have we got that is going to win us a Euros? And do they have enough experience?

We know we have good players, like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Harry Kane, but not many great players and certainly not world class players.

I fear that the England players who could be great or better are, at the moment, undercooked.

The best sides also tend to be built around a key group of 15 players, and Hodgson’s task in the few friendlies remaining before the tournament in France has to be to hone that nucleus.

There is no need to keep players happy – they are happy to be there – and he shouldn’t worry about showing his hand. Now is the time to settle on his team and let them be that.

If he doesn’t, then England will be found out. International football has a tendency to root out the weaknesses in a team’s setup. If he does, it should produce a more fluent outfit.

It’s about knowing where your team-mate will be in a match situation. Otherwise you’ll be a yard too far away – and you’ll come undone.

It’s also about knowing what runs they like to make. England’s attackers often take too many touches because they don’t know what colleagues will do and it slows them down.

Wayne Rooney is captain and was top scorer in qualifying yet finds his place in the starting XI and the squad under scrutiny due to patchy form and the emergence of Ross Barkley.

Technically, I think Barkley is the better player. The Everton youngster is two-footed and turns opponents with ease – something you rarely see from Rooney these days. Barkley has a good aggressive attitude, and yet is probably calmer than Rooney.

The Manchester United forward is still scoring and England need his experience. But he has historically done more than that, and there should be a lot more to his game than just goals.

Rooney seems to have lost pace and a little of his zest. He could be sharper, and I’ve noticed him losing the ball more frequently than before, which is really disappointing.

We now know he’ll be playing No10 for United, and that can help him as he could operate in that role for England, behind a Kane or Danny Welbeck breaking the lines.

I still think that Barkley, meanwhile, is a little immature as a footballer, so I’d have reservations about starting him. He needs more consistency and better decision-making.

Rooney is a stick-on to go to the Euros and, if fit and showing the form we know he can, will be able to offer more than anyone else in that squad.

He has it to prove though, and Barkley will know that. It will be fascinating to watch over the next six months as they compete for that England No10 shirt.

My suspicion is that Hodgson might be tempted to always find a place for Rooney in his starting XI, even if Barkley did force his way in. I hope not, as that would be wrong.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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