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Versatile Vardy deserves England chance

 • by Mark Ritson
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It was a good way to kick off their World Cup preparations, with a win over Nigeria, but now England need to show a bit more ruthlessness in attack and prove they’re a serious contender for the global crown.

There’s no doubt Gareth Southgate’s men have a blend of youth and experience. They have the composure and drive to push opposition sides back, but they need that extra piece of killer instinct in front of goal. That raw factor. Something different.

Everyone knows what Harry Kane can do and is capable of in Russia, but he’s going to need people around him in the final third to help him and take some of the pressure away.

Raheem Sterling has had an outstanding season for Manchester City and provides a fantastic support mechanism. Jesse Lingard was preferred in attack with him and Kane against Nigeria and did all right.

However, against a team like Costa Rica, without disrespect, it gives the Three Lions a chance to set their attack alight and really show some pace and zest.

Jamie Vardy may have felt unlucky not to feature at the weekend, but he really needs to on Thursday night at Elland Road following a brilliant campaign at Leicester City.

Vardy not only provides that pace, he’s direct, can get in behind defences, he scores goals and is also able to feature anywhere across the front three. He can also take penalties.

And that is why he’s a key player up front for England, because he gives Southgate options to play a narrow three or wide three.

Let’s look at the latter.

Vardy has played out wide before, when asked. He’s done so for Leicester and England, he doesn’t just score goals.

He’ll be able to beat full-backs for pace, cut inside and put the final ball on a plate for the likes of Kane. Perhaps with the way Southgate is looking to utilise Kane, it’s unlikely we’ll see Vardy as the main man through the middle on his own, even though he’s done it for his club numerous times.

His other use, you could suggest, is to have him come on as impact substitute. Harsh perhaps given his form for Leicester, but you can see the logic. Tiring defences will be scared of coming up against someone with so much pace.

But fans need to see Vardy in action this Thursday to see if he’s ready for a start with Kane and someone else like Sterling.

And that leads to the idea of having him actually partnering Kane, with someone playing in behind them both in a narrow front three. That could prove a problem for Sterling, but these warm-up games are here to try out new ideas.

Again, with his pace and ability to get in behind defences, you could see him and Kane producing a potentially mouth-watering combination.

There’s not much to suggest it can’t work. Kane’s a clever player when he’s not in a shooting position, so he can win the flick-ons or find Vardy on the floor, who is so used to being assisted towards goal through the middle.

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The question in this case would be who to play in behind them both. Southgate could experiment with Sterling, but then some will argue this is a great chance for Dele Alli to claim the role, pushing forward and replicating his form with Kane at Tottenham Hotspur.

Whatever Southgate chooses, he must know he has a fantastic weapon in Vardy, who is not only high in confidence but someone who can start wide, play in a front two with someone supporting or to make an impact from the bench when the tournament commences.
Yes, there’s Marcus Rashford and he’s got huge potential, but he didn’t have a season like Vardy. There’s also Danny Welbeck, but he, too, didn’t have a season like Vardy in the slightest.

And going back to Lingard, he’ll get goals and assists, but he doesn’t have that directness like Vardy.

Against a team like Costa Rica, this is a big chance to try Vardy out from the start and to give him a final confidence boost before the real work begins.

His speed, confidence and goals could be the difference in England winning matches.

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