England should start Jordan Henderson over Eric Dier - Danny Murphy
LONDON -- Jordan Henderson should start in place of Eric Dier for England if Gareth Southgate sticks to his vision of only picking one holding midfielder at the World Cup, according to former Three Lions international Danny Murphy.
Dier started England's first pre-tournament friendly against Nigeria at Wembley with Henderson given time off following his exertions in the Champions League final, but the Liverpool captain was preferred against Costa Rica at Elland Road five days later.
Southgate appears committed to the idea of fielding only one conventional holding midfielder at the World Cup, flanked by two shuttling runners in a diamond formation, and Murphy believes Henderson is more suited to the task than Dier.
"If you're going to play one, I'd play Henderson all day because of his athleticism," Murphy told ESPN FC ahead of playing in an England XI for Soccer Aid, which raised more than £5.5 million for UNICEF at Old Trafford on Sunday.
"He's quicker than Dier, he gets about more, he gets his foot in. Dier gets his foot in but Henderson has that pace to recover. Dier's recovery runs aren't as good as Henderson's. Maybe you could argue Dier's a better passer or can drop in as a centre-half but I just think against a good side or quick side, you'd want a central midfielder sitting who's got legs."
Southgate's bold tactical plan for England's midfield has divided opinion, but Murphy is confident that it will enable the Three Lions to exploit group stage opponents who set up with a defensive mindset.
"The reason you play one is when you haven't got the ball, he stays," the former Liverpool and Fulham midfielder explained. "It's about when you have got the ball. When you've got the ball you have to have someone else. When you look at Barcelona, the best side we've ever seen in terms of possession, [Sergio] Busquets sat in terms of when they didn't have the ball.
"When they got the ball off the back player, Busquets would move away, Xavi would go and [Andres] Iniesta would drop. It's the rotation. When you play two or three, the one -- his importance -- is about when you're attacking, has he got the discipline to do that job? Is he athletic enough? Against certain opposition that is the way for England to go.
"Panama and Tunisia are going to look at [Marcus] Rashford, [Raheem] Sterling, [Jesse] Lingard, [Dele] Alli, [Harry] Kane, [Jamie] Vardy and all of a sudden they're going, 'Hold on we've got to fill some spaces.' So you don't need two [sitting in midfield]."
Another interesting midfield option for Southgate is Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has impressed with his intelligence in possession and ability to drive through midfield in his four friendly appearances for England.
"He's a super player, I like him," Murphy said of the 22-year-old. "He's got that strut -- I can't really call it arrogance because I don't know him but it's an arrogant strut of quality and presence. He's two-footed, comfortable on the ball, big, spots danger coming.
"I spoke to Roy [Hodgson] about him a few times and Roy was very complimentary which isn't really like him. He was very enthused by his potential. He hasn't yet really played a full season.
"I don't think he'll start but he'll be great to come on. He can play anywhere.
"He can drop in, he can hold, get it, pass, go past people but the end product is going to be another thing. Is his end product going to be good enough? It's not yet but it should be with his talent. I think it was good decision to take him."
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Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.