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Former Three Lions defender insists midfield is key...

Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon believes that Frank Lampard's form is more crucial to England's chances of success in the 2010 World Cup than Wayne Rooney.

Fabio Capello's side have underperformed in South Africa so far, picking up just two points from their first two games against the USA and Algeria.

Rooney's displays have been below-par in the World Cup, although that is true of the whole team.

The focus is bound to be on the Manchester United man after the season he enjoyed for his club, but Dixon feels that Lampard's display gives a better indicator of how the Three Lions are playing.

"Arsene Wenger, my old manager, was on the right lines yesterday when he said that England need to play with more freedom – and the crucial spark can come from the midfield," Dixon told The Independent.

"We need something from Lampard. He was quiet against the US and nonexistent against Algeria. He looks a shadow of himself.

"England still have two of the best attacking midfielders in the game – but we are still not getting the best out of them.

"The key for England is to give Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard the opportunity and freedom to do what they do for their clubs, and what they did for England in qualifying for the finals. And tonight, it is Lampard who needs to rediscover his old self as a goalscoring force.

"England scored plenty of goals in qualifying and actually created a number of chances against the US, which makes the performance against Algeria all the more baffling.

"The way Slovenia play, and certainly how they played against the US, you would expect chances to come and it is the midfielders who can prove the difference."

Dixon also feels that James Milner's likely return to the side in place of Aaron Lennon would be a good move from Fabio Capello.

"Aaron Lennon has had a couple of goes now and I would make a change on the right," he added.

"Shaun Wright-Phillips or James Milner both have a case to start, but if Milner is fully fit – unlike for the first game against the US – he is the best option. Lennon got himself into plenty of good positions against the US but failed to deliver, while against Algeria he was as anonymous as most of his team-mates.

"Milner may not have Lennon's pace but he is better with the ball and also better when England do not have the ball. The way I want England to play, Milner's reassuring presence would also help free up Gerrard.

"England have to do whatever it takes to get the ball to the captain in more dangerous areas. I still want to see Gerrard pushed up to play off Wayne Rooney. The balance of the side was all wrong in the last match.

"The Algerians pushed up on Ashley Cole to stop him getting forward, and with Gerrard drifting inside it left a hole on the left. As the game wore on, frustration grew, and Wayne Rooney kept chasing back to fill it."

Dixon is adamant that Rooney should play up front as a lone striker, believing that it would prevent him from drifting back towards his own goal in search of the ball.

Should Capello opt for a front two though, Dixon feels that Peter Crouch is the man to pair with the Manchester United forward.

"If Capello insists on playing two up front, as is his style, it should be Peter Crouch rather than Jermain Defoe," the former Gunner explained.

"Rooney and Defoe have not had a profitable partnership in the past and Crouch would be an awkward opponent for a Slovenian defence that is less than convincing."

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