England need to be starting Eric Dier ahead of Jordan Henderson in midfield, says Martin Keown, with Liverpool’s captain a potential weak link.
The Three Lions have started to settle on a favoured XI in recent outings, with Gareth Southgate having switched to a 3-5-2 formation.
Within that system, somebody is required to sit in the middle of the park and protect the defensive line, while providing cover down the flanks if wing-backs are caught out of position.
Henderson and Dier are both capable of filling such a role, having done so at club level, but the former is considered to be slightly more adventurous, which runs the risk of leaving England exposed at the back.
Former Three Lions defender Keown told the Daily Mail ahead of a World Cup opener against Tunisia on Monday: “It looks like Jordan Henderson will start in midfield against Tunisia but if Gareth Southgate wants the best person to fit his system, he should go for Eric Dier.
“Either player will be the pivot, sitting at the base of the midfield.
“When England are going forward, that player could have six players in front of him: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and the two wing backs.
“It is vital the pivot sits deep to give England numbers in defence to deal with a counter-attack.
“Henderson likes to get forward but if he does in this system, England could be left with just three players in defence.
“Dier is better suited to this role but his leg has been strapped up this week which may count against him. Southgate may want to go with the player he can rely upon to be fit.
“If Harry Maguire plays, we need an improvement from the Costa Rica game. He was exposed by Joel Campbell and needs to be more aware of the runs forwards will make.”
Henderson was a contender to captain England in Russia, having skippered Liverpool since Steven Gerrard’s departure, but the armband was eventually passed to Harry Kane.
He will be desperate to lead by example if selected, though, having previously formed part of disappointing showings at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016.