Jamie Redknapp says he would “fear” for England if they headed into their World Cup opener with Italy without a three-man midfield.
The Three Lions tackle their Euro 2012 conquerors in the Amazonian city of Manaus on Saturday night, with debate still raging over who will make Roy Hodgson’s starting line-up and how the side will be set up.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ World Cup Podcast - which you can download here - Redknapp encouraged Hodgson to combat England’s sloppiness with the ball by flooding his midfield – though he is not sure who should partner Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in the engine room.
“I think England have to play three in midfield,” said the Sky Sports pundit.
“If we kept the ball as well as other teams, I would say we could get away with a 4-4-2 system which Roy would probably want to play.
Redknapp is backing Daniel Sturridge to be England's top scorer at the World Cup at 5/2 with Sky Bet
“But against good sides in big tournaments we don’t retain the ball well enough – we were long ball against Italy in Euro 2012 which was quite uncomfortable to watch – so are going to need an extra man in midfield.
“I’m sure Gerrard and Henderson, who has come on leaps and bounds in the last year or so but can still be a little bit wasteful, will play so it’s just a case of who else goes in there.
“I am a big Ross Barkley fan and think he could be that extra man, but even though Jack Wilshere has had a poor season for Arsenal – something he would probably admit – he can keep the ball, so it is not an easy one for Roy.
“We definitely need someone else in there, though, as if we give the ball away consistently in the heat and get fatigued I would really fear for us against a decent Italian side.”
Redknapp’s fellow pundit, Matt Le Tissier, also previewed England’s clash with Italy on the World Cup Podcast, and revealed why he would select jet-heeled Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling and Southampton star Adam Lallana on the flanks.
The Soccer Saturday regular gave his backing to Wayne Rooney, too, and believes that the emergence of young guns such as Barkley could force the Manchester United man to lift his performance.
“I think Sterling deserves his place in the side as he was outstanding in the latter part of the season for Liverpool and has been lively for England, albeit his red card against Ecuador didn’t help,” said Le Tissier.
“Lallana has had a fantastic season, too, and both he and Sterling have the capabilities to cause different problems for defenders.
"Raheem is a little bit quicker than Adam, but Adam’s football brain gets him into good positions and he can create things out of very little.
“I also don’t think you can drop Rooney as of yet, because even though he may be on borrowed time with other lads pushing behind him, he is a big enough force still that other countries worry about him.
“I don’t think pressure for his place is a bad thing either and it may just ignite him to put in a couple of displays to prove he deserves to be an automatic starter.”