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Paul Scholes exclusive: Why England should play ‘the Liverpool way’

In his second column for the Paddy Power Blog, the ex-Manchester United and England midfielder digs into the stats and pings some insight on top

by Paul Scholes | May 29, 2014

It would be refreshing for England to adopt Liverpool’s attacking mentality in Brazil. Really go for it. That means certainly four, and possibly five, Liverpool players in the England starting XI against Italy on June 14.

South Africa in 2010 was so negative with boring draws. Nothing seemed to happen. England fans, and myself as an England fan, would rather 3-all games than dull, nil-nil draws. I’d love to see Roy be brave enough to play like Liverpool (or Man United teams of the past).

Last season, I didn’t take notice of Liverpool as contenders until six or seven games to go of the Premier League. Only then I thought they genuinely had a chance of winning the title. Ultimately they fell short but the thing I admired most was the swagger of their play and how they terrorised opponents, which reminded me of United at their best.

Defensively Liverpool were poor – conceding 50 goals – but they can be contenders again next year IF they can get two world-class centre halves and a left-back. I’m talking about players of the standard of Jaap Stam and Rio Ferdinand. That quality is difficult to find.

Daniel Sturridge

What England can learn from Liverpool…

The reports I’m hearing now from the international set-up are very positive and while I still doubt Roy Hodgson will start with such an attacking Liverpool-style approach, I’d love to see it. Much has been said already about the Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge partnership for the club.

But Steven Gerrard, Sturridge and Raheem Sterling can offer a huge goal threat playing together for England.

  • In terms of goals and assists, Gerrard was involved in almost 27% of Liverpool’s goals last season;
  • Raheem Sterling is deadly accurate – getting 49% of his shots on target;
  • Between them last season Daniel Sturridge (above) and Gerrard were each involved in more than a quarter of Liverpool’s goals. Taking out assist/goal overlaps – from Liverpool’s 101-goal total Gerrard and Sturridge were involved in just over 50% of the club’s total Premier League goals (51 goals).

(Scroll to the end to see full stats)


As for facing Luis Suarez – he’s a nuisance. Last season his chance conversion improved beyond anyone’s expectations. He didn’t seem as selfish. Playing against him, he never lets you rest and reminds me of Carlos Tevez whom I played with at United.

How do you stop Suarez? Well, I have one or two ideas…

England’s starting XI

For England’s first XI, we’ll know more after the upcoming friendlies, but on the back of last season, I’d definitely start with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling. The question mark is Glen Johnson at right back. It’s probably Phil Jones’ best position right now, even though Jones could still develop into a great centre half. Johnson is a touch better going forward, but it’s a tight call.

Johnson had just two assists for Liverpool last season so did not provide a genuine attacking threat, whatever the perception.

Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson (above) is a diamond of a lad who’s best described as ‘workmanlike’. He’s a player others appreciate having around them on the pitch. He’ll sacrifice himself for the attacking talent in a team like Liverpool. He’s not what you call ‘world class’, but Henderson could be key to England controlling the ball and using it effectively. Liverpool took less shots (five fewer per 90 minutes) last season with Henderson in the team but were more clinical in front of goal – taking three fewer shots to score. Also, they were more solid at the back [see full stats below].

Jordan is similar to James Milner, who rarely starts for Manchester City, but you can’t have luxury players all the time.

Not bringing Carrick is a mistake

Gerrard (a good leader who will have quickly moved on from that slip) has adjusted his game superbly, very much like I did. He is likely to be asked to do a similar job in this England team to his ‘quarterback’ role at Liverpool. However, not bringing Michael Carrick is a mistake. If there’s an injury to Gerrard nobody jumps out to replace him, assuming Roy considers the Liverpool approach. I don’t see Henderson, Frank Lampard or Jack Wilshere playing Gerrard’s role.

At a certain age, you can’t bomb forward any more. If you have the talent, you learn to stay back and dictate the pace of a match, and your game. That’s the big difference between Steven and Lampard, for example. I’m not sure Lampard has the ability to control a game. He’s always someone who’s up trying to score goals.

My opinion at this moment is that England’s success in the group stages hinges on Gerrard staying fit.

The things you see when you’re away…

Ronaldo celebrates

I was playing football in Indonesia for a few days with some former Man United team-mates. It’s always nice to catch up with the lads, but the things you miss when you’re away…

Bloody hell, Ronaldo (above) looks well. He must be getting his body ready for the beach. Not for me that style of celebration. You don’t want to see my Salford tan.

As for Yaya Toure sulking because Manchester City didn’t mark his birthday with sufficient respect, it was comical. Quite embarrassing, really. I can’t remember Man United players acting like this. We still came back for pre-season. Poor Yaya, maybe the big lad just needs a cuddle.

Joking aside, with the England v Peru friendly on Friday, we’re getting down to World Cup business and these warm-up games are massively important.

Pele (1958), Michael Owen (1998) and Franck Ribery (2006) all broke through pre-World Cups to play significant parts for their countries. So this is an opportunity for people such as Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck (who’s been excellent for England so far) to play themselves into the starting XI. It’s a chance too for Sturridge, who hasn’t fulfilled his international potential, to show he can be the main man.

Read Paul Scholes, exclusively for Paddy Power, here on the Paddy Power Blog every week.

Liverpool statistics (Premier League season 2013/2014)

Paul Scholes infographic

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Your comments and views


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  1. Hannah Fry said on May 29, 2014 @ 11:59 am

    Great article, Paul! Looking forward to more.

  2. Tony Green said on May 29, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

    Another great read Paul.

    My Fav blog at the moment.

  3. Anonymous said on May 29, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

    I loved Paul on the pitch but I kinda sense a little bias in his style of writing, he was part of a great united era but every comparison goes to a team mate. I’m not saying anything he says is wrong but it seems like all he wants to talk about is united. Reminds me of any united fan I’ve ever met.

  4. GoldenOldie said on May 29, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

    Paul Scholes remarks are proof positive that ex-footballers should not comment on football. Not because they are ill-informed but because they are partial. Liverpool copied their playing style from Man City but Scholesy can’t bring himself to utter the name of his rival club lest he be frowned on by United supporters. Also City conceded fewer goals than United. So does he advocate England taking an all-out attacking approach with a leaky defence and ultimately lose what they are striving for. Time to imitate your erstwhile colleague Gary Neville and take a more impartial approach, Paul.

  5. kicboy said on May 29, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

    Old school Liverpool..? Good shout:
    look forward – play forward
    play in triangles (unless there is a better option)
    play as a team
    play with style and confidence

    my pick has the same philosophy (

    Scholesey you are the hero of the best midfield players of recent times (i.e. Xavi & Iniesta) and you are mine, too (what a player you have been). Mind you, we never stop learning, do we? For example, where is the object of your 2nd sentence?

    Only joking – Let’s Play (Come on, England!)

  6. Danny fisher said on May 29, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

    Great insight and thoughts from a proper bloke and a True (ex) professional,

  7. HZ said on May 29, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    Wonderful to read insights from an exceptional player. Wish England all the best. May the team play with more attacking verve as suggested by Scholesy.

  8. Gordon Mays said on May 29, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

    I just knew it would be a Man Utd player that Scholes would say should not have been left behind where as in my opinion leaving Ashley Cole behind is a massive mistake as he is one of only four world class players we have along with Hart, Gerrard and Rooney.

  9. Josh said on May 29, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

    great stuff again Paul. I have to say, you seem to have a real flair for this. look forward to seeing more

  10. gav said on May 29, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

    thanks for the great articles scholesy! legend.

  11. christermister said on May 30, 2014 @ 1:14 am

    interesting perspective paul, makes a lot of sense, some understandable points and impressive theories

  12. PARK SK said on May 30, 2014 @ 6:00 am

    Great view from genuine experience.

  13. john said on May 30, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

    Always good to hear Paul’s thoughts what a legend…

  14. shorty29 said on May 30, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

    England have No chance of winning world cup !!!! Will be lucky to make it thru group stages !!!

  15. Paul Mallon said on May 31, 2014 @ 10:09 am

    Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment. Paul (editor)

  16. Paul Mallon said on June 1, 2014 @ 11:35 am

    Thanks for the comments, John

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