How Wales should line-up against Ireland in the UEFA Nations League tomorrow
Ryan Giggs is tasked tomorrow with choosing his first ever competitive starting eleven, since taking over as Wales manager.
After managing three friendly games, including a knockout Cup in China, Wales begin their potential route to the European Championships, via the UEFA Nations League.
Wales will line up against Ireland, who inflicted World Cup qualification heartbreak on them last time out when James McClean scored the only goal at the Cardiff City Stadium.
That proved to be the last competitive game that Chris Coleman took charge of Wales.
But a new era is upon Wales now, as the former Manchester United legend gets down to the nitty-gritty side of international football.
So how should Ryan Giggs’ first competitive line up against Ireland, as they look to right the wrongs of last years defeat?
GK: Wayne Hennessey
Starting every game at Crystal Palace, in the Premier League, after remaining as their number one having signed a new deal at Selhurst Park.
Wayne Hennessey looks to be getting back to his top form. This has come at the right time for the 31-year-old, who has been through a number of qualifying campaigns and deserves to start again.
Having started against China and Uruguay in February, as well as playing against Mexico in May, Hennessey looks set to be given the nod over Danny Ward.
RB: Chris Gunter
He’s only played once for Royals this season, in what has been a poor start to the season for Reading, picking up just two points out of a possible eighteen.
But Chris Gunter is a Wales mainstay and has 88 caps to his name. His experience with Wales over the last few years has been vital. He has the experience over the emerging Connor Roberts at this moment in time.
CB: Ashley Williams
Ryan Giggs has been asked a number of times whether Ashley Williams will continue as captain, following his loan move to the second tier to Stoke, but Ash is to remain Wales skipper.
Giggs said: “He’s starting to play regularly and he always enjoys playing for Wales. He’s captain and nothing changes. There was no hesitation.”
A leader in the dressing room, Williams will most certainly be one of the first names on the team sheet, At the age of 34-years-old, he is the most experienced player in the Wales dressing room and will at least remain with Wales, for one more Qualifying campaign.
CB: James Chester
Since the departure of experienced Premier League defender John Terry, James Chester has taken centre stage in the Villains backline.
Linked with a move to Stoke City in the summer, where he could have possibly been playing alongside Wales centre-back partner Ashley Williams, Chester has remained loyal to Villa.
In doing so, he was handed the captains armband by manager Steve Bruce.
To have two captains as a centre-back partnership is a massive boost to Ryan Giggs, who will be boosted by the leadership qualities of his centre-back pairing.
He gets the nod over Christopher Mepham, who has been equally as impressive with Brentford this season.
LB: Ben Davies
After being rotated as both a centre-back and as a left-back, it seems now the Tottenham Hotspur defender has a nailed down position for both club and country.
In his recent press conference, Giggs was asked regarding the future of Neil Taylor, saying that he already had Ben Davies and Paul Dummett in his squad, so there was no need for Taylor at this moment in time.
Giggs clearly sees Davies as a left back under him and doesn’t feel inclined to convert him to a centre-back, as his predecessor did.
The former Swansea City defender was given the nod by Mauricio Pochettino over England international Danny Rose last season, making 29 appearances in the league.
RM: Tom Lawrence
After being stuck in the wilderness, on the books at Manchester United, where he had a number of loan moves at Championship clubs, Tom Lawrence has found a permanent home.
It’s a home that could be a big learning experience for him this season. He plays his trade at Derby County, now managed by Chelsea legend Frank Lampard.
And in his first game of the season, he gave Lampard his first taste of victory, from an unlikely source, scoring with his head in virtually the last kick of the game.
At Derby, there’s somewhat of a Welsh contingent and Lawrence is certainly thriving. Three goals in six games for Derby, Lawrence is hitting the form which is expected of him.
Lawrence scored a crucial away goal in Georgia in the last qualifying round and his pace could be vital to Giggs’ imposed sale of play.
CM: Aaron Ramsey
The Arsenal star is a wanted man, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.
Arsenal fans have pleaded for him to sign a new deal and it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up.
Last campaign, Ramsey won the Arsenal Player of the Year and gave a good account of himself, in the game against Mexico in May.
A good performance against Cardiff on Sunday, which was met by adoring Cardiff City fans, has given Ramsey confidence going into this international break.
Wales are at their best with Aaron Ramsey in the side, his ball retention and work rate is second to none.
CM: Ethan Ampadu
The 17-year-old has yet to play competitive football for Wales, having made two friendly appearances for Wales against France and Panama.
But the way, the former Exeter City midfielder plays, he plays beyond his years. He’s been included in Chelsea’s Premier League squad and has big things expected of him, working under new manager Maurizio Sarri.
This could be seen as a risk for Giggs, given the physicalness of midfielders like David Meyer, but Ampadu could thrive in this setting.
If Ampadu were to be involved in any way tomorrow, his allegiance would be confirmed to Wales, putting to an end any potential of him returning to an England setup.
CM: Joe Allen
Despite being linked with numerous moves away from Stoke City, including a number of moves abroad, Joe Allen has remained loyal to the Potters, following their relegation to the Championship.
He even penned a new contract, despite the chance of playing in the Premier League, where he’d been playing for the last six years, including a title challenge with Liverpool.
Allen is a neat passer of the ball, with a desire to chase players down, breaking up play, as well as beginning attacks.
The 27-year-old has played in all of Stoke’s Championship fixtures this season, so will be able to deal with the physical aspect that the Irish pose.
Allen was forced to come off injured in the last meeting between the two sides at half-time, so will be eager to have more of a foot old in this game.
LM: Ben Woodburn
The 18-year-old is finally getting regular football, having been on the fringes of Liverpool.
The first to emerge from the pack of Ampadu, Brooks and Woodburn, the Liverpool attacker burst on to the international scene in style, scoring a winner against Austria at the Cardiff City Stadium.
He also set up Hal Robson-Kanu, for an important goal in their win out in Moldova.
It’s hard to believe that Woodburn is still only 18 years of age and has plenty of time on his side.
With seven caps to his name, the pace and the footballing brain of Woodburn could cause tomorrow’s opponents trouble.
CF: Gareth Bale
After Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus, it really does feel like Gareth Bale is becoming the centre stage player at the club football’s biggest team, Real Madrid.
The 29-year-old missed international duty in May, to score the all-important winner in the UEFA Champions League, with a remarkable bicycle kick, which has been nominated for a Puskas award.
Under Giggs’ watch in February, Bale broke Ian Rush’s record, to become Wales’ highest ever goal scorer in men’s senior football in Wales.
It is fitting, after Giggs’ important to the Welsh national side, that he is now placed manager, as someone who Bale has been compared to over the last number of years.
Ryan Giggs’ team has lined up fairly attacking in their last three games and I believe nothing will change tomorrow evening. The pace of both Ben Woodburn and Tom Lawrence, added to a Galactico leading the line, will prove deadly for Wales tomorrow.
(Featured Image: Lewis Mitchell)