At the end of a very busy month, it’s time to review the status of the England squad once more.
This is February’s examination of our squad depth. As you’ll notice from a quick comparison between this page and the squad for England’s friendly against the Netherlands, this is not entirely dictated by the players in the latest squad (although that will obviously have an influence). It’s neither the squad that would be named as first choice today (the injuries see to that), nor is it a draft UEFA Euro 2012 squad – it’s somewhere in the middle.
It is based on the following: recent squads, current form, short- and long-term prospects and any relevant media comment from the England manager. Please note that all of those factors are applied through the filter of my opinion; this is not a statistical or necessarily accurate representation, just an idea of where I believe the squad might be. I welcome sensible debate as a result.
Joe Hart, Scott Carson, David Stockdale
John Ruddy, Rob Green
I’ve given the goalkeeping position a lot of thought of late, and seen some discussion about how important the second and third spots even are. Yes, Joe Hart is the cast-iron number one and rightly so – in fact I’ve spoken to a few people in the game in the last few weeks and they think he could become the best in the world – but he’s only a sprained finger away from missing matches. The remaining goalkeeper spots are therefore of great importance, and must be filled by competent players.
While I haven’t changed too much of this list based on Stuart Pearce’s squad selection, the inclusion of Robert Green suggests he is at least back in the thinking of some of the England staff, and certainly of Pearce. So I’ve promoted him directly into the ‘Fringe’ category because my current top three is far from impenetrable.
Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Micah Richards
Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand
Chris Smalling, John Terry
The notable move here is, thankfully, that of Micah Richards into the 23. Having been selected by Pearce for the game against the Netherlands, the Manchester City defender is surely now back in the reckoning after his recent absences from the squad. While both he and Chris Smalling are in the current squad, whittling it down to 23 unfortunately means that something has to give. For me, that would be Glen Johnson; in reality I think it could be Smalling who will get the chop.
I’ve also edged John Terry out to the fringe, purely on the basis that there remains a question mark over whether he will be welcome at Euro 2012 – that will depend wholly on who is named as the new England manager. This is conjecture, of course. As soon as the new man indicates a willingness to include the troublesome former captain, he’ll be back in the nailed-on list.
Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, James Milner, Gareth Barry
Jack Wilshere, Scott Sinclair, Aaron Lennon
Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson, Stewart Downing, Michael Carrick, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Cole, Tom Cleverley
What possibly stands out the most here is the inclusion of both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. The latter is always likely to be included when he’s available for selection, and Lampard is still a vital part of the squad if Pearce’s clarification over his omission is anything to go by. Fingers crossed the incoming manager doesn’t think he’s some kind of genius that can finally get the pair to play together – in my opinion, we should be looking beyond both now and concentrating on the future.
Like January’s analysis, England have as many options on the fringes as in the assumed squad. Joe Cole steps up a level thanks to the possibility of Harry Redknapp taking on the England job, while Michael Carrick continues to fight in vain for a spot. Adam Johnson may be contentiously placed here, but I’m not sure he’d be in the final 23 if it were named today. He’s got plenty of time to rectify that.
Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the headline omission from Pearce’s England squad despite his paucity of experience, and because he is completely unproven at senior international level it’s not yet right to include him as a dead cert for any England squad. However, he will almost certainly be in the European Championships squad as a Walcottian wildcard, at which point he will jump straight into the top layer of May’s England squad depth post.
Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge
Fraizer Campbell, Peter Crouch, Gabriel Agbonlahor
The severity of Darren Bent’s injury is not yet known, but the prognosis of a few terrace paramedics in the away end at the DW Stadium on Saturday was that he was done for the season. On the strength of that I considered dropping him to ‘Outsider’ status, but decided against it after a quick consideration of the potential replacements.
The player I would have plumped for is, perhaps alarmingly, Andy Carroll. Peter Crouch would have been a close second which speaks volumes of England’s goalscoring strength in depth. Swansea City fans will be screaming at me now, as will one or two Canaries – and I agree with them. But while we’d all like Grant Holt or Danny Graham to get a shot, the reality of England squad selection is that international experience and being a fashionable player still play a big part.
I hope to address our striking problems with an article later this week, but for now the 23 above is what I consider to be the current status of the squad. What do you think? Who should be in, and who should be out?