England’s FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign got off to a reasonably good start against Moldova and Ukraine, but the squad selections offered little clue as to Roy Hodgson’s long-term plans for the team. Nevertheless, there are some movers in this month’s analysis of the depth of England’s squad.
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, Jack Butland, John Ruddy
Robert Green, David Stockdale
The goalkeepers perhaps represent England’s most easily predicted selections, so there’s nothing to see here: Joe Hart continues as the team’s obvious first choice, with John Ruddy and Jack Butland – having both played in the August friendly against Italy – retaining their places. Butland is clearly being groomed as Hart’s future long-term understudy and eventual replacement, so expect him to be a fixture of squads from now on.
Indeed, his form for Birmingham City had been picking up after a poor start until their defeat at home to Barnsley on Saturday. Hart was at the centre of a debate about Manchester City’s late concession to a Cristiano Ronaldo goal at Real Madrid last week, but my take on the incident was that he was visually blocked by a defender who should have dealt with the shot.
Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Steven Caulker
Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Micah Richards
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ryan Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs
Before this week’s big news, I had already moved Phil Jagielka into the ‘In’ category because his continued inclusion by Hodgson confirms his favourable squad status. He steps up at the expense of a striker, because Hodgson tends to pick only four and doesn’t really have many more than that at his disposal.
The retirement of John Terry has subsequently thrown a spanner into the works, opening up another spot in the defence. There, I’ve plumped for Steven Caulker. Although Kieran Gibbs and Ryan Bertrand could prove me wrong, I’d argue at this stage that having both Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines in the squad means that Caulker is a more appropriate player to fill the gap left behind by Terry.
Liverpool’s Martin Kelly has been dropped from the fringe list because he picked up a serious injury against Manchester United yesterday – the Anfield club confirmed today that he has torn his ACL and will therefore be out of action for some time. Gibbs has moved into the fringe to replace him thanks to his regular and impressive appearances in Arsenal’s increasingly defensively robust side.
Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young
Aaron Lennon, Scott Parker
Adam Johnson, Joe Cole, Scott Sinclair, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell, Stewart Downing, Gareth Barry, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana
As mentioned above, there has been some shuffling between attack and midfield, and the man in question is Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. The FA’s squad lists identify him as a midfielder, and so TSC will now do the same. His squad status is not affected, so he’s straight onto the ‘In’ midfield list.
Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry has been moved to the outsiders. Although he continues to enjoy and indeed earn Roberto Mancini’s trust, England’s relative midfield strength and the importance of beginning to play younger midfielders ahead of him if Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are to continue to play together mean that Barry’s role looks to be limited from now on.
Better news though for Jack Wilshere, who surely won’t be a ‘Fringe’ name for long. The Arsenal midfielder returned to full training last week after enduring a year of injury setbacks. The great hope of England will be back in action soon and the call from Hodgson won’t be far behind.
Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe
Darren Bent, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert
Peter Crouch remains in the ‘Outsider’ category after a recent exchange of comments with Hodgson, which might well make for icy relations that take some significant thawing before Crouch pulls on the famous white shirt once more. Crouch remains available, though, and a consistent showing for Stoke City in the first half of the season could go some way to changing the manager’s mind.
Jermain Defoe has started the 2012/13 Premier League season in blistering goalscoring form for Tottenham Hotspur and shows little sign of easing off. In terms of form alone, Defoe is the stand-out English forward at present, with one notable contender. Southampton’s Rickie Lambert, with four goals in 366 Premier League minutes, is beginning to make a case that cannot be ignored.
Two of the players listed as ‘In’ are currently carrying injuries, but such is England’s weakness up front that I’m not confident enough in any other candidates to promote them just yet. The fact is that Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney, when fit, walk into Hodgson’s squad with consummate ease.
As always, this squad depth analysis is based largely on my own opinion, and I’d like to know yours. Comment away…