Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young each picked up an injury before the latest England squad was named, and Andy Carroll and Ashley Cole joined them on the injury list after Roy Hodgson had picked them for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying matches against Moldova and Ukraine. Hodgson now faces a third withdrawal: Sunderland winger Adam Johnson has returned to his club for treatment on a thigh problem.
It’s an unfortunate development for Johnson, who’s looking to get his career back on track after securing a move away from Manchester City at the end of the transfer window. Johnson had struggled for first team football of late and heading for the Stadium of Light should prove to be his opportunity to get back to his best. Even more encouraging was his performance in England’s August friendly against Italy, in which he looked lively and incisive on the right wing as he began to work his way back into the England team after missing UEFA Euro 2012.
Hodgson’s wide options without Johnson and Young are limited but it could be a chance for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to pick up his sixth England cap. His Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott is also available after settling his immediate future at the Emirates, and Manchester City’s James Milner is Hodgson’s only other alternative on the flanks. It’s possible that Ryan Bertrand gets an opportunity in a more advanced position than usual, depending on how the manager uses his squad across the two matches.
England are light up front, too. Without Rooney and Carroll, Jermain Defoe is likely to be asked to step up and provide the firepower. Daniel Sturridge or Danny Welbeck will partner him.