The England Squad – Analysis
Roy Hodgson announced his England squad this week with neither a bang nor a whimper but more a general feeling that by and large this is the best we’ve got, and it isn’t great. The first tournament I really followed as an England fan was Euro 96 and this is the first I can remember where our over-expectant fans and media haven’t backed us as one of the favourites. There was no expectation after Capello’s resignation and there is probably even less now. Hopefully this will allow the squad to play with less pressure and more freedom.
The biggest talking points were the inclusion of Stewart Downing and the exclusion of Michael Carrick before it became apparent he had declared his retirement from international football. There were also call ups for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, John Ruddy, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones whilst Micah Richards and Rio Ferdinand will be left at home.
GOALKEEPERS – Joe Hart, Robert Green, John Ruddy
Isn’t it wonderful to be able to trust an English goalkeeper again? Joe Hart has restored a confidence between the sticks not seen since David Seaman at his peak. A league winner with Manchester City he can genuinely be considered one of the best ‘keepers in the world and could be England’s keeper for 15 years to come?
However when it comes to back up things don’t look great. Robert Green has had a season in the second tier and didn’t impress in his last term in the top flight. He’s steady but always worth a clanger. Paul Robinson and Ben Foster have packed in international football andScott Carson out in Turkey seems to have been ignored.
John Ruddy is young and had a good first season in the Premiership with Norwich and is a good inclusion as third choice. Fraser Forster on loan at Celtic from Newcastle may feel unlucky not to nab that third spot, or even be on standby.
England need to hope Hart doesn’t get injured.
DEFENDERS – Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Glen Johnson, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Joleon Lescott
Where is Micah Richards? With Kyle Walker currently injured and Glen Johnson being not very good, why has a man who was an integral part of a league winning side left out? Only Hodgson knows. Maybe he’s seen what Capello did and that’s why he has been left out or maybe it’s because Hodgson prefers Johnson and with Jones and Milner he has back up for right back elsewhere.
A bigger talking point than Richards’ absence was Rio Ferdinand being left behind and what could be the end of the 33 year old’s international career. With the ongoing John Terry debacle it seemed apparent only one of the two could go and with doubts over Ferdinand’s ability to play games over a short period, and the fact that on the field, bar the misdemeanour at the Camp Nou, Terry has had a good season.
The rest of the defence sees a promising Phil Jones who has impressed with United in spurts and offers a degree of versatility and a league winning Joleon Lescott. Cole and Baines at left back are the obvious choices, the best England have. Ashley Cole is world class in his position and Baines has been very good for a number of years and also offers excellent set pieces.
A quick fact for you all, in the 395 minutes Cole, Cahill and Terry have played together at Chelsea they have conceded just THREE goals. An impressive stat and with familiarity helping build a solid and cohesive defensive unit, maybe those three should make up the majority of the England back line.
MIDFIELDERS – James Milner, Scott Parker, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Theo Walcott, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, Gareth Barry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
How has Stewart Downing made this squad? Seriously, how does a winger who has been a regular all season manage no goals and the only assists he has are a hand in the sackings of Damien Comolli and Kenny Dalglish. He has offered Liverpool nothing in the last eight months so why would he offer England anything?
Adam Johnson who has probably played less than Downing but is more promising and exciting and Joe Cole who has had a great season in France with Lille may have been a better choice.
Elsewhere in the wide positions England have Young and Walcott who offer pace and the ability to go past a man. Both are capable of scoring a goal or two and both have created many for their clubs this season. Milner is a steady choice who can play in a few positions and has a decent delivery on him.
Finally for the wide men Roy Hodgson has included the young Arsenal talent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The former Southampton player hasn’t played much in the top flight but has looked fantastic when he has played. He can score and create and is exciting and will be an unknown quantity for much of the opposition. If he gets some game time he is liable to impress.
In the middle it’s hard to argue with Scott Parker who has had a good season with Spurs and is England’s best defensive option in midfield (seriously, think about it. Who else could play there?) and while many may argue over Barry’s inclusion he may be bland and very one dimensional but he is a steady player if unspectacular and has a league winner’s medal this season so must be doing something right.
Lampard and Gerrard also make the squad, but its unlikely Hodgson will see if they can in fact play together, and it’s likely to be only one of them that starts. While they both may not be the players they once were, and coming to the end of their international careers, is their inclusion that bad? Many are clamouring for young players to be pushed through but with Jack Wilshere crocked and Tom Cleverly being injuredfor most of the season, along with Carrick pulling out who else is there really? Jordan Henderson on standby is testament to that.
FORWARDS – Wayne Rooney, Jermaine Defoe, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll
A decent selection which offers variation, options and on the most part goals. He may miss the first two matches but Wayne Rooney has had a great season, is a mercurial talent and can either lead the line or play off of a front man.
Danny Welbeck has often linked up well with Rooney and has weighed in with a decent amount of goals in his first full season in the United first team. If Hodgson goes with his favoured 4-4-2 he is favourite to partner Rooney from the third game onwards.
Jermaine Defoe has found himself on the bench at Spurs a lot this season and if Darren Bent hadn’t been injured, or if Daniel Sturridge had kept up his early season form he may have been staying on his sofa (or most likely a sun lounger). However despite being a sub a lot of the season, he has managed 17 goals this season and averages one in three for the national team. Not a shabby record.
As for Andy Carroll, well England have their target man. It’s England and they must have a big man. There were calls for the popular and experienced Crouch or the Norwich battering ram Grant Holt who was the second highest scoring Englishman in the top flight in his first season there. Some may have thought Hodgson would pick Bobby Zamora in this role as he worked well with him at Fulham.
Carroll hasn’t lived up to his price tag. It’s unlikely he ever will but despite a bad start to his Liverpool career he is slowly showing some promise with a number of good performances and a couple of goals.