With the celebrations and resulting hangovers still fresh from the end of the Premier League season, no time has been wasted with the attention shifting to the oncoming World Cup. Roy Hodgson named his squad of 23 and the 7 back up players yesterday, but has the England manager unjustifiably left anyone out and are those chosen worthy of their place?
Despite getting dropped by Manchester City earlier in the season after a succession of poor performances, Joe Hart’s place in the squad was never in question and the 25 year old has come back stronger. With his fingertip save against Everton, Hart proved he is still an excellent shot stopper and can play an important part in England’s World Cup campaign.
Deserved Call-up: Definitely - Hart is currently far ahead of his goalkeeping rivals.
Some are still in the dark over how good Fraser Forster is, the Celtic goalkeeper forced his way into international contention after standout performances in the Champions League. While there are those who question the quality of opposition faced in the SPL, the record breaking run of not conceding a goal - 1256 minutes and 13th consecutive clean sheets – is still an impressive feat.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – his achievements with Celtic have rightly been rewarded.
Now, the position of the 3rd choice goalkeeper at an international tournament is not one to cause outrage, but Ben Foster’s decision to come out of international retirement when knowing he will get into the squad will displease a few. On a football decision, Foster has had a decent enough season and will thank the Norwich defence for helping Roy Hodgson’s choice.
Deserved Call-up: Fortunate, but will have no effect on the pitch for England.
Already the most debated area of the World Cup squad, the inclusion of Luke Shaw has seen the international retirement of Ashley Cole. Shaw has proved throughout the season though that he is a quality player and looked completely at ease during his England debut a few months ago. The Southampton full back, who is currently being chased by Manchester United, has made 171 ground duels (56% success rate) and 61 tackles (85% success).
In the left back dilemma, Baines was never the one to be suggested not travelling to Brazil with the Everton defender occupying the position for the last year. A major threat going forward and from set pieces – something that will be important for England this summer – Baines created 49 chances and assisted 4 goals. On a defensive front, while not as good as Ashley Cole, Baines has made 76 tackles and 182 ground duels – the most for Everton.
Deserved Call-up: Yes - His performances in the last few years have earned him a place.
A regular starter for Roy Hodgson’s England team over the last 2 years, Gary Cahill has been one of the best defenders in the Premier League this season. His form for Chelsea has improved this season in a similar fashion to John Terry when Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea. The former Bolton defender has made 142 headed clearances and 205 clearances overall.
Deserved Call-up: Definitely – England’s best (available) centre back.
His large involvement in the England team under Hodgson makes it no surprise he is included and he has built a good partnership with Gary Cahill. The fact that Jagielka is a first choice centre back says something about the depth of quality in this area, however the former Sheffield United player has had another decent season for Everton to earn his place.
Deserved Call-up: Yes - Hodgson’s most used partnership (Jagielka and Cahill) will need to use their understanding of each other against better teams.
A player that offers versatility, Phil Jones is a player that managers like during international tournaments. Jones has often shown he can be a quality player – his performances against Real Madrid last season was exceptional in stopping Ronaldo – but injury problems and inconsistency has prevented him from being a regular for Manchester United.
Deserved Call-up: Maybe – He offers cover at right back allowing Hodgson to bring in another midfielder.
Better at centre back rather than full back due to his poor positional awareness, Chris Smalling is capable of competing in the air making 122 headed clearances. Smalling also made 16 blocks, more than any other Manchester United defender, showing his commitment. Overall though while Smalling is an okay player, if England want to compete they will need better centre backs than him.
Deserved Call-up: No, but luckily for Smalling other alternatives are still early in their careers and Steven Caulker being relegated countered against him.
“Absolutely clueless.” – A tweet from Johnson after the 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace, many were thinking that of his performance as he was at fault for all 3 goals. The same reaction may be made of his inclusion in the squad, but the limited options available – Hodgson said only players called up in the last 2 years would be included – meant Johnson almost got his call up by default. Nathaniel Clyne and Callum Chambers have been noted as alternatives with both having better seasons, but neither managed to obtain a surprise call.
Deserved Call-up: Fortunate and this is likely to be his last tournament with England.
Being the captian he was always going to be included, but Gerrard’s impressive season means that he is definitely there on merit – he was Liverpool’s top assist maker with 13. Operating in a new deeper role, Gerrard provides the experience and tactical know how to allow the exciting talent in front of him do their thing.
Deserved Call-up: Definitely – 2nd in the Footballer Writers’ Player of the Season awards.
Probably the most improved England player in the last year, Henderson has proved he isn’t just a runner in midfield like some have previously stated. A good understanding with Gerrard and his fellow Liverpool players in the squad, we could see some of the exceptional ‘through the eye of the needle’ passes he has produced for his club whilst also offering a balance to the side.
Deserved Call-up: Definitely and a potential starter.
A majorly impressive season has seen the Southampton midfielder fly into the England first XI and gain interest from Liverpool. Clever in possession with a low sense of gravity, Lallana has created 71 chances this season and scoring 9 himself – he is the type of player England need to produce more of.
Deserved Call-up: Definitely – a new fan favourite.
Often seen as boring and defensive, Milner’s versatility is his own downfall as he regularly plays out wide rather than his preferred centre midfield position. Good on the ball (passing accuracy of 84%), a strong tackler and willing runner, Milner does the dirty stuff that doesn’t receive as much attention as attacking play. The Manchester City midfielder can also offer something going forward – his good play helped City to equalise against Everton – as well as being able to score some decent goals.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – an underrated player.
A player that was so pivotal in the friendly win against Spain a year ago, there were some now doubting whether he should go to the World Cup due to fitness issues. His bursts from midfield were brilliant in those games and Wilshere made the most dribbles for Arsenal this season, whilst his commitment to the cause offers a different edge to other creative players in the England side.
Deserved Call-up: Yes, but he is not a guaranteed started anymore.
Another young player to have a breakthrough season, Ross Barkley has been compared to Paul Gascoigne and club manager Roberto Martinez has described him as a special player. Like other exciting youngsters, Barkley is two-footed, technically very good and confident in possession – whether he plays short to a team mate or take-on the attack himself like he did against Newcastle.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – his form near the end of the season confirmed that he is ready to make his mark on the international stage.
This is the most disappointing aspect of the squad for many people – myself included. Lampard was a great player, but at the age of 35 his performances have been decreasing in quality and so have the goals – only 6 goals this season and the first time he hasn’t reached double figures since 2003.
Deserved Call-up: No – Let’s hope him and Gerrard don’t share time on the pitch.
His first full season of consistent football – Brendan Rodgers involved him less in the second half of last season – Sterling has proved that he isn’t just a flash in the pan. Pace, the ability to use both feet and a constant annoyance to opposition full back are all good attributes Sterling has, but the Liverpool player has something not all young English wingers have – an end product and knowledge of when to play the ball.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – His brilliant form warrants a place and can cause damage.
Despite an injury that ruled him out for the first half of the season, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performances on his return affirmed to Hodgson that the injury hadn’t affected him. Able to play on neither flank and in the middle, the Arsenal midfielder offers a drive from midfield that can cause panic in the opposition defence and create space for team mates.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – another of the gifted young players who England have in their ranks.
Since his move to Liverpool everything Sturridge has turned to gold and goal scoring record makes him the most prolific English striker – 21 goals makes him the highest English goal scorer with a conversion rate of 25%. Sturridge has also become a better team player in the last year rather selfishly going for goal himself and wasting the attack, against the likes of Italy when chances maybe limited it will be important to take the chances.
Deserved Call-up: Definitely – key player.
A player who has the ability to turn out world class performances, Rooney has frustrated England fans as he has struggled to perform on the international stage. His inclusion in the side is still a deserved and important one for England with Rooney reaching his peak years and knowing he might not get another World Cup at this level to impress. Top goal scorer for Manchester United with 17 goals and also top assist maker with 10 means he will lead the line for England yet again.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – Despite Rooney’s record at major tournaments since Euro 2004.
Often criticised for not scoring enough goals, Welbeck has improved this area of this game this season, scoring 9 goals in 25 matches despite regularly being played out wide, and has a decent record for England – 8 goals in 21 caps. His strongest area of his game is as a team player, important for a side when playing against better players, keeping possession and dropping deep before playing the ball to on-running wingers.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – another underrated player.
The final striker position was a fight between Lambert and Carroll with the former duly winning. Better with the ball at his feet and working well with wide players that break past, a system that England will probably use, Lambert also has an impressive goal scoring throughout his career. His lower league history have already made him a favourite with fans and a different attitude in the camp will help.
Deserved Call-up: Yes – how much he will be involved is unsure, but Lambert has earned this with hard work and turned into quality performances.
John Ruddy – Not much luck with international tournaments. Injured in training before Euro 2012, Ruddy has been dropped from the England squad just at the wrong moment.
John Flanagan – Despite playing out of position, Flanagan was impressive in Liverpool’s exceptional run of form in the second half of the season. Place on stand-by list suggests England future.
John Stones – Relatively unknown last summer, his place on the stand-by list is a credit to his performances in his debut Premier League season.
Michael Carrick – The victim of Manchester United’s poor season, Carrick has history of being left out of the England squad and many will argue he warrants a place ahead of Lampard.
Tom Cleverley - Whilst his performances this campaign and what he offers to the side not deserving of a World Cup place, Cleverley’s big involvement in the qualifying stages will mean the midfielder will be hurting.
Andy Carroll – The surprise inclusion at Euro 2012, his performances at the tournament and for West Ham would have been enough for a place in the squad if he had not be injured so often in the last 12 months.
Jermaine Defoe –Not a player who would fit into the system that England will look to employ, his move to Toronto in February confirmed his place as only a back-up.
Overall, the squad has been meet with universal happiness from the majority of England fans and the inclusion of new and young players, only 11 of the squad went to Euro 2012, is a major part of this.