It’s officially World Cup season. If you’ve been living under a rock or been binge-watching Breaking Bad on Netflix for the past week, then you’ll need a quick handy guide to what’s what in terms of the Premier League’s contingent going to Brazil. EPLIndex is here to help with a team-by-team breakdown of the league’s best players making the trip to South America this June, starting with the most obvious: England.
Everton duo provide solid base for the Three Lions
With Chelsea stalwarts John Terry and Ashley Cole both having retired from the international scene, the heart of England’s defence now lies in the blue half of Merseyside with Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines stepping up to the plate at CB and LB respectively. Both have enjoyed stellar campaigns at Goodison Park this season, particularly Baines, and we can expect to see a lot more of them this summer under Roy Hodgson. Baines is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, left-back in the league. Although he has an extremely talented Luke Shaw to compete with, expect his experience and superior skill level to grant him the starting spot.
Baines has 4 assists to his name this season (with 49 Chances Created) while the young Shaw has a single assist (from a set play) and 34 Chances Created in that same time. Baines’ ‘ tendency to get down the flank is also evidenced by his 229 attempted crosses (Shaw has 141) and is a decent shooter too with 5 goals this campaign (that’s the same as both Ba and Torres this year, and 5 times Ricky Van Wolfswinkel’s total).
Hodgson looks to Anfield for inspiration
On to the other side of Liverpool now and we can see that Hodgson’s midfield is going to have a distinct, yet familiar, flavour. Gerrard will almost certainly start games at the base of midfield, his long passes that characterised the Liverpool counter attacks will now feature regularly for England. Another Red on the roster is Henderson, who Liverpool sorely missed for the three games he was out through suspension. Although he has to fight for a starting spot with Lampard and Wilshere, expect him to make a significant appearance or two over the course of the campaign.
However, the biggest impact will definitely come from Daniel Sturridge. Arguably one of the first names on the team sheet when fit, Sturridge enjoyed a monumental season in which he finished with 21 goals and 7 assists; his stats eclipse those of all the other attackers and supporters should expect to see his partnership with Rooney (who is by nature a deep lying playmaker) to flourish. His 8 Clear Cut Chances Created along with 30 overall Chances Created point towards a forward who holds up the ball well, and his understanding with Gerrard should see the Three Lions score a few.
Manchester and London also have their say
England’s shot-stopper Joe Hart will be making the trip down from the home of the current PL Champions, alongside the ever-reliable James Milner. Hart’s form has skyrocketed after coming back from being dropped, and his sublime saves against Everton proved why he is England’s undisputed No.1. Another often-underrated but probable starter Milner will also look to make an impact, and he will do so not only because of his well-documented work rate, but because of his perennially overlooked technical skill. Milner’s understanding with Silva and Nasri this season often gave City a much needed spark (as can be seen at the eventual defeat at Anfield), and although he will always be applauded for effort alone, it would be criminal to underestimate the skill and versatility that the midfielder provides.
Two young midfielders from Arsenal also make their way into the frame. If they can stay fit, expect Wilshere to partner up well with Gerrard in the midfield and Oxlade-Chamberlain to provide some much needed spark off the bench. Veterans Cahill and Lampard will also be looked at for some much needed stability and experience.
Watch out for: Youth. With fresh young talent looking to carry England forward for years to come, look for players like Barkley, Shaw and Sterling to make an impact when needed.
Possible weak link: Glen Johnson. Although his “horrible” performance for Liverpool against Palace is greatly exaggerated and more due to the team’s lax defending as a whole, Right-back is one area where England might face a dilemma. Milner would be great defensive cover down the right flank.
Long overdue a great performance: Wayne Rooney
Likely Starting XI: Hart/Johnson-Cahill-Jagielka-Baines/Gerrard-Wilshere/Milner-Rooney-Lallana/Sturridge
Predicted Finish: Top of the group, but will bow out at the quarter-finals. It all seems a bit inevitable really. A squad with promise but without the sheer talent to match the likes of Spain, Germany et al.