Cause for concern, excitement for the future, or is it all just a matter of opinion?

Having sat and watched the England football team play out a fairly drab one-nil win over Denmark on Wednesday, I thought I would plough-in with my thoughts on the squad that I would take on the plane to Brazil (via the US) for the World Cup in June and July. I realise that this is all complete conjecture, and personal opinion, but it makes a change from my ‘soap box’ views on more serious issues, and good fun too!

Before detailing my squad, I’d like to express my views on three important characteristics of my squad of 23; firstly, I believe that there should be at least two players in every position (expect Goalkeeper, where there should be 3). I realise that the formations that are successful in modern international Football (i.e. 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3) suggest some flexibility in that, but to travel to a World Cup without at least four out-and-out Centre Forwards/goal scorers and at least four recognised Centre Half’s is, in my opinion, rather balmy! The whole ‘Seven or eight defenders versus eight or nine midfielders’ debate is redundant to me.

Secondly, the calls for players to come ‘out of retirement’ (John Terry, anyone?) suggests a lack of confidence in the current players. How would you feel if you were a Defender or Midfielder and you were over-looked for Jamie Carragher (great player, by the way) or Paul Scholes (even greater!), like Fabio Capello did in 2010 (although Scholes obviously declined the invitation)?

Finally, I am a believer that the Manager/Coach picks the team, and that you support whoever represents the side regardless of your views. The futile attempts by some ‘followers’ (they aren’t fans) to select the team for Roy Hodgson, the England Manager, is just a little bit pathetic not to mention disrespectful. I’d like to see any of the 12,500 that signed the ‘Don’t select Tom Cleverley’ petition (http://tinyurl.com/k864d9x ) cope with the rigours of playing at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 fans every other week (although Cleverley doesn’t make my squad!). Right, on to my squad…

Goalkeepers

I would contend that one of the first names on the team sheet is Joe Hart, so won’t provide any further comment on him. I’d have liked to have seen Fraser Forster get more International game time, but his big-match experience in the Champions League is a good substitute for this. My first, slightly debatable pick is Ben Foster. Anyone to turn their backs on International selection doesn’t really deserve a second change (IMO), but his form is good enough and he looks more confident (to me) than John Ruddy.

Joe Hart: Manchester City

Fraser Forster: Celtic

Ben Foster: West Bromwich Albion

Defenders

I’m going to hedge my bets a little here. Assuming that the first-choice back four will be Baines (shoe-in), Cahill and Jagielka (again, I can’t see any other combination at Centre-Half) and one of Johnson (who I thought was excellent last night) or Walker at Right Back, that leaves a position for reserve Left Back and two Centre-Half’s. Whilst opinions are divided on Ashley Cole, and the merits of giving the experience of a World Cup to Southampton’s Luke Shaw, you can’t beat that level of experience so he’s there for me. I’ve opted for Phil Jones (who can do a job at RB and/or as a holding Midfielder too) and Joleon Lescott at Centre-Half. I don’t think that Lescott will be selected, but I rate him as a Centre-Half more highly than I do Smalling of Manchester United or any of the others avaialble. I’m also disappointed to see Michael Dawson, who has done an excellent job for Spurs and gets lots of game time, overlooked.

Leighton Baines: Everton

Ashley Cole: Chelsea

Gary Cahill: Chelsea

Phil Jagielka: Everton

Joleon Lescott: Manchester City

Phil Jones: Manchester United

Glen Johnson: Liverpool

Kyle Walker: Tottenham Hotspur

Midfielders

Whilst certain players have guaranteed seats on the plane, …Steven Gerrard and Hodgson favourite Jack Wilshere, …much debate surrounds the other midfielders. Is taking both ‘senior’ players, in Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick, too much of a risk? Should the young tyros, like Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, be given places in the squad? My decisions are based on a combination of reliability, potential and form. The toughest decision for me was how many Central Midfileders to take because, as you can see below, I’ve opted to list my wide midfield/forward players separately. As a result, I’ve opted for four Central Midfielders who I believe could, at a push, do both ‘jobs’ (i.e. could sit in front of the defence and/or play in a slightly more advanced role). As a result, Lampard misses out as does Liverpool’s Henderson. Oxlade-Chamberlain makes it into my squad as a wide player. I have watched a lot of Everton this season, and there is an argument (although a slightly tenous one) that much of Barkley’s form has come about as a result of the performances of Gareth Barry. I rate Barry very highly, but my squad needs to be more versatile coming forward than he is, so he misses out!

Steven Gerrard: Liverpool

Michael Carrick: Manchester United

Ross Barkley: Everton

Jack Wilshere: Arsenal

Wide Players

The toughest decision for Roy Hodgson, and not that easy for me! I’ve not found a place in my squad for Andros Townsend, a revelation at the end of England’s qualification campaign but not getting much game time at Spurs, and have opted for James Milner, in and out of the Manchester City team but a player who could ‘do a job’ at Right Back (at a push), Central Midfielder and/or as a Wide Player. Adam Lallana can do the same sort of jobs, …his performance on Wednesday gets him the nod over Townsend, …and Raheem Sterling is in the form of his life!

Raheem Sterling: Liverpool

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Arsenal

Adam Lallana: Southampton

James Milner: Manchester City

Forwards

The difference between winning and losing at International level is taking chances. With this in mind, I have picked my Forwards on the basis of who I would most trust to find the back of the net from six yards. Because of this, I have left Danny Welbeck out of my squad. Many believe that he is a Hodgson favourite, and I can see why, but I have gone with the proven record of Jermain Defoe for my fourth Centre Forward. Rickie Lambert ‘gets the nod’ because of his relationship on the pitch with Adam Lallana, and that he is something different to the other players in the squad.

Wayne Rooney: Manchester United

Daniel Sturridge: Liverpool

Rickie Lambert: Southampton

Jermain Defoe: Toronto

Reserve Players

Given that I’m not selecting the squad, and can therefore do whatever I like, my reserve players (I’ve picked seven) are those who I feel have been unlucky not to make my squad and/or given the chance to prove themselves under Roy Hodgson. No need for a reserve Right Back, …I’ve got Phil Jones and/or James Milner in my squad for that!

John Ruddy: Norwich City

Luke Shaw: Southampton

Michael Dawson: Tottenham Hotspur

Jordan Henderson: Liverpool

Gareth Barry: Everton

Andros Townsend: Tottenham Hotspur

Danny Welbeck: Manchester United

Clearly, if Lescott doesn’t get any game time between now and the end of the season, Smalling will get the nod (even though my preference would be Dawson). Cole is at risk, owing to a lack of minutes on the pitch, but his fitness and experience can’t (surely?!) be ignored. Other players with susceptible injury records, …Barkley, Wilshere, Sturridge to a certain extent, …mean that the door is not closed in my squad! So, let the debate begin!

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2 comments

  1. Too be fair, I can’t disagree too much. Smalling /Lescott is a 50/50 call, my preferance is Smalling because Lescott is well past his best and is not playing at all, plus Smalling is versatile. I also do not understand why Dawson is overlooked.

    Defore? Why? Again way past his best and is unlikely to make an impact or come on the pitch… The reason he likes Welbeck is that he impacts on games. Like last night, where only a couple of excellent saves prevented him from scoring. He also provides excellent defensive cover from the front if required. And if I am not mistaken is one of England’s main scorers over the past year!

    I would like Shaw but that is probably a romantic thought, as a back up in case of emergency Cole is stronger at present.

    1. Some interesting views, from a known Manchester United supporter! There’s a danger of replacing players with out-and-out skill sets (i.e. Centre-Half) with players who can fill in there. I’m not convinced that SAF (previously), David Moyes or Roy Hodgson know where Smalling should play, although we can safely assume that he will eventually end up as a defender! Clearly, distribution isn’t his favourite part of the game so Centre-Half is probably where he will end up BUT I’ll stick with my original choice based on Jones already fulfilling that role (i.e. a bits and pieces defender-cum-midfielder) in my squad. Lescott/Dawson are my choices because they are Central Defenders and won’t get confused at any time on the pitch on where they should be!

      I agree that Welbeck has scored some goals for England recently, and he had a couple of good chances to cement his place on Wednesday night. In a similar vein to Smalling, nobody really knows where Welbeck’s best position is though. Coming in off the left? Well, maybe, but I’d rather have Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling or even Townsend do that for me. They’re quicker and their final product is better. In reality though, Sturridge and Rooney are likely to be playing with one of those wide players in a ‘front three’ or as a withdrawn striker (Rooney) and Centre-Forward (Sturridge). Whoever else travels had better get used to be ‘thrown on’ with fifteen minutes left if England aren’t winning (something that they may have to get used given their group!). Defoe, Welbeck or Lambert could/would fulfil that role.

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