England did what was expected of them with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Moldova on Friday night but the suspension of Danny Welbeck, thanks to a dubious yellow card, leaves Roy Hodgson short of options for Tuesday’s crunch tie against Ukraine.
With Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain already ruled out of the squad through injury and in-form Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge now confirmed to miss the trip due to the thigh injury that kept him out of Friday’s game, England now only have Rickie Lambert and Jermain Defoe as recognised centre forwards.
Hodgson’s side currently top Group H with 15 points but defeat on Tuesday would see Ukraine leapfrog England and open the door to second placed Montenegro, who visit Wembley in October though Hodgson maintains he will not be calling anyone else into the fold:
"I suppose one would, if there were very obvious candidates," said Hodgson.
"I think we worked very hard through the candidates, and with Andy Carroll still injured, you would have to be going way back to think of people to bring in."
Welbeck’s absence risks leaving Lambert isolated up front, relying on support from midfield as Hodgson is unlikely to pair the Southampton man with Defoe - whose playing time has been limited for Tottenham thus far this season.
While Lambert cuts the figure of the archetypal target man, there is a subtlety to his game that sees him dropping deep into midfield or into wide areas to turn supplier much, as he did for both of Welbeck’s goals against Moldova, and that will be lost with no supporting man running off him.
Gabriel Abonglahor could prove to be the perfect foil for Lambert. The pacey Aston Villa striker has started the season in electric fashion causing havoc for opposition defences and linking well with Christian Benteke.
The Villa man hasn’t featured for England since picking up his third cap back in 2009 against Belarus and has endured a difficult time since then, failing to perform consistently. This year however he looks back to his terrifying best and would provide a different threat for England especially on the counter attack.
Contrary to popular belief the Villa academy graduate also brings goals. Agbonlahor, who is the Villains all-time leading Premier League goalscorer, was the second leading English scorer over the second half of last season with eight, only trailing to Lambert.
The other option available tor Hodgson could be to move Theo Walcott into a more central role to support Lambert with James Milner, Ashley Young, Andros Townsend and Raheem Sterling able to deputise on the flanks.
But while only Townsend and Young of that list have actually started a Premier League game for their respective clubs, Agbonlahor meanwhile has completed the full 90 minutes in each of Villa’s games so far also managing to find the net unlike any of the others.
Calling on Agbonlahor seems something of a no-brainer; even if he doesn’t start the game he’s an excellent option to have on the bench, to inject some pace and bring a more direct approach to England if needed and there can be no harm in having the striker around the squad to get a closer look at him in training and let him know he’s on the England managers radar.
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