England and Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck is a doubt for England's Euro 2016 squad.
Welbeck limped off in the 2-2 draw at Manchester City and boss Arsene Wenger is “worried” about the condition of his knee, adding: "the first signs look like lateral meniscus, (injury)."
With just over a month until the tournament kicks off in France, and Roy Hodgson due to name his 23-man squad on May 12, the outlook is not looking too good for the former United striker.
SIGN UP NOW
Welbeck who, before the setback was all but guaranteed a place in the squad, is due to have a scan this week and whilst Hodgson would rightly look to provide as much time as possible to prove his fitness, some attention may need to turn to the candidates who could replace the striker at this late stage.
By now, the squad will be all but finalised by Roy and his staff and the balance may be retained with another one of these strikers in his stead:
At 33, Defoe’s return to form in the top flight this season has been sensational. A return of 15 Premier League goals has confounded critics and directly contributed to 14 points for Sunderland. These goals have also come in high-pressure games so should work in his favour, as should his previous international experience.
Sam Allardyce has been emphatically won over and has regularly touted his name. The call, which seemed unthinkable just over a year ago when he was plying his trade in the MLS, is well worth examining.
Arsenal’s longest serving player has endured a miserable season, starting just one Premier League game since the end of January and has been unable to show any sort of form that would warrant his inclusion in the squad.
His international career has spanned ten years since he was surprisingly selected for England’s 2006 World Cup squad and he has collected 43 caps, scoring eight goals. Walcott has proven he has the ability to contribute at international level, even if his career at the Emirates has stalled.
His pace could be a useful asset late in games and if Hodgson wanted an experienced and reliable replacement, then he would appear the most likely to get the nod.
Rashford’s emergence has been a huge plus for Manchester United and Louis van Gaal in an otherwise underwhelming season. The youngster has made a huge impression since scoring twice on his debut against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League in February and appeared unfazed with his rapid rise, as he fit seamlessly slotted into United’s starting line-up, scoring five more goals in all competitions.
As with any young English hope, pundits have begun to ask questions about whether this confident start should bring the unexpected honour of a Euros berth.
But whilst it seems a matter of when and not if Rashford pulls on the Three Lions shirt, it's unlikely at this stage he will be fast-tracked to the squad ahead of the summer. Hodgson has apparently taken the sensible approach of allowing him to develop with England’s youth squads first; even if that means he may never have the opportunity to coach the young talent. If he continues his improvement at this rate, and providing England qualify, he’ll be part of the next World Cup squad.
This seems like a long shot given he hasn’t played internationally in nearly four years and Hodgson himself all-but ruled out Carroll’s inclusion during a press conference earlier this season.
Frustrated at the perceived disrespect towards the stalwarts of England’s qualifying campaign, Hodgson said: “Who do you want me to leave out? We have such a wealth of talent, and the moment I decided to go for Carroll someone is going to be criticising me enormously for leaving out one of the others."
Hodgson did leave the door open for a possible return in future and Carroll has gradually been able to improve his fitness to produce a very consistent season.
Given the right service, he can be unplayable as Arsenal discovered in April when he mercilessly exploited their weakness against aerial threats and bagged a hat-trick. To be sure, he is exceptional in the air, but he can play too and would offer another dimension to the England team who found so much joy with crosses into the box against Germany in that March friendly.
No striker at all?
Even without Welbeck, Hodgson has excellent options up front and may yet opt to take another midfielder to complement the 4-2-3-1 formation he has experimented with. Either a skilful attacking midfielder or holding midfielder could be drafted in to fill the gap. Raheem Sterling, once a certainty to start, has fallen out of favour but may yet benefit from a second chance, Adam Lallana likewise.
If a tournament squad should be selected based on good domestic form and match fitness, Jack Wilshere; who has neither, does not deserve a place. In his position, Danny Drinkwater or Mark Noble to name a couple, have made more compelling claims to be included.
But if an apparent accidental leak is to be believed, Wilshere will make the cut and even more bizarrely, so will Luke Shaw.
Nevertheless, with nothing yet confirmed and a squad of 23 and standby list of six or more players allowed, any one of the above could yet find themselves involved before the May 31 UEFA deadline.
They may be wise putting any potential holidays between June and July on hold, just in case.