Greg Dyke’s infamous FA commission, set up recently with the aim of securing a successful future for the England men’s senior team, has already come under harsh scrutiny from various leading figures in British football and the media.
Dyke has dismissed England’s immediate future, claiming that Roy Hodgson’s men won’t ‘realistically win the World Cup’. Instead, the FA’s chairman has targeted the 2022 World Cup as the tournament in which England will bring home silverware.
The FA won’t be able to have much of an influence on the development of English players this season, but come May, when ex-Switzerland coach Hodgson will pick his 23 man squad for Brazil’s festival of football, the FA should be pressuring the manager on his selection.
A few unexpected additions here and there could impact the Three Lions future emphatically. But who is in contention for a place Brazil? GMS Academy member Oliver Sirrell has his say...
Every man and his dog knows that Joe Hart has been suffering recently from what seems to be either a lack of focus or a lack of concentration, which in turn has led to his performances for club and country to become abject.
At the moment he would still be many England fans' number one, but if he cannot force Costel Pantillimon out of the Manchester City side then his place may come under threat. Fraser Forster and John Ruddy seem to be the ‘keepers who are most likely to remove Hart from the helm, but there are other options, particularly in the Championship, that may also deserve a place in Hodgson’s 23 man squad in order to challenge the City stopper.
Alex McCarthy, Jack Butland and Robert Green have all fared well for their respective clubs this season and the former and the latter certainly proved themselves in the top flight last term.
The QPR stopper will be overlooked considering he is approaching the final stages of his career, while Butland is probably best off developing in the under 21 squad for a few more years.
McCarthy earned himself a place in the Three Lions squad at the end of last season and has carried his form into this campaign with Reading. I firmly believe he is a more capable ‘keeper than John Ruddy and he can definitely give Hart and Forster a run for their money.
Given every England manager’s tendency to overlook Championship players McCarthy should seek a move to the top flight in January in order to secure his spot. He has at least 12 more years left in his goalkeeping career and most of them could be spent protecting England’s goal. Therefore selecting him for this World Cup will aid his progress which could lead to him becoming an asset for England in the future.
The last generation of England defenders were arguably our best for a long time. The absence of a really talented right back was the only deficiency a back line of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole.
The current crop isn’t as spectacular but are still very solid. Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill are very reliable as no nonsense defenders and have formed a fairly tight partnership in recent qualifiers, but they shouldn’t be England’s future. Instead Hodgson should look to recruit centre halves who can not only defend but who are also capable of playing in a more modern system
Take Germany for example; Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are both superb in terms of keeping the opposition out, but are also excellent at retaining possession and using the ball effectively.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are almost already certainly travelling to Brazil but are almost definitely going to be second choice. Both centre halves have played at right back so they have the experience of running with the ball and picking out key passes to expose opposition.
Therefore Hodgson may be keen to develop their partnership in the middle of defence in order progress England’s transition from a typically conservative side to a more attacking yet still stable team. Cardiff City’s star man Steven Caulker should also be vying for a place; the 21-year-old only has one cap so far for England but his form this season suggests he should be earning more.
At left back the options are numerous. Ashley Cole was recently axed by Jose Mourinho for a slow start to the season for Chelsea and it’s time for Hodgson to follow suit. That may sound easy, but Hodgson should arguably go one step further and remove him from the squad altogether.
This may sound barbaric as Cole has been world class for a number of years now, but given the number of left backs waiting in the wings it may be the right choice. Leighton Baines has enjoyed a stunning start to the season for Everton and performed admirably for England against Poland and Montenegro recently so for this World Cup he should be the first choice left back.
Kieran Gibbs should be pushing Baines for the starting spot in Brazil as he has flourished at Arsenal so far this season and he plays in a more modern system for the Gunners, as does Luke Shaw for Southampton.
Both Arsenal and the Saints like to press, retain possession and counter attack hard. This is how Greg Dyke and his pals on the commission should be encouraging Roy Hodgson or a future England manager to play, so evidently Shaw and Gibbs are at an advantage.
However, Shaw will have at least four more chances to play at a World Cup, so it may be best to leave him at home this time around. Shaw should be on the fringes of the squad immediately after the World Cup though.
The right back slot hasn’t been vacated by someone truly convincing for lengthy duration now. Glen Johnson has predominantly occupied the position but is now under pressure from pacey Spurs star Kyle Walker.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have been deployed there under Hodgson but both prefer to play in the middle. Walker and Johnson have plenty of attacking flair but they have always received criticism regarding their defensive duties, so unless they improve their work rates the position is certainly up for grabs.
One man who may be looking to take advantage of this situation is Luke Shaw’s teammate Nathaniel Clyne, of Southampton. Like Shaw, the right back knows how to press and plays in a team full of attacking purpose. In contrast to Shaw Clyne is at an age where he is ready to step up to the England seniors, and with his performances contributing to Southampton’s defensive integrity, he may be the perfect man to provide competition for Walker and Johnson.
Now this is where it starts to get complicated. Aside from left back, England have the most strength in depth in the centre of midfield. You have the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Tom Cleverley all vying for a spot. Then there’s Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley and Ravel Morrison all hoping to be Roy Hodgson’s go to man in attacking midfield.
Let’s start with Carrick. He absolutely one hundred percent has to be starting, let alone just being in the squad. The role of the defensive midfielder is paramount in today’s football and if England want to progress and become one of the world’s best teams, this position has to be taken seriously.
The role of the holding midfielder is often under estimated but the best teams in the world have them in abundance. Brazil, for example have Luis Gustavo, Lucas Leiva, Paulinho, Fernandinho, Ramires, Sandro, Felipe Melo, Hernanes and commonly play in a 4-2-3-1.
The holding midfielder allows the team as a whole to become more attacking because they let the full backs gallop up the pitch. When in possession Baines and Walker should be high and wide, waiting to receive a pass from a defensive three of Carrick and the two centre halves.
When England are not in possession the holding midfielder can just sit and read the game whilst his peers press intensely. Then, when the pressing leads to a mistake, Carrick can obtain possession and look to retain the ball for England. By including Carrick in the team he can pave the way for the next generation of defensive midfielders to become part of England’s future.
Now that’s settled we can look at who will play with Carrick. If England play 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-4 (as Hodgson has done in recent qualifiers) Gerrard is the natural partner. The extra forward in attack means England have to compensate with another defensive minded midfielder.
I wouldn’t exactly call Gerrard a defensive minded player but he’s the best there is. After having an exceptional season last term Gerrard has become a bit of a passenger in this season’s Liverpool team, so he may need to up his game a tad.
If Hodgson decided to deploy a 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 then Gerrard should be dropped for Wilshere and Henderson, who would play just in front of Carrick. The former has had an indifferent start to the season whilst the latter has performed well under the radar.
The reasons for their inclusions are as such: Arsenal and more recently Liverpool have embraced the style of football that England should be playing. Like I mentioned before with Gibbs and Shaw, Henderson and Wilshere know how to press and know how to keep the ball under pressure.
Again, as mentioned above, by allowing Wilshere and Henderson to press Carrick is allowed to sit and intercept and retain possession from the opposition. The Gunner and the former Black Cat are also quite balanced footballers. Both can attack effectively, and both can defend adequately, making them ideal for this 4-1-2-3 type of formation.
Many writers have been calling for Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Ravel Morrison to be called up to the England squad after their exploits this season. The first two were rewarded with caps against Germany and Chile in the week, but the latter is still training with the England U21s.
I’m not sure if there’s space for all three of them but I’d certainly advocate the inclusion of Barkley and Lallana. Both are relatively young and are the type of forward players England should be producing (i.e quick dribblers, lots of attacking flair, and knowledge of how to retain possession and then use possession effectively).
However I can’t envisage Hodgson starting either of them, because of the formation likely to be utilised at the WC, but in later years when England are hopefully operating with a more modern 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 then we will see them included.
I don’t think any of Lampard, Milner or Cleverley should be included. Lampard is unfortunately way past it, and offers little compared to his direct rival Gerrard. Milner is versatile and a perfectly good player in my eyes, but his lack of game time for City and better options around him mean that he has to be omitted. However I would include him if Rickie Lambert is selected, as he is a fine crosser of the ball. Finally, Cleverley is… Cleverley. Rubbish.
In terms of wide men our options are also fairly good. If Andros Townsend continues to perform as he did for England last month then his plane ticket is assured. I’d like to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain return to fitness and have an absolutely incredible second half of the season for Arsenal, as I’m keen to see Hodgson use inverted wingers.
Townsend and Oxlade-Chamberlain are just 22 and 20 respectively so by using them on either flank next summer Hodgson could create a special partnership. Theo Walcott will almost definitely be on the flight to Brazil and will probably start too, which is somewhat irking.
I have never truly been convinced by the Arsenal wide man, but now he faces some competition from Townsend, he may just step up his game. Welbeck and Lallana are capable of playing on the left or the right so the need for a fourth traditional winger isn’t so vital.
This one is relatively simple, in all honesty. The lack of young, prosperous strikers coming through the ranks is alarming but it makes writing this article a lot easier. The only debate here is whether or not to include Saints striker Rickie Lambert, who has scored twice for England since being called up to the squad last August.
I think he’s a decent player, and I admire him for his endeavours during his career, but I’m not sure if his inclusion is completely necessary. He can play with his feet and in the air, but then again so can Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck.
Also, I get the feeling that Hodgson is including him in the squad because he’s the big striker you lump it up to, like Emile Heskey or Andy Carroll before him, and England need to move away from this way of playing football and look to play neat, intricate football to the feet.
Saido Berahino is the only prospect currently coming through from the U21s that may be in with a chance of making the trip to Brazil, but like with Luke Shaw and Ravel Morrison, it’s probably too early for him, given that he’s only just broken into the West Brom first team squad.
He does look promising though, and if he nets 10 or more goals this season he may be something for Roy Hodgson to look at. Jay Rodriguez did ok for England against Chile, but I doubt he’s World Cup material.
Jermain Defoe is excellent against weaker opposition, but with England not being seeded there won’t be much weaker opposition to face. Also, his inclusion won’t do anything for the development of English football.
My final squad:
Goalkeepers: Hart, Forster, McCarthy
Defenders: Jagielka, Cahill, Smalling, Jones, Walker, Clyne, Gibbs, Baines
Midfielders: Townsend, Carrick, Wilshere, Gerrard, Lallana, Henderson, Oxlade Chamberlain, Barkley
Forwards: Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge, Walcott
On standby: Ruddy, Caulker, Cole, Milner, Lampard, Defoe, Lambert.
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