The England nation side have been far better on paper than their actual performances translate to for a fair while now. Is it now time that England should risk a new strategy and base the backbone of their side on players that play week-in week-out together?
The latest England squad fielded against Denmark was criticised both before and after the match, for strange picks and yet again, another underwhelming 1-0 victory against the Danes. Denmark manager, Morten Olsen even ended his post-match press conference saying, “I wish you good luck in the World Cup, you need it.”
Underperforming players such as Tom Cleverly and Chris Smalling found their names in Roy Hodgson’s 30-man squad against Denmark, with players in fine form all year such as Curtis Davis and Gareth Barry being absent from the list.
The 30 man squad against Denmark:
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich City).
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Steven Caulker (Cardiff City), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC), Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Jay Rodriguez (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United).
It’s almost like players are being picked merely due to the fact they play at the likes of Manchester Utd or other top Premier League clubs and have that extra advantage compared to players in fine form and lower level clubs.
Players that are underperforming and not getting regular match time, such as Ashley Cole, shouldn’t be taken to Brazil and this is the first step Hodgson needs to implement in order to have enough depth in the final England World Cup squad.
One of the aspects that seems to be problematic is team chemistry. The normal starting XI for England consists of players from numerous clubs, and unlike other national sides the England players can’t seem to transfer over the link up play and confidence that they have at club level to the national stage.
The lack of England defenders playing regular first team football means that there isn’t going to be much possibility of change in the starting XI, with the likely line-up being Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka and Baines, in front of either Forster or Hart (John Terry would have been the ideal partner alongside Cahill, though this isn’t going to happen).
This season in the Premier League, the best sides for English talent and performances in the final third have been Liverpool and Southampton (with Everton also being strong in their English talent, though on the defensive side of things) . Would it be a good idea for England risk a change up to their normal strategy and instead reply on an attacking style that both these two clubs have done all season with their fabulous link-up play and confidence with one another.
Realistically would an attacking formation built up of Lallana, Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling, Sturridge, Rodriguez and Lambert have resulted in a more exciting and threatening England side? Individually yes players such as Wilshire and Milner etc. are better but as a unit and an attacking force the foundations for the link up play is already set in place due to their familiarity with one another. It would have been interesting to see if they could out preform players that normally start for England from their range of Premier League clubs, and the perfect opportunity was against Denmark.
Roy Hodgson names his 23-man squad on May 30th (before the next friendly against Peru) and you can only feel that an opportunity was missed against Denmark for a chance at experimenting with an idea that could potentially kick start England’s performances, with nothing really being gained out of the 1-0 result , just more of the same underperforming England. It’s hard to see Hodgson taking a leap of faith in this strategy, but had he been a little more adventurous in a meaningless friendly then perhaps England could have found the cure to their international woes, because let’s face it when England’s individual superstars some together they never really look like a side with much confidence or threat about them.
Conor Rees’s Ideal England Squad:
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Joe Hart (Man City), Ben Foster (West Brom)
Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Leighton Baines (Everton), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Curtis Davis (Hull), Steven Caulker (Cardiff)
Midfielders: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshire (Arsenal), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Alex Oxalade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Ross Barkley (Everton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Ricky Lambert (Southampton), Jay Rodriguez (Southampton)
Liverpool: 5 Players
Southampton: 4 Players
Everton: 3 Players
Chelsea: 2 Players
Arsenal: 2 Player
West Brom: 1 Player
Hull City: 1 Player
Cardiff: 1 Player
Tottenham: 1 Player
Man Utd: 1 PLayer
Celtic: 1 Player
Man City: 1 Player
Close contention: Phil Jones, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Adam Johnson, Danny Welbeck, James Millner.