Thursday saw the announcement of the last England squad before he names his 23 man squad for Brazil. Hodgson has plenty to play with for the upcoming friendly against Denmark, selecting a 30 man squad. There’s a good blend of youth and experience, with 14 players under 23 and 7 over 30, a promising sign if the world cup squad is to be made up of similar proportions.
Hodgson has called up four goalkeepers to his latest squad, presumably only three will go to Brazil, and a maximum of two will play on Wednesday. It might be wise to give Fraser Forster another game to prove that he is up to the standard, it’s then between Ruddy and Foster and that might have to be decided on league form.
Southampton left back Luke Shaw has been in excellent form this season and is well deserving of his first international call up, his performances are such that he’s been linked with a move to all of the top clubs in England. While he has to compete with the experience of Ashely Cole and Leighton Baines, given that Cole isn’t playing for Chelsea at the minute and Hodgson seems intent on taking two left backs to Brazil, a good performance in the friendly and remaining consistent for the remainder of the season could see Shaw heading to Brazil.
Shaw’s pace and strength is something not necessarily associated with a left back, but is certainly a big advantage. He is also likes to get forward, with 1 assist so far this season. He gets dribbled past less than once a game, which is good for a left back.
A place for Steven Caulker is justified and also justifies his move away from Spurs to get regular first team football. Although, his position is only at the expense of Jones and Jagielka both of whom are injured. Caulker wins an average of 3.9 headers per game and his aerial prowess is also a threat going forward, shown by the fact that he has scored two goals so far this season.
One decision that is perplexing is the selection of Andros Townsend over Adam Johnson. Admittedly, Townsend was particularly impressive in his first few games as a full international, however following a recent injury his Spurs form has suffered and there’s no guarantee he’ll get into the starting XI under Tim Sherwood.
Johnson on the other hand has been a revelation under Gus Poyet at Sunderland, scoring 7 and creating 3 so far this season. In his last 7 games Johnson has scored 6 and provided 2 assists, on current form he’s one of the best midfielders in the country.
In comparison, Townsend has scored just once so far this season and provided no assists in his 10 starts for Spurs this season. At times his decision making is poor, more often than not when he gets the ball he’ll shoot, averaging 2.9 shots per game so far this season. That statistic makes his goal per game ratio even more worrying.
The inclusion and justification of Townsend in previous England squads has become an almost defining moment in Hodgson’s England managerial career, it signifies the shift towards youth over experience, and form over reputation, but in including Townsend in his latest squad and omitting Johnson Hodgson is in danger of making the same mistakes those before him have.
Despite being arguably England’s strongest position for many years the centre of midfield is again sees the inclusion of Tom Cleverley. The 23 year old has scored just once for Manchester United and has failed to provide any assists so far this season, he is quickly completing the transition from one of the most exciting young English midfielders to laughing stock. His selection in United teams is bemoaned every time, he doesn’t seem to add anything to the team.
One man who must feel sympathy for Cleverley and can provide an example of how to recapture that form is Jordan Henderson. Too much was expected from the midfielder following his £20m move from Sunderland to Liverpool, and the pressure clearly showed on him. The subsequent inclusion in the England squad for Euro 2012 didn’t help as he did little to distinguish himself.
This season he has been a revelation, and that has been helped in part by Gerrard dropping deeper, allowing Henderson more freedom. Henderson has scored 3 goals and supplied 3 assists so far this season and is looking more and more valuable to Liverpool as the season progresses. The inclusion of teammates Gerrard, Sturridge and Sterling could provide a strong core and understanding to the team, from their exploits at club level.
There’s also the possibility of playing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the centre of the park, but such is the competition there that you’d feel he might be best suited out wide for now, with the move to a more central position coming after the tournament as England prepare for the next European Championships.
England aren’t overly blessed with striking talent at the moment, whilst Sturridge is in the form of his life at Liverpool, Welbeck continues to struggle at United, Defoe has now completed his move to the other side of the Atlantic and you imagine he’ll lose match fitness and some of his cutting edge whilst over there.
The inclusion of Jay Rodriguez is, I think, a positive thing. The Southampton striker has scored 10 goals and provided 3 assists so far this season, averaging 2.8 shots per game. The 24 year old has the advantage of being adept at playing in a number of positions, as a central striker, attacking midfielder or even out wide, such versatility would be a huge benefit to Hodgson’s squad.
Of the 4 Southampton players included Rickie Lambert is perhaps the most surprising on current form, the 32 year old has scored 8 goals and has 7 assists to his name in 22 appearances for the Saints so far this season, he has not been as prolific as last season. However, he adds another dynamic to the England squad, he is a target man, and a very good one at that.
His main competitor in that respect is Andy Carroll, following his return from injury Carroll has looked more like the player he once was. The aggression is back in his play, he has 3 assists in the 4 appearances he’s made this season but is yet to register a goal. If he has a good last 10 games or so, and starts scoring again Hodgson may considering taking the player who he took to the Euro’s. If Andy Carroll is in his best form, he’s virtually unplayable and would provide a perfect foil for the likes of Rooney and Sturridge.
Sterling’s call up is also justified, with 5 goals and 3 assists from 16 starts this season. His pace and unpredictability adds another dimension to the England attack. His inclusion will undoubtedly have been benefitted by the recent form of Daniel Sturridge, the pair have struck up a strong relationship over the course of the season and play well together, something Hodgson will be recreated on an international stage.