It’s a big question which will be answered by England manager Roy Hodgson prior to this year’s World Cup in Brazil. There are an array of candidates that could make the England 23 man squad making this one of the hardest decisions for any football manager on the planet. England face a tough task to progress to the Round of 16 in Brazil as they have to play 2006 World Cup champions Italy, 2010 World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D.
We will go through the certainties and the questionable players for the England shirt:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart is the obvious first choice for England. Hart has been solid for Manchester City recently in the Premier League. The second and third choice goalkeepers are a little harder to choose. Out of Foster, Ruddy, Forster, Butland and Green, Foster and Forster point out at me as reliable back-up keepers for Hart. Having been in poor form for West Bromwich Albion this season Foster is a goalkeeper who has a smart head on him while Forster is a great shot stopper.
Decision: Hart, Foster, Forster
Defenders: Let’s start with the wing backs. For the left side Baines and either Shaw of Cole will make it. Luke Shaw is a young 18 year old showing huge promise while despite not being played by Mourinho Ashley Cole would provide experience and a cool head making this one of the hardest decisions for Hodgson. Shaw seems like a good replacement for Baines who is likely to be the first choice left back for England. For the right side Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker are the only two obvious players on England’s roster. The likes of Nathaniel Clyne and Carl Jenkinson show great promise but not enough for the tournament in June.
Unlike previous World Cups choosing four centre-backs is relatively difficult. England no longer have the services of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry so the first two centre-halves that spring to mind is Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill. Both players have been regulars for their clubs this season. Out of Jones, Smalling, Caulker, Lescott, Dawson you would probably take Jones for his versatility in defensive positions while Smalling or Caulker could be the fourth choice defenders. Caulker and Smalling are both great in the air while both players can lose concentration at times however Smalling just edges out Caulker on experience.
Decision: Baines, Shaw, Johnson, Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones, Smalling
Midfielders: This is where it can get tricky. Let’s get the obvious choices out of the way. Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere are easy choices as the current England captain Steven Gerrard has had a fantastic season for Liverpool while Jack Wilshere has been a regular for England for several years. Liverpool’s elusive form this season makes me want to choose the likes of Sterling and Henderson. Sterling could provide that pace on the wing which England need off the bench while Henderson has proven to be adequate at the highest level in more than one midfield position this season.
With Sterling already chosen another wing player for England is needed. This is where Oxlade-Chamberlain comes in. Although he has been hampered by injury this season he could provide England with power, pace and flair on the wing. With three midfielders to choose from another one or two playmakers are needed. The only obvious names is Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley who have been in emphatic for their clubs this season. Lallana draws several comparisons to Joe Cole, a player with exceptional dribbling and playmaking abilities. The last midfielder needs to show solidarity and composure. The names that crop up are Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Gareth Barry. With Cleverley having a poor season for Manchester United, Carrick springs to mind as he is a player who knows how to keep the ball, a consistent low lying midfielder. It’s hard to say but I think the likes of Lampard, Milner and Barry are past their better days.
Decision: Gerrard, Wilshere, Sterling, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Barkley, Carrick
Forwards: With four strikers to choose from Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney are easy picks. Sturridge has had his best ever club season with Liverpool while Rooney will provide experience and that x-factor that England so dearly needs. Out of the striker options Defoe, Welbeck, Carroll, Rodriguez, Townsend, Young, Zaha and Lambert two names pop into my head. They are Townsend and Welbeck. Although injury has plagued Townsend this season he can provide flair and something different off the bench while is a versatile attacking player with pace and charisma and a good eye for goal. The likes of Lambert, Defoe and Young miss out.
Decision: Sturridge, Rooney, Townsend, Welbeck
With the likes of Lampard, Milner, Defoe and Caulker missing out this will be a super hard decision for England manager Roy Hodgson. What do you think?
Starting Team: Although England play two hard teams in the group stage a common starting eleven would see: Hart, Johnson, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines, Gerrard (c), Carrick, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge and Rooney.
The likes of Lallana, Henderson, Sterling, Townsend, Walker and Welbeck will be able to provide flair and pace off the bench.