Experience should trump youth in England’s midfield for World Cup
With odds of 28/1 to win the trophy for the first time since 1966, and being ninth-equal favourite behind the likes of Italy, Colombia and Belgium, it doesn’t look like this will be a summer of football joy for Three Lions fans.
Despite these low hopes, the national side still do contain a number of quality players, but it’s how they are utilised that is the key.
Does head coach Roy Hodgson go with experience? Or does he go with the fearlessness of youth, such as when Joachim Low led his inexperienced Germany side to a third place finish at the 2010 World Cup?
Currently, England have a whole host of options to pick from in midfield, but surely Hodgson can’t go with an ageing line-up of Steven Gerrard (33 years old), Frank Lampard (35) and Michael Carrick (32)?
Although they are individually in good form for their respective clubs, they will certainly not have the legs to play a minimum of three matches this summer against the likes of Uruguay and Italy in the group stages.
Michael Carrick (odds of 2/7 to make the World Cup squad and 7/4 to start the first game against Italy) is a must-starter for England, however, alongside captain Gerrard in a likely three-man midfield. But perhaps it is time that the likes of Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley or Jack Wilshere step into Lampard’s massive boots.
Lampard, despite his advanced years, is still enjoying a decent season with Chelsea as his club are chasing the Premier League title. The international centurion has scored four goals and made three assists in 20 league appearances this season so far. He currently has odds of 1/3 to make it to Brazil.
However, Hodgson surely has to see Lampard as just a back-up option now. Wilshere (squad odds of 1/6) is very much the future of England – barring injury – and in the same amount of league appearances as his Chelsea counterpart this season, he has contributed with three goals and four assists. The Arsenal man is also odds-on to start the first game at 5/6.
With Carrick sitting further back in support, it would give Gerrard and Wilshere the freedom to link up with the likely front-three of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and possibly Andros Townsend.
Man Utd are not enjoying a great season this term, but individually Carrick is the best in the country in his role.
Recent addition to the national scene Lallana is another fine option and could be just what England need as an alternative. The Southampton player has been crucial to his club’s successes so far this season, by gaining seven goals and five assists in 26 Premier League matches.
If the twice-capped attacking midfielder keeps up that impressive form, Hodgson cannot ignore the stats and will have to give him a chance. Lallana has odds of 10/11 to be included in Hodgson’s summer squad.
Barkley (8/15) is another who has lightened up the English league this campaign with some very impressive and mature performances. The 20-year-old is perhaps too young and inexperienced at this point to be a starter, but he is definitely in with a shout to make the 23-man squad.
Manchester United graduate Tom Cleverley (13/8 for a call-up to Brazil) has been a club and country squad regular over the past two seasons with 13 England caps to his name. It is doubtful that the 24-year-old will be a starter due to his unimpressive form, as he has scored just once in 19 games with no assists this season so far.
Hodgson will have to get it absolutely right if he is to get past the early stages at least. Coral have given them odds of 2/1 to finish top of Group D and 8/15 to qualify for the next round.
According to Coral, England are third favourites, however, but as they have not failed to qualify from the first stage since 1958 in Sweden, the odds look very tempting.
If England are to have any hope of going far this summer, Hodgson will need to have at least one pair of young legs in his starting line-up.
A solid midfield-three would consist of Carrick, Gerrard and one of Lallana or Wilshere.