FEATURE: England’s road to Russia – The Midfielders.
The days of the Scholes, Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham Golden Generation have gone. In recent memory, our midfield has had very few big names, but it should be remembered that even with those big names before, we didn’t win anything.
Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello were hung out to dry for persisting with Lampard and Gerrard together in a midfield set up. Time and time again, our midfield lacked the balance to control games against the world’s best.
We must hope that this new crop can not only continue to improve as players, but that they will be able to play together and bring the best out of each other.
World Cup 2014
Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley made the trip. Theo Walcott missed out through injury, meaning to this day he has not played a single minute of world cup football.
Gerrard, Lampard and Milner have all since retired from the international scene as the new blood emerges. But who is ready to go to Russia?
Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur, 19 caps)
Dier’s rise has been stunning. Since being brought to the premier league by Spurs, he has been a mainstay of their team. Able to play at Right Back and Centre Half, he has found his true calling for England and Spurs in defensive midfield.
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool, 32 caps)
Liverpool captain Henderson had a great season in 2016/17 as Liverpool returned to the Champions League. The 27-year-old will be hoping for a similar season to consolidate his place in the squad and to force his way into Southgate’s starting 11.
Adam Lallana (Liverpool, 33 caps)
Lallana has got better with age. At 29, he is a mainstay of Liverpool’s midfield and was one of England’s best performers at Euro 2016. Now with the opportunity to shine in the Champions league, Lallana has no boundaries heading into 2018.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, 32 caps)
It is easy to forget that Sterling is only 22. Russia would be his third taste of tournament football with the senior team already and he looks firmly in Southgate’s plans. He faces strong competition to retain his place in Manchester City’s wide positions but is a definite for England’s squad.
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur, 19 caps)
Like Sterling, Alli seems to have been around for much longer than he has. At 21, his best years are still ahead of him, but he has been a revelation in Tottenham’s midfield over the last two seasons. His form in the Champions League must improve, but his place is as good as assured.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal, 27 caps)
At 23, the Ox is another who has caps beyond his years. Performances for England have been steady over the last few years, but appearances for Arsenal are not. He has been linked with moves to Liverpool and Chelsea this summer but wherever he goes, he must play.
Ross Barkley (Everton, 22 caps)
Barkley approaches the new season in uncertain circumstances. Talk of a big money move to Tottenham and inconsistent form in 2016/17 resulted in the 22-year-old being dropped from Everton’s first team. Wherever he ends up, he must regain his focus and put in the performances that brought his first cap back in 2013.
Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace, 13 caps)
After arriving on the England scene with a bang in 2013, Townsend’s career has somewhat stalled of late. Now settled after a turbulent spell with Newcastle, an electric season for the Eagles may see him make a charge.
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal, 34 caps)
Injury has blighted Wilshere’s career to date. 2016/17 on loan at Bournemouth was the first time he had played in more than 25 premier league games in a season for six years. Realistically for him, he must either force his way into Arsenal’s team or move to gain the game time he needs and must hope he can remain injury free again.
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United, 4 caps)
At the age of 24, Lingard has been a late bloomer for Man United. Having broken into the first team back in 2014/15, he only established himself the season after, earning his first cap against Malta. He faces a tough season ahead though, competing with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial for a place in United’s attacking midfield.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal, 47 caps)
After going to Germany in 2006, Walcott was touted as the future of English football. Injury and inconsistency has left him unable to reach that potential, but he retains the ability to change a game on the world stage. Having missed out through injury in 2014 and been overlooked in 2010, Walcott will be desperate to go to Russia.
Wayne Rooney (Everton, 119 caps)
England’s all-time leading goalscorer is by no means assured of a place on the plane next summer. Now playing largely in midfield, he has had to leave Manchester United in search of game time and has not played for England in 2017 yet. He will be 32 by next June and though his best days have passed, his experience and leadership may be vital, if only as a squad member rather than on the pitch.
Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have been given the chance to impress having left Chelsea for Watford and Crystal Palace respectively. Josh Onomah and Ademola Lookman lit up England’s Under 20 world cup triumph and big club seasons could see them make a late charge. Other young lions, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond were given senior debuts this year also. Tom Davies brilliant debut season for Everton may prove the springboard for his international career too.
Danny Drinkwater was unlucky to miss out on Euro 2016, a good season for Leicester may yet see him back in Southgate’s plans. Michail Antonio also received his first international call up last season after an impressive season for West Ham.
A rogue selection would be James Milner, who despite retiring from international duty in 2016, was a revelation for Liverpool last season and may be persuaded to reverse his decision.
Our midfielders could be set to shine in Russia – though though who will be leading the line for England in 2018?
Written by Sam Hanys.