In the latest instalment of 90MAAT’s new and exclusive analysis series, The Lowdown, we look at the potential candidates as to who should replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in England’s squad for this summer’s World Cup.
The Liverpool midfielder had been in sparkling form since the turn of the year, starring for the Reds in their Champions League run. However, his injury has curtailed his chances of featuring in Russia, so we take a look at who could potentially take his place in the squad.
It is probable that one of Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier will start in midfield (with Dier potentially playing at the back too), and players like Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard are certainties to make the cut. Therefore, we will be analysing the players on the fringes of the squad, for whom the door has been opened slightly, allowing one or more of them to capitalise on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s misfortune.
Pros: The Arsenal midfielder has seemingly put his injury woes behind him, having a productive season for the Gunners in the centre of midfield. He is probably England’s most technically gifted midfielder, with Arsene Wenger describing him as having “Spanish technique, but an English heart”. Wilshere has exceptional movement and vision, with and without the ball, and can bring the best out of England’s best attacking players like Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli. He is probably a certainty to make the squad, should he stay fit, but one thing that stands out is his leadership. This is an England squad lacking in authoritative figures, and Wilshere can be a leader on and off the field.
Cons: As I have just mentioned, it is very likely he will make the squad if he is fit. But that is a very big if, as Wilshere is probably England’s most injury-prone midfielder. Another issue is that Wilshere is not a midfielder who produces many goals and assists. Of course, there is more to a midfielder’s game than just their attacking output, but this could be a factor that counts against him. Having said that, I would be very surprised if a fit Jack Wilshere is not on the plane.
Chances of making the squad: 9/10 (if he stays fit).
Pros: Another talented and technically gifted footballer, Adam Lallana really burst onto the international stage in the 2016/17 season when he was voted England’s Player of the Year for 2016. He was matching his form at Liverpool too, notching eight goals and seven assists in by far his most productive season on Merseyside. Lallana is a skilful dribbler, with an eye for goal, and is capable of producing moments of magic that few other English players can. Unfortunately ravaged by injury this season, if he can recreate his form of last season in the remaining games this season, he could find himself on the plane, given his previous performances for club and country.
Cons: Another player that has been plagued by injury, Lallana has struggled to get going this season. He is suffered from injury after injury, and hasn’t been able to break into Liverpool’s condensed midfielder when he has been fit. His opportunities have been limited to mostly substitute appearances, where he has made little impact. He will have to hope that Gareth Southgate takes into account his past appearances for England.
Chances of making the squad: 6/10.
Pros: Few players can boast a range of passing like the one that Jonjo Shelvey possess. The Newcastle United player has the ability to produce raking cross-field balls that can split entire defences in two. After a series of mature performances at the heart of Rafa Benitez’s team, it is now more than just Geordies that are calling for his inclusion in the squad. He has always been billed as a player with huge potential, and under Benitez’s stewardship he is finally starting to prove his doubters wrong. Playing alongside a more defensive minded midfielder like Henderson or Dier would allow him to play a free roaming role which would play to his strengths. He could prove to be a useful option off the bench for the Three Lions.
Cons: For all his qualities, Shelvey has long been criticised for his discipline. He is one of just two players to have picked up two red cards in the Premier League this season, and his reputation for having a temper precedes him. Opposition players would target him in an attempt to try and get him sent off. Shelvey has been accused of laziness too, for not putting a shift in when necessary. Southgate likes players who will work hard with the ball and without it, and these negative traits may count against Shelvey in his bid to make the squad.
Chances of making the squad: 4/10.
Pros: Gareth Southgate has consistently praised his commitment and loyalty towards playing for England. The combative midfielder is probably the most defensive of the four options, and his stats show for it. The West Brom man has made 2.1 tackles per game in the Premier League this season, and his aggression could add some extra bite to England’s midfield.
Cons: Livermore is a solid central midfielder who rarely makes mistakes. However, he offers very little going forward, and with two defensive midfielders in Dier and Henderson ahead of him in the pecking order, it is unlikely that Southgate would feel the need to take Livermore to Russia, barring any injury concerns. Furthermore, he is playing for relegation certainties West Brom, something that will probably count against him, and needs to add something to his game offensively if he is to make an impact on the international stage.
Chances of making the squad: 3/10
There are a few other players that deserve recognition, and have a slim chance of going as back-up central midfielders. The likes of Jack Cork, Lewis Cook and Fabian Delph all have a chance, but have not featured enough for England in recent times to make this list. But overall, if Jack Wilshere stays fit, it would be a very strange move if Southgate opts not to take him. He offers something different to the rest of England’s midfielders, and is a genuine contender to start in England’s first game against Tunisia. Presuming that Southgate will probably take four, alongside Wilshere, Henderson and Dier, my fourth option would be a toss-up between Jonjo Shelvey and Adam Lallana. The former has form on his side, playing week-in week-out for Newcastle as they have secured Premier League safety, whilst Lallana has struggled for game time at Liverpool. Both offer something different, but perhaps if Lallana is fit and ready for the World Cup, his versatility and previous form for England could count in his favour.
Written by Dan Walker.