In part one of this series I looked at squad criteria and how England have prepared for the future. The future didn’t look pretty.
Let’s look at the second objective set:
To give ‘young talent’ (under 24 yrs old) as much playing time as possible in order to develop experienced ‘peak’ age (24-28 yrs old) players for World Cup 2018.
With that in mind I wanted to lose the veterans from the bunch who are looking like meeting the minutes played criteria. Here’s how it looks without them:
Keepers: J Butland, J Hart
Defenders: S Cook, R Bennett, R Shawcross, C Dawson, C Smalling, J Stones, J Tomkins, M Richards, A Cresswell, R Bertrand, D Rose, B Galloway, B Jones, J Ward, K Naughton, N Clyne, K Walker, A Smith, C Jenkinson
Mids: E Dier, M Noble, D Drinkwater, A Westwood, L Cattermole, J Cork, J Colback, D Gosling, D Alli, J Shelvey, R Barkley, T Cleverley, J Henderson, J Howson, J Ward-Prowse,
Att Mids: Sterling, N Redmond, A Lallana, M Albrighton, W Zaha, T Walcott, J Stanislas, S Sinclair
Forwards: H Kane, S Berahino, T Deeney
It’s probably a good time to remind you of who England face at the tournament: Russia, Wales and Slovakia. Negotiate that and likely Round of 16 opponents are: Romania/Poland/Czech Rep/Austria.
There’s a couple of points you could take from this:
- Even the veteran-free list of players above would have a decent chance of progression to the KO stages.
- The quality of opponent makes it likely that England would have the lions share of the ball in the matches once the ‘best’ of the veterans have been added back into the mix.
I don’t think these are unreasonable assumptions.
With this in mind, I want to lose defenders from the list above that do not see a lot of the ball with their club side. If you don’t get involved with build-up play on a weekly basis in the Premier League right now, I don’t want you trying to do it for the national side in a tournament in a few months time.
This piece by Jonathan Lieu 2 years ago sticks in my mind, also. Too many defenders are picked for tournament squads. Half never get on the pitch. There’s 19 defenders in the list without even considering the veterans, so I’m going to be fairly harsh here. I’m going to cut that down to 12 based on how much ball they see during games. I’ve also checked them for pass accuracy. The ones who are on the ball less also give it away more. Here’s what’s left:
Defenders: K Naughton, N Clyne, K Walker, C Jenkinson, A Smith, S Cook, C Smalling, J Stones, J Tomkins, A Cresswell, R Bertrand, D Rose
Wow. 5 right backs. And none count as ‘young talent’ under 24 yrs old. Let’s lose some of those right backs right (ahem) away. Clyne and Walker already have England caps. They’ve also got well over 100 Premier League games under their belt. They play for top level teams. They have played European football. They will both be peak age for this and the next tournament. They are also higher up in this seasons creativity rankings (xA) than the others. Cut made.
Naughton didn’t make it at Spurs and he will be a veteran by the time the World Cup is here. Jenkinson didn’t make it at Arsenal. He’s doing ok at West Ham but not pulling up trees. Adam Smith’s only made his first team breakthrough in the last 12 months after being loaned here there and everywhere. I’m discarding all three.
The four centre backs and three left-backs are all staying for now. None of them will be veterans by the time of the next World Cup. They are all interesting and require more in-depth investigation.
That’s for next time. Follow me on twitter @footballfactman