As the World Cup moves closer, and only the friendly against Denmark before Roy Hodgson names who makes the plane, competition for places in the England squad is tougher than ever. For the second time, A Different League looks at who has a chance of making the tournament, and who needs to perform better….
Jordan Henderson – Liverpool
The Liverpool midfielder has become one of the most improved players of the last couple of months, having been given the opportunity to show what he can do under boss Brendan Rodgers. The 23-year-old was signed by Kenny Dalglish in 2011, and with a hefty price tag – Henderson was heavily criticised for not living up to the £16m paid for him.
However with new manager Rodgers installed at Anfield, the former Sunderland man has been a vital figure in the Liverpool midfield. With three goals and six assists this season, Henderson has done himself no harm in becoming an option for Roy Hodgson’s squad come the World Cup.
Adam Johnson – Sunderland
Despite not being included by Roy Hodgson’s in the squad to face Denmark, Johnson’s form has not gone unnoticed by the England boss. Hodgson revealed that only the fierce competition for places in wide areas saw Johnson miss out this time. But with his provisional squad not to be announced until May, there is still time for Johnson to grab a place in Hodgson’s 30-man party.
Johnson’s nine goals in all competitions this season helped Sunderland to the League Cup final and gave them a chance of remaining in the Premier League. Having shown his ability at previous club Manchester City, although mostly as a substitute, this season has shown Johnson is now able to perform consistently over 90 minutes. The former Middlesbrough winger does have international experience already under his belt, with eleven caps and two goals.
Andros Townsend – Tottenham Hotspur
He may have made a lightning start to the current season, but Townsend’s form has dropped significantly since. Having been on loan to various clubs throughout his career, Townsend was given his chance at Spurs by former boss Andre Villas-Boas and his faith was repaid with a goal and two assists in his first few games of the season. Townsend’s form was noticed by Hodgson, who selected the youngster for the remaining World Cup qualifiers.
He scored in the 4-1 victory over Montenegro at Wembley and despite playing very little international football, was already making a claim for a place at the World Cup. Since then, he has struggled to replicate this form and hasn’t added any goals or assists since the beginning of the season. With fellow winger Raheem Sterling having an excellent season, Townsend will need to improve to guarantee a place on the plane to Brazil.
Ashley Cole – Chelsea
At 33, Cole could be preparing for his last World Cup for England. He has been reliable for the national side and reached 100 caps for his county last year in the 2-1 friendly win against Brazil. It hasn’t been plain sailing for Cole this season though, at club level, being overlooked by manager Jose Mourinho, who has favoured using Spanish full-back Cesar Azpilicueta.
With Cole sitting on the bench, and fellow left-back Leighton Baines playing regularly for Everton, Hodgson will have a decision to make on who he will use during the tournament. Even though the Chelsea defender has plenty of tournament experience, Baines has shown he is more than capable at international level with recent performances against Poland and Montenegro, and Luke Shaw’s presence is also now a factor.
Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool
Despite missing part of the season through injury, Sturridge has still hit 18 goals in 19 games for Liverpool. His link up play with Luis Suarez has made the pair one of the most dangerous strike partnerships in the world and given the Reds a great chance of Champions League football. Since joining Liverpool, Sturridge has regularly found the net and will be one of the first names Hodgson notes down for England’s World Cup squad.
It isn’t just the goals that England will benefit from, but his team play and assists, with Sturridgge creating five goals for his teammates this season. In the short spell he has had for England, his link up play with Wayne Rooney has shown the pair have no problem playing together, and if both fit, will give England a good chance of getting past the group stages.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Arsenal
In the short time he has played this season, Chamberlain has made a significant contribution to the Arsenal side. Having picked up an injury on the opening day of the campaign, Chamberlain has missed most of this year. But over the past month, he has an assist three goals, including both in the home victory over Crystal Palace.
Oonly 20, the youngster has featured prominently in Hodgson’s squads, and was picked in the 23-man squad for Euro 2012. One of his most recent performances for England was in the 2-2 draw away at Brazil where he scored a half-volley from the edge of the box. A versatile player, Chamberlain is able to play anywhere along the midfield, and that could be a factor is his inclusion.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on England v Denmark