Will the Lions Roar?
The England edition for World Cup 2018 in Russia is packed with immense velocity but missing key ingredients that may have provided a recipe for success.
The backline is an inexperienced bunch that don't boast any true world class talent. Chris Smalling should have been chosen over Harry Maguire as he played 29 times and was at the heart of a Manchester United defence that boasted the second best record in the Premier League. Choosing Danny Rose over Ryan Bertrand is another shocker as Bertrand played the majority of qualifiers and didn’t seem to put a step wrong at club or international level. Rose has always been more of a liability defensively that an attacking threat. The goalkeepers are average with Jack Butland, relegated from the Premier League with Stoke City, most likely being first choice. Joe Hart’s omission was a surprise; not so much on current form but rather the extensive experience he could have provided the squad as third choice. And Nick Pope? I won't go there.
The midfield selections are the most contentious point. There is speed to burn on the wings but the middle will likely be occupied by Jordan Henderson and Eric Dyer. Both players, while stalwarts defensively, lack the ability to control a game through possession or to drive forward with impetus. Leaving Jack Wilshere at home will prove to be a crucial mishap by manager Gareth Southgate. Using the ‘I pick players on form’ as reasoning for Wilshere's absence was a complete cop-out by Southgate considering that Delle Alli went missing in the second half of the season. Southgate also stated that Wilshere's injury record would not stand him in good stead for the rigours of an international tournament yet he played the majority of the Premier League season in 2018. Wilshere provides England with an x-factor they've not had since Paul Gascoigne and when you have a player of that calibre that provides a differentiator, you pick them.
The strikers are where England could really cause problems for opposition. With one of the most potent strikers in world football in Harry Kane and a supporting cast of imperial goal scorers in Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford, the Three Lions have the prowess to fill the onion bag. If the system deployed is cohesive and tailored to get the most out of the players chosen, the strikeforce's capabilities may over-shadow other short-comings.
I feel that there is some serious talent in the England squad which provides a glimmer of hope but glaring key omissions such as Smalling and Wilshere will haunt Southgate come the Round of 16 or the Quarter-Finals. I know most would be content with a Quarter-Final appearance but a country with a platform such as the Premier League should be setting their sights much higher.
Prediction: Eliminated in Round of 16