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Who should miss out on the England Squad: Defenders

Tuesday 31st May 2016
England's defence has always been a major talking point on the biggest stage. Gone are the days of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole and Gary Neville being in the same squad. Things are very different now. Roy Hodgson does not have the same superbly talented pool of players to choose from as his predecessors. However, he will feel that he has a good blend of pace and power in his backline which can absorb a lot of the problems they will face this summer.


Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and John Stones.

Smalling has had another fine campaign with Manchester United. He has been one of the few constants in a season of uncertainties at Old Trafford. While he was sent off in the FA Cup final, he has had a season to remember and is, in fact, one of the first names on the team sheet for England. Gary Cahill is another one that will feel his place is close to being assured. The Chelsea centre-back has endured a torrid season with his club failing to even pretend in their defence of the title. However, Cahill has been fairly good this season and, while he is not blameless, he has been, for the most part, let down by others around him.

Both Smalling and Cahill are very similar in their style of play. They are very powerful men with their defensive style favouring playing against balls into the box from the wing. Where they do struggle is when they are on the ball. Neither are the most gifted centre-back with their feet in comparison to many other top defenders, however, Hodgson will feel there is enough creativity in the team to be able to keep the two off the ball. John Stones is the final option at centre-back. He showed great maturity when dealing with interest from Chelsea at the start of the season and went on to be one of Everton's top performers. However, like his club, he struggled in the latter part of the season and has since hit a bad patch of form. Stones is a superbly creative defender with both his physical pace and speed of thought making him a potent threat from the back. However, being so young he still has a lot to learn, as he needs to know when to keep the ball and when clearing his lines is the best option.

Minutes played  Goals              Assists
Chris Smalling 315001
Gary Cahill 195521
John Stones 278000

The stats above show that the three have had vastly different amounts of game time this season. Smalling has played the most and so, unsurprisingly, has been a key figure in what has been a fairly solid Manchester United defence this season. Cahill, on the other hand, has missed quite a few games this season which goes some way to explaining why Chelsea have been so poor in defence. Constant changing at the back and injuries forcing the creation of a makeshift backline have hurt Chelsea hugely this season as they have had to play a lot of their campaign without Cahill. While the goals and assists for the centre-backs aren't particularly relevant, it is very interesting to note that Stones is touted as a hugely creative player and yet did not register a single goal or assist this season. While this may be because he has been playing in an Everton side that seems to be regressing, Hodgson would do well to note that solidity is probably a more intelligent call for the Euros than the chance of creativity. If a player were to be dropped then it would most likely be the inexperienced Stones. However, with only three centre-backs in the squad, it would be managerial suicide to drop any of the three.


Ryan Bertrand, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker.

All four wing-backs have had fantastic seasons for their clubs. While the teams themselves may have encountered differing fortunes, the four players have been in very good form and will provide a very interesting dilemma for Hodgson when he comes to choosing between the four.

Ryan Bertrand has grown as a player since leaving Chelsea for Southampton. The Champions League winner found game time hard to come by with Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta dominating the flanks. However, Ronald Koeman has given the left back the time and freedom to improve his game week after week and he has been rewarded for it. Nathaniel Clyne did the opposite to Bertrand and left Southampton for Liverpool. The young right-back has seen his performances improve vastly with the incoming of Jurgen Klopp. Since the Germans appointment, the entire Liverpool team has adopted the style of their new manager with their high pressing and energetic performances resulting in Liverpool reaching the Europa League final. Clyne's performances have improved along with his club as the new manager seems to be getting the best from the young right-back. Both Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are different players since the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham.

In years gone by they have been fantastic attacking outlets with their pace and endeavour resulting in a lot of chances created. However, they were liabilities in defence with their defensive skill lacking. The Argentine though has changed this. While the pair are not quite as offensively orientated as before and so their influence in the final third has suffered, they are now far more capable defenders, able to withstand pressure and make the right decision for the team. This will please Hodgson to no end.

Minutes played  Goals              Assists
Ryan Bertrand 288013
Nathaniel Clyne  297010
Danny Rose 278013
Kyle Walker 294313

The full-backs are all exceptionally close with regard to their stats for the season. There is very little to separate them in the goals and assists column while Bertrand, Clyne and Walker have all played close to 3000 minutes each. When it comes to separating what they would bring to the team it is very difficult. All have very exciting pace and the ability to add an extra man in the final third. Defensively, Bertrand edges it. He would not have been so successful in Ronald Koeman's team if he was not able to defend as the Dutchman has been a champion of building a strong foundation from the back. Offensively, it is probably a decision between Clyne and Rose.

Both are quick players and are very direct in their attacking style which would suit England well, while the fact Rose plays with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier means they would be on the same wavelength in the game. The only player that seems inferior in both attack and defence is Walker. While he has improved recently he still is not the best full-back England have and so therefore, it would seem to be most beneficial for England if Hodgson dropped Walker. However, it does seem unlikely that Hodgson will drop Walker as the defensive options are already slim and so cutting down the list of players may not be the most intelligent move.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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