Premier League players vying for an England call-up
England's friendly encounters with Lithuania and Italy are the ideal opportunity for Hodgson to test the young English talent at his disposal.
"He’s got technique, he’s always looking to get on the end of crosses, that header against Arsenal was a real classy header. I thought that was wonderful. If all goes well and he stays fit, I’m pretty sure he’ll be in the next squad." Roy Hodgson was full of praise for young Tottenham striker Harry Kane when pressed on who could make his next England squad. Kane has risen to the fore spectacularly this season having netted 23 competitive goals for Spurs, more than any other Premier League striker so far.
No player’s star has risen quite as quickly as Kane’s this term, with former Spur and BBC pundit Danny Murphy even going as far to suggest the national team should be built around the 21-year-old. Calls for international recognition grow louder with each passing week, though he is not the only player who some feel deserves a place in Hodgson’s next squad.
With Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka’s questionable club form for Chelsea and Everton respectively, the former losing his starting spot to Kurt Zouma, a spot at centre-back for the Three Lions could be up for grabs. James Tomkins, who recently signed a new 5-and-a-half year deal with West Ham, has impressed for the Hammers this term. Tomkins is currently the highest rated centre-back and Englishman (7.53) in England’s top tier. West Ham’s impressive start to the campaign has been, in part, due to their resilient defence, with the 25-year-old central to that. The defender hasnow firmly established himself as a first choice defender for the east London side.
While he has been capped from England U16 to U21 level, Tomkins is yet to feature for the national team, though did represent Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics. 117 top-flight appearances from the 2009/10 season onwards have helped the centre-back gain ample Premier League experience, vital to his continued development as a player. However, the transition from domestic to international football is easier said than done and doubts linger over whether Tomkins would be able to make the step up.
An average of 4.9 aerial duels won per game ranks 4th of all players in the Premier League this season, but with the focus in international football perhaps more on keeping the ball on the floor and slow build up play, Tomkins' strength in this department may be wasted. An average of just 35.9 passes per game at a 74.8% success rate is not the best return for a centre-back. Comparatively, Cahill (39.8 passes per game at a 87.4% success rate) and Jagielka (55.6 passes per game at a 89.1% success rate) have both fared better than Tomkins when playing out from defence this season.
However, the upcoming friendly with Lithuania presents Hodgson with the perfect opportunity to experiment with the players at his disposal. At 29 and 32 years of age, Cahill and Jagielka are experienced enough to be rested for such a match and the opportunity to assess younger players could see Tomkins handed his first England cap next month.
Remaining with the defence, there's a candidate hoping to challenge for the regular left-back spot held byLeighton Baines and while Luke Shaw was his understudy at the World Cup, it’s his replacement at St. Mary’s that has really caught the eye this season. Ryan Bertrand initially joined on loan from Chelsea in the summer, but his displays in the Southampton backline convinced the south coast side to part with a reported fee of £10m to make his loan move permanent in the January transfer window.
Bertrand has previously turned out for the national team, though he does only have 29 minutes of international experience under his belt. Nevertheless, his performances under Ronald Koeman suggests he deserves a recall to the England senior side, especially with Shaw struggling to reach the heights expected of him following a £30m move to Manchester United. He is unlikely to usurp Baines in the starting XI, but the 25-year-old has done more than enough to prove his worth in next month’s friendlies.
Only Jose Fonte (3) and Morgan Schneiderlin (2.2) are averaging more interceptions per league game than Bertrand (1.9) of all Saints players this season. His defensive attributes have won him admirers, but it’s his attacking output that has seen him garner most of the plaudits. Bertrand has directly contributed to 4 of Saints’ 38 league goals this term, a notable return for the left-back. While, teammate Nathaniel Clyne recently made his international debut and is expected to earn a place in the upcoming England squad, Bertrand, it can be argued, deserves to join him.
Sticking with Southampton, but looking further up the pitch, James Ward-Prowse has emerged as a key player for the club. Part of the reason Koeman was appointed as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor was his development of youth during his time as Feyenoord head coach. He has done similar at St. Mary's and both Ward-Prowse and Southampton are reaping the benefits.
Of all English players, only Baines (8) and Stewart Downing (7) have registered more league assists than Ward-Prowse (6) this season, despite the 20-year-old missing 10 weeks of the campaign due to a foot fracture. His creative instinct and keen eye for a defence splitting pass would be a bonus for England.
Ward-Prowse’s creative expertise have seen him earmarked as one for the future, though it’s surely only a matter of time before he wins his first cap. The Saints attacker could be laying on the assists for any number of potential strikers in England’s next squad. Hodgson admitted there is a breadth of English offensive talent in the Premier League this season, with Saido Berahino, Charlie Austin and Danny Ings, along with Kane, all vying to be included in the next England squad.
The quartet have scored 45 league goals between them this term, so each have a case for a place in Hodgson’s upcoming England team. Taking into account recent form, however, Ings and Kane are perhaps better placed to secure a call up, what with Berahino and Austin's form in front of goal waning of late. Berahino has only 2 goals to his name from his last 6 competitive appearances, while Austin, after a blistering end to 2014, has scored just 1 goal in his last 7 competitive matches. Austin’s form may improve on the back of his return from injury, but if Hodgson is to experiment in attack, Ings and Kane are perhaps the two new strikers he should call up.
The Burnley striker has 4 goals to his name from his last 5 appearances, while his Spurs counterpart has bagged 5 goals in his last 3 matches. Berahino may have looked sharper following Tony Pulis’ appointment, but has not shown enough to suggest he deserves a place ahead of Ings and Kane in the pecking order, nor that he warrants a striking spot in place of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck or Daniel Sturridge.
Kane is expected to receive his first call-up to the England senior side next month and he could be joined by a handful of others challenging for an international spot. Tomkins, Ward-Prowse and Ings’ form suggests they deserve to join Kane in Hodgson’s next squad, while Bertrand, it can be argued, justifies a recall. There is a large gulf between club football and internationall football, but the friendly encounters with Lithuania and Italy are the ideal opportunity for Hodgson to test the young English talent at his disposal.
Which players do you think deserve a place in Roy Hodgson's England squad next month?