Should Roy Hodgson Experiment More...?

The inclusion of the Southampton contingent has been praised, but WhoScored's Martin Laurence thinks more attention should be given to those in the lower half of the Premier League...

Last Updated: 13/11/13 at 11:47 Post Comment

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As with any England squad selection, Roy Hodgson made what many would consider to be wise choices, but also some that continue to frustrate fans of clubs that rarely feature in the European reckoning. The Three Lions boss named 25 outfielders in his initial party for the upcoming friendlies with Chile and Germany, all of whom ply their trade for clubs in the current top eight of the Premier League.

Many will point to call-ups for a trio of Southampton players to suggest it's not just the big teams that see their players selected, and that's fair. However, while the scintillating form of Adam Lallana may have been too much to overlook, it's hard to believe that Jay Rodriguez, who has been good but unspectacular, would have received the call had the Saints not been sitting in the top four.

It goes without saying that if a team is performing well the individual components of said team must be doing something right too. But that's not to say that just because a team may be underperforming or, more accurately, failing to punch above their weight (as Southampton currently are), that a player isn't worthy of consideration. It leaves those playing for teams in the bottom half of the table with little to no hope of making the grade.

At present it's arguable that the order of sides in the bottom half of the Premier League is less surprising than the top end, which isn't usually the case. The likes of Manchester City and United are, most would agree, underperforming themselves in the league in relation to the standards that the strength of their respective squads should be reaching, so why are their players still rewarded?

Despite having a poor start to their domestic campaign the champions, who have admittedly been picking up positive results as of late, had six players included in the squad prior to Carrick and Welbeck's withdrawals. The fact that no United player ranks among WhoScored.com's top rated 20 suggests that some may have been a little fortunate to receive the call. Meanwhile, there's certainly a case for argument that City's duo in the squad, Joe Hart and James Milner, are also undeserving based on form.

The first Englishman of Moyes' squad in WhoScored's rankings is, unsurprisingly, Wayne Rooney (7.44) in 24th, while you have to go down to 57th to find Michael Carrick (7.12). Meanwhile the likes of Welbeck (6.53), Smalling (6.64) and Cleverley (6.71) all made the cut despite failing to stand out or even get much meaningful playing time thus far.

Welbeck's performances in an England shirt of late meant that his selection was a given, but the likes of Cleverley and Smalling haven't exactly caught the eye on the international stage. Both are still young and will improve - this isn't to lambast the pair as poor players, but it's hard to argue that either deserve too much recognition for any consistency of performances this season. For example, are the regularly impressive displays from the likes of Curtis Davies and Steven Caulker for lesser teams thus far not worthy of more recognition than Smalling's right now?

Jordan Henderson's was another selection that caused a little discontent with some, but his displays this season have certainly been improved (7.29 rating). The Liverpool midfielder is similar to Cleverley, averaging 55.4 passes to the United man's 56, with both strong when retaining possession; the latter's pass accuracy is in fact just ahead of Henderson's (89.7% to 87.4%).

This, however, can be attributed to the fact that now he's playing in a deeper role, Cleverley is taking fewer risks. In turn he's created just 0.8 chances per game to Henderson's 1.6, while the Liverpool man makes more tackles (4 to 2.4 per game) and is dribbled past less often (0.9 times per game to 1.6). His defensive graft is superior and he offers more in an attacking sense. The same could be said this season of the likes of Mark Noble (7.29), Fabian Delph (7.48) and Gareth Barry (7.65), all of whom have significantly better WhoScored.com ratings than the United man.

With so many of the 'big clubs' slipping up against inferior opposition already this season, would now not have been the ideal time to experiment a little (more)? Some may say that Hodgson has very few chances to build his strongest side's playing style in matches between now and the World Cup but his regulars will know their jobs inside out by now. In addition, friendly matches this far away from the tournament often mean fairly little, with form and playing time deviating between now and the end of the season.

The most positive thing about these exhibition matches is often the chance for managers to take a closer look at new players not only in the 'competitive' games themselves but perhaps more so in training. It's fair to say that Hodgson knows what he's getting from 90% of his selected squad, but how will he ever truly appreciate a talent from the bottom half of the table?

Martin Laurence - follow him on Twitter.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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