With Vincent Kompany lapsed, Yaya Toure unsettled and David Silva turning 30, that leaves one man to build the team around. Luckily he's sodding brilliant...
Chelsea have been crowned Premier League champions for the fourth time, and the third under Jose Mourinho. What legacy they have created, and what does it matter?
The numbers in brackets refer to their position in the last England ladder - after the Chile/Germany friendlies in November.
1 (1) - Wayne Rooney
Whether he deserves a five-year contract (he doesn't) worth £300,000 a week (he doesn't), the captaincy (he doesn't) and inside information about transfers (he doesn't) is a moot point: England's World Cup side will be built around Wayne Rooney, whether he plays in the No. 10 role behind Daniel Sturridge or as a lone striker in front of a midfield three. No Englishman has contributed to more goals in the Premier League this season. No, not even Danny Graham.
2 (2) - Steven Gerrard
England's captain and - excuse us while we do a little sick in our mouths - heartbeat of the side. There will always be those who question Gerrard but England do not yet have a better all-round central midfielder. The rule of thumb here is that if you call him Stevie Me, or that nickname amuses you in some way, you're a bore. And probably have a small penis.
3 (3) - Joe Hart
'Can we move on now?' we asked in October and then 'Now can we move on?' in November. In February we're saying, thank f*** we moved on.
4 (6) - Gary Cahill
One goal conceded in his last six games for Chelsea and entirely comfortable as a starting centre-half in a team challenging for the title. We like to think he goads John Terry by openly learning Portuguese and practising the samba.
5 (5) - Phil Jagielka
We're choosing to view the Merseyside derby as an anomaly caused by the confusion of playing alongside Antolin Alcaraz.
6 (10) - Jack Wilshere
Yay, he's back in form with a goal and three assists in three Premier League games. Boo, he's got injured again. And so the Wilshere story continues. When he's good, he's very, very good. And when he's bad, he's probably injured.
7 (4) - Glen Johnson
Woefully out of form but still England's best right-back/world's tallest dwarf.
8 (12) - Daniel Sturridge
He's scored 28 goals in 35 games for Liverpool; he's scored seven goals in his last six matches. The only question should be whether Hodgson has the balls to start both him and Rooney in a partnership that looks better on paper than it looked on the pitch against Germany in England's last friendly. And now we're accidentally thinking about Hodgson's balls. We hope you are too.
9 (7) - Danny Welbeck
How much is he really going to play at United with Robin van Persie, Rooney, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj fit? Will he have to leave in the summer? But never mind that little conundrum, he's practically nailed on to go to the World Cup as England's first-choice left-sided attacking option.
10 (11) - Michael Carrick
'The answer against better sides is clearly to play three in the middle with Carrick keeping things ticking along and then going off at the 70-minute mark (like he did against Poland) when he starts getting fatigued or England need a goal,' we said in November. That would seem the sensible plan against Italy in Manaus.
11 (8) - Ashley Cole
Included by Hodgson in his nominally first-choice XI v Germany but since then he has started just three Premier League games with Chelsea. Is he still England's first choice? That question would be a lot easier to answer if Leighton Baines was in any kind of form. An embarrassment of riches may be turning into plain embarrassment.
12 (9) - Leighton Baines
And here he is, the lovely mop-top. Frankly not looking brilliant since his return from injury but nailed on to go and share left-back duties with Cole.
13 (16) - Frank Lampard
Involved in eight England games before the clash with Germany that he was always going to miss. He's not being eased out of England or Chelsea any time soon, even though he might spend more time with Ben Foster and Mark Schwarzer than he would ideally choose.
14 (19) - Phil Jones
The words 'embarrassing ease' came readily to mind when Samuel Eto'o gave Jones the eyes and the 'midfielder' eagerly bought everything in the shop last month. But for the most part, Jones has been half-decent when called upon at centre-half, right-back and central midfield. Which is exactly what any team hoping to win the World Cup needs from the 14th name on their squad list.
15 (17) - Ben Foster
Even he admits that Joe Hart should start. But Foster is at least fit and in form once again. Whoop.
16 (15) - James Milner
Useful. Like a chopping board.
17 (26) - Adam Lallana
'No outfield player in Hodgson's latest squad plays outside the top eight; Southampton probably have to stay there to keep Lallana in the reckoning,' is what we wrote in November. But we'll give him ninth as long as he's scoring and creating goals for fun (and money; probably quite a lot of money). Offers something different ie. invention. And you know what's the mother of invention, don't you? Yes, it's necessity. No, that doesn't make any sense.
18 (18) - Chris Smalling
Hodgson likes him a whole lot more than most Man United fans.
19 (20) - Fraser Forster
Simply because John Ruddy is in rotten nick.
20 (14) - Andros Townsend
There's probably a World Cup place for one pure speed merchant and Townsend - expected to be fit later this month - is probably winning that really sodding quick race ahead of Aaron Lennon, Raheem Sterling and WIlfried Zaha, purely because this particular pony's one trick helped England to the World Cup. He has rather a lot of credit in the Hodgson bank, which he will presumably spoon over the bar from distance.
21 (23) - Andy Carroll
That physiology-defying header for Kevin Nolan's second on Saturday is the reason a fit Carroll will go to the World Cup as an option off the bench. No other player in the Premier League would have made that header. Sorry Rickie Lambert, but you're almost too good with your feet for a big man.
22 (24) - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Showed the kind of versatility valuable at summer tournaments when he scored twice from central midfield against Crystal Palace. Edging ahead of Ross Barkley in the 'technically excellent but built like a brick s**thouse' role.
23 (30) - Jordan Henderson
We said in November that Tom Cleverley was 'far, far more likely' to go to the World Cup despite being so much worse than Henderson. We were wrong. Henderson has shown maturity and versatility (there's that word again) this season, with goalscoring the only real abence from his armoury. And we already know that Hodgson is a fan - he took him to Euro 2012 to almost-universal bafflement.
24 (21) - Tom Cleverley
There was a time when it seemed impossible that Cleverley would not go to the World Cup. Thankfully that time has passed.
25 (22) - Ross Barkley
Playing with painkilling injections and it shows. If the Ox continues to do quite well in his stead, Barkley may have to wait and be part of the post-World Cup, post-Gerrard re-build.
26 (36) - Raheem Sterling
Bizarrely in the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Poland at a time when he could not get near the Liverpool first-choice XI so now he's playing and playing well...he probably just needs Townsend not to get back in the Tottenham side. But preferably not because Aaron Lennon is brilliant.
27 (25) - John Ruddy
We're happier the lower down this list he drops.
28 (27) - Kyle Walker
Still preaching the 'nobody takes two specialist right-backs' sermon.
29 (28) - Rickie Lambert
Not as good as Carroll at the heading; not as good as the other strikers at the kicking and that. It will probably see him miss out.
30 (39) - Jay Rodriguez
This is what we said in November: 'Lucky to get one chance; unlikely to get another.' We were really, really wrong. Before his England call-up, Jay Rodriguez had scored four goals in 14 matches; since his debut he has notched eight in 15. Still likely to miss out to Welbeck, mind.
31 (32) - Ashley Young
Should we be worried that he's getting games for United?
32 (RE) - Adam Johnson
It couldn't happen, could it?
33 (29) - Kieran Gibbs
Seemingly cannot stay fit for more than seven minutes.
34 (31) - Jermain Defoe
He's right to think moving to the MLS would have no real impact on his World Cup chances.
35 (35) - Gareth Barry
Not to be ruled out as a stand-in for Carrick in the 'ticking over' role.
36 (NE) - Luke Shaw
Too soon? Probably.
37 (37) - Aaron Lennon
He's playing at least. Just not incredibly well.
38 (34) - Steven Caulker
The four centre-halves are so nailed on, it takes this long to get to the fifth.
39 (45) - Curtis Davies
And the sixth.
40 (38) - Michael Dawson
And the seventh.
41 (44) - Fabian Delph
42 (46) - Wilfried Zaha
43 (42) - Tom Huddlestone
44 (33) - Ravel Morrison
45 (44) - Jack Butland
46 (40) - Joleon Lescott
47 (47) - Leon Osman
48 (NE) - Joel Ward
49 (RE) - Mark Noble
50 (50) - Phil Neville