Some players have made a bloody good case – or a bloody good move – for themselves since the last England World Cup ladder. None of these five were in Gareth Southgate’s last squad.
“With someone like Jack, it’s a real plus to see him playing at the level he is, looking as fit as he is,” said England boss Gareth Southgate last week. A real plus? It must make Southgate jump for bleeding joy because Wilshere is – as Gary Neville puts it – “the best English midfield player by a street”. Move aside Jack Cork and Jake Livermore because Wilshere (when fit) is in a different stratosphere.
As ever, those brackets are the problem, but Wilshere has started and finished Arsenal’s last eight Premier League games; it may surprise you to learn that they have only lost once in that spell.
‘Right now it feels like his only real chance is to hope for an injury to the man at the very top of this ladder,’ we wrote in November. We should have added that there was another option – a move away from Liverpool. This week Sturridge has taken what must have been a reluctant leap and moved ‘back home’ to West Brom on loan.
If Sturridge plays, he is likely to score goals. And if Sturridge scores goals, he is likely to be on the plane to Russia. Right now the top English goalscorers in the Premier League are Harry Kane (21), Raheem Sterling (14), Jamie Vardy (10), Wayne Rooney (10), Jesse Lingard (7) Callum Wilson/Charlie Austin/Glenn Murray (6). Spot the really quite desperate need for another goalscorer.
145.1 – Of English players to score at least 20 Premier League goals, only Harry Kane (111.9) has a better mins/goal ratio than Daniel Sturridge (145.1). Moves. pic.twitter.com/XGXgkrc4b1
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 29, 2018
“He wasn’t really playing as we picked the squad in November and we had others in those positions playing a lot more,” said Southgate this week. “I thought he played well against City. When you leave people out, you are hoping for that sort of reaction.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain has since been not quite so brilliant against Swansea and West Brom, but he is at least playing. And if an English footballer is playing regularly or a top-six Premier League club, he will likely be in the England manager’s plans. In a shoot-out between The Ox and Messi Lingard, who would you pick?
A player reborn.
Back in November, Shaw’s stock had fallen so low that he was behind Dominic Solanke, Jack Cork and even Theo Walcott on our World Cup ladder. His only appearances were in the Carabao Cup.
Now, Shaw has started six of United’s last seven games, with goals only conceded in the first of those games against Burnley.
Southgate admitted that he picked Shaw last March in an attempt to boost his confidence, because he believed “he can be an important player for the future”; this March he will not be picked out of pity.
Luke Shaw looking so much more confident…football is such a head game…more than lots of people think.
— The MUFC Academy 🐝 (@mrmujac) January 26, 2018
The outlier. The rogue. The long shot.
“If you’re Gareth Southgate you’re definitely putting a tick next to his name for the next squad, in my opinion,” said Steven Gerrard – who knows a thing or two about England – after watching Rodriguez score twice to dump his beloved Liverpool out of the FA Cup.
Five goals in six games is a pretty compelling record; the challenge now is to keep playing and keep scoring. Over four years after a forgettable (for us, not him) 57 minutes against Chile, Rodriguez could yet add to his solitary England cap. Playing with Sturridge should certainly help.
Sod's law for Liverpool, Jay Rodriguez being about the only Southampton player they haven't bought in recent years.
— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) January 27, 2018