The Starting 11 Roy Hodgson Should Start for England Against Sweden
With England's next competitive match in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers not until March, next week's friendly match against Sweden really doesn't mean a lot.
This means there is plenty of opportunity to give some players not usually featured in the England lineup a chance to play.
While Hodgson will most likely stick to a mix of stalwart veterans with a few up-and-coming players, there will undoubtedly be a more productive lineup Hodgson can deploy that would be a factor in the remaining World Cup qualifiers and ultimately, in Brazil in 2014.
Here's a look at the starting 11 Roy Hodgson should deploy with an eye on 2014.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
The choice for the No. 1 shirt for England is largely by default.
Ben Foster still chooses to decline opportunities to play for England, preferring to spend international breaks resting and spending time with his family.
Fraser Forster is playing well for Celtic at the moment, being a key part of their Champions League success. But English players not playing in the Premier League rarely get true consideration for spots on the England Squad.
John Ruddy is, well, John Ruddy.
That leaves Joe Hart as the main option. And he's a good option to have. The Manchester City keeper has only allowed nine goals in 10 Premier League matches, as Manchester City has yet to lose a Premier League match so far this season.
Center Back: Gary Cahill
When healthy, Gary Cahill is one of the top center backs in the Premier League. He's even better than his more renowned and controversial teammate John Terry.
Cahill is a force in the air, winning 18 of 23 aerial duels so far this season, according to WhoScored.com. The Chelsea man is very hard to beat on the dribble as well, allowing only one player to beat him off the dribble so far this season.
Cahill is also willing to stand in and block a shot, blocking 10 shots in his seven appearances. He's done this while playing very cleanly, as Cahill has only committed three fouls so far this season and has yet to be booked.
The former Bolton defender is also a skilled offensive player. Cahill has completed 92 percent of his passes, including 18 of 25 long balls. The 26-year-old has also scored two goals and provided an assist in his seven Premier League matches.
Center Back: Phil Jagielka
While not as physically imposing as Cahill, Phil Jagielka makes up for it with his ability to read the game and cut out attacks before they really begin.
Jagielka has made 23 interceptions so far this year in 10 Premier League matches, and is among the league leaders for center backs.
Jagielka is no slouch in the air, either. The Everton back has won 21 of 31 aerial battles this season according to WhoScored.com. Jagielka is also skilled at clearing the ball from danger, with 88 clearances to his credit, and will block shots when needed, with 11 blocked shots so far this season.
Jagielka has played in all 10 matches so far this season for Everton, and can be considered one of the major reasons why the Toffees are currently sitting fourth in the Premier League table.
Left Back: Leighton Baines
Jagielka isn't the only reason for Everton's early success. Leighton Baines has also been a key figure in the Everton back four.
Baines has been a force to deal with on the left flank this season, and can honestly be considered the best left back in the Premier League, even ahead of Ashley Cole. The Everton man already has two goals and two assists this season.
Baines' passing is his main strength. The 27-year-old averages 4.4 key passes per match according to WhoScored.com, which is the top mark in the Premier League. Baines has also made 40 successful crosses this season.
The left back doesn't really stand out with his defensive capabilities, but Baines has been solid on defense as well. Baines has averaged 1.8 tackles, 1.7 interceptions and 1.9 clearances per match.
Right Back: Kyle Walker
Not nearly the same type of offensive player as Leighton Baines, Kyle Walker would make a great partner on the right side of the back four for England.
With Baines' marauding style, Walker is a steadier, more consistent option than the current first choice at right back for England, Glen Johnson.
Walker is a very solid defender, with 2.1 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game. The Tottenham defender is adept at removing the ball from danger, with 60 clearances already to his credit. In his 10 games, Walker has only been beaten off the dribble twice.
While Walker isn't spectacular on offense, he doesn't play outside himself, either. The 22-year-old has only seven turnovers and has been dispossessed only eight times in 10 matches. Walker has also made twice the number of key passes compared to Johnson (16-8), according to WhoScored.com.
Holding Central Midfielder: Mark Noble
At some point, Mark Noble might wonder what it is going to take to get a call-up to the England squad.
The West Ham United vice-captain has been a vital part of the Hammers' flying start after being promoted from the Champions League last season. Finding a harder worker in the midfield would be quite a task, as Noble leads the Premier League with 4.4 tackles per match according to WhoScored.com. Along with his tackling ability, Noble can also cut out opposition passes well, averaging 1.3 interceptions per match.
While Noble is known as a defensive midfielder, the 25-year-old is underrated offensively. Noble has scored two goals, and is quite an adept passer as well. His pass completion rate of 83.8 percent is very good considering the amount of long balls he plays (41 of 67 long balls completed). His 1.8 key passes per match are quite good, considering the position he plays.
With Noble in the midfield, that would let some other members of the squad concentrate on creating chances on their own. Roy Hodgson should get Noble a cap before he changes his mind and plays for Ireland, for which he is also eligible.
Left Outside Midfielder: Adam Lallana
Adam Lallana—another player that deserves his first England cap sooner rather than later—should be making the trip to Sweden next week.
Lallana was a late call-up to the England squad for the match against Ukraine in September, but has yet to play for England or receive another opportunity.
The Southampton midfielder is one of the best assist men in the Premier League. His four assists are tied for fourth in the league, behind only Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney. In total, Lallana has made 18 key passes in his 10 Premier League matches so far.
What makes Lallana stand out is his defensive work, rare for a winger. With Leighton Baines running the left flank, having a midfielder that can drop in and defend when Baines makes a run is key. Lallana is superb defensively, with 28 tackles and 31 interceptions while only committing seven fouls, according to WhoScored.com.
Right Outside Midfielder: Aaron Lennon
With two midfielders that are very comfortable in defensive roles, Roy Hodgson can take a chance with one who isn't.
No one will accuse Aaron Lennon of being a defensive stalwart, even though his 11 tackles and 10 interceptions in Premier League matches this season are nothing to sneeze at.
Lennon's role would be to break down defenses with his pace and dribbling abilities. His 1.7 successful dribbling runs and 2.4 key passes per match, according to WhoScored.com. The Tottenham winger is also adept at drawing fouls, drawing 1.3 fouls per match.
With Tottenham teammate Kyle Walker behind him at right back, Lennon would have the freedom to be creative since Walker isn't ambitious on offense and is used to making up for Lennon if he is slow recovering on defense.
Attacking Central Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
At 32 years of age, Steven Gerrard is nearing the end of his prime. The 2014 World Cup will most likely be Gerrard's last appearance in an England jersey.
With Mark Noble and Adam Lallana around to take some of the defensive responsibilities away from Gerrard, the England captain can concentrate on being a playmaker in central midfield.
His 2.7 key passes per match ranks seventh in the Premier League and Gerrard also ranks in the top 20 in shots per match with 2.7, according to WhoScored.com. Gerrard is deadly accurate with long balls as well, completing 68 out of 87 long passes.
Not to say that Gerrard's defensive skills wouldn't be welcome. The Liverpool veteran has made 26 tackles and 14 pass interceptions so far this season. So Gerrard could play as a second holding midfield should Hodgson choose to play more of a 4-5-1 setup.
With such a young midfield, Gerrard's experience will be welcome to hold things together during tough times.
Withdrawn Striker: Wayne Rooney
Even though Wayne Rooney is being overshadowed at Manchester United this season by Robin van Persie, Rooney is a no-brainer for inclusion in any England side.
Rooney has become more of a playmaker this season, with a Premier League-high five assists to go along with his two goals. His stats aren't that remarkable in the Premier League, but Rooney has been more of a factor in the Champions League, with one goal and two assists in three matches.
Rooney's 32 international goals are the most among any active English player. At just 27-years-old, Rooney has at least another five years of international football in him before he puts on the England shirt for the last time.
Advanced Striker: Peter Crouch
Peter Crouch may be in Roy Hodgson's doghouse after reportedly refusing a call-up to the England squad to be a back-up for Euro 2012, but it's time to mend fences and get the Stoke City front man back in the lineup.
With Rooney playing in a withdrawn playmaking role, England would need someone to win balls up front and finish on set pieces. No one is better at winning aerial duels than Crouch, who has won 91 out of 126 duels so far this season according to WhoScored.com.
The 31-year-old still has a couple of quality years left, and is among the top 10 in Premier League goal scorers with four, playing on a struggling Stoke City side which only has nine points from 10 matches.
Yes, Jermain Defoe is probably a better overall player than Crouch. But Defoe's style really doesn't match up well with Rooney. Rickie Lambert could be a suitable partner for Rooney, but just isn't as suited to playing 90 minutes at a full international level.