Manchester United

Phil Jones' Flexibility Opens Up a Number of Options for Roy Hodgson and England

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 02:  Phil Jones of England runs with the ball during the International Friendly match between Brazil and England at Maracana on June 2, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentNovember 14, 2013

There will have been a few nervous glances at England training this week.

As Roy Hodgson's squad prepare for friendlies against Chile and Germany, his players will have been checking out the competition. 

Not the competition for a place in the team for the two games at Wembley but competition for a place on the plane to Brazil next summer.

Injury permitting, there are a select few who are guaranteed a place in the squad—Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart among them.

But others will be anxiously doing the maths, working out how many defenders, midfielders and strikers Hodgson is likely to pick and who is standing in the way.

But it's an equation that includes an unknown quantity in Phil Jones.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 02:  Phil Jones of England in action during the International Friendly match between Brazil and England at the Maracana Stadium on June 2, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Jones' England career started at right-back against Montenegro in October 2011. His second cap, a month later, came as a midfielder against Spain.

His last appearance, against Scotland in August, came as a centre-back, his first taste of senior international football as a central defender.

For Manchester United, he started the season as a right-back against Swansea. When David Moyes broke up the Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic partnership after the defeat at Manchester City, it was the 21-year-old who filled in.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13:  Phil Jones of England is the centre of attention ahead of an England Training Session at London Colney on November 13, 2013 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

His last three starts, against Norwich, Fulham and Arsenal, have come in midfield, although he ended the game against Arsenal as a centre-back after Vidic was substituted at half-time.

Moyes has made use of Jones' flexibility this season and it will benefit Hodgson in the summer. But other England hopefuls are likely to pay the price.

Jones is a manager's dream when there's a major championship to plan for. He's comfortable at right-back and at centre-half, and his last three games for United have shown he's capable in midfield, as well.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10:  England players Kieran Gibbs, Phil Jones and Jack Wilshere appear with England coach Roy Hodgson (L) for an England training session at London Colney on October 10, 2013 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Jones is likely to board the plane to Brazil primarily as back-up to first-choice centre-halves Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill. But his effectiveness at right-back means Hodgson shouldn't need another alternative to Kyle Walker. That could mean Glen Johnson misses out.

And if Hodgson is confident enough in Jones's ability in midfield, it could cost someone else their place.

For the England manager, though, it opens up a number of possibilities. He can afford to take a fifth striker (he only took four to Euro 2012) or a wild-card pick such as Ravel Morrison or Ross Barkley.

But Hodgson's gain will mean others are forced to watch the World Cup from afar this summer and ensure Jones is the subject of more than one funny look at training this week.

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