At the Departure Gate Week of Feb 3: Who's Currently in Hodgson's England Squad?

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterFebruary 4, 2014

At the Departure Gate Week of Feb 3: Who's Currently in Hodgson's England Squad?

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    The FIFA 2014 World Cup is set to begin in just 127 days and Roy Hodgson still has a number of tough decisions to make.

    Over the next three months numerous players in the Premier League—and a couple outside of it—will vie for the chance to represent England at Brazil this June.

    This is the second edition of a rolling feature, where we take a firm look at who's on the plane, checking flights or looking longingly at the process from afar.


    You can find the first edition of the franchise here.


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    Pack your bags

    Joe Hart has put together another solid month in goal for Manchester City, and although clean sheets haven't been easy to come by, his side are winning comfortably and often. He is England's No. 1.

    Meanwhile, in Scotland, Fraser Forster has broken a Celtic club record by collecting 11 consecutive clean sheets, per The Scotsman. He's on the plane too.


    Checking flights

    If England are to take the three best available goalkeepers, the third spot will be tightly contested by John Ruddy and Ben Foster.

    The former was set to go to Euro 2012 but for a broken finger, but the latter is performing quite well for West Bromwich Albion at the moment.


    Pipe dream

    Jack Butland put in an immense showing on January 18 vs. Crystal Palace, but he's lost his spot to fit-again Asmir Begovic.


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    Pack your bags

    Leighton Baines has returned to the Everton first-team after a foot ailment and he's easing back into form. Bryan Oviedo's injury has seen him become undroppable once again.

    Kyle Walker continues to enjoy a prime role in Tottenham Hotspur's resurgence and looks the most reliable, injury-free option on the right.


    Checking flights

    It would be unthinkable at this stage, but Ashley Cole is in certifiable danger of losing his World Cup spot. If he's not playing he shouldn't go, and Jose Mourinho's first-choice left-back is right-back Cesar Azpilicueta right now.

    Glen Johnson has been taken out of action with an "unspecified injury" after putting in some absolutely shocking performances for Liverpool over the past month. We'll see if he returns, but right now he's been deservedly dropped.


    Pipe dream

    Kieran Gibbs was looking good for Arsenal, but he's lost his place to Nacho Monreal following an injury. Luke Shaw, though, continues to move through the gears and looks fantastic as it stands.

    Nathaniel Clyne, like Gibbs, has lost his place to Calum Chambers in the Southampton XI following an injury.


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    Pack your bags

    Roy Hodgson's established first-choice pairing of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are still performing very well.

    Cahill, partnered by John Terry at Chelsea, has been an absolute rock at the back and continues to trouble the scoresheet—or at least the woodwork—on occasion. Jagielka missed a little time with injury, but he's coming back into form nicely.

    Phil Jones, given his versatility and growth, can essentially be counted as a dead-cert.


    Checking flights

    Manchester United centre-back Chris Smalling has been excellent since moving back into his correct position and his performance against Cardiff City last week was superb.

    Joleon Lescott still isn't playing much, but he's a reliable, left-sided centre-back.


    Pipe dream

    As it stands, Michael DawsonSteven Caulker and Steven Taylor have done very little to convince anyone they're worth a look.

Central Midfielders

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    Pack your bags

    Steven Gerrard, England's captain and chief playmaker, is a shoo-in and represents the first name on the team sheet.

    Manchester United's Michael Carrick and Arsenal's Jack Wilshere are in favour under Roy Hodgson and the latter, in particular, has been playing extremely well lately. It's a shame both are prone to injuries.


    Checking flights

    The battle to play for England in midfield—or even make the squad in full—is a really intriguing one.

    Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Gareth Barry are all playing extremely well for their clubs and all stand a very strong chance of making the squad. The mobility (or lack of) in a Gerrard-Barry-Carrick midfield is a scary thought, though.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can play centrally if asked to, while Frank Lampard still has a chance given his experience—despite losing his spot in Chelsea's XI to Nemanja Matic.


    Pipe dream

    Tom Cleverley is not the Conference football player Man Utd fans are trying to make him out to be, but he's slipped in England's pecking order.

    Leon OsmanFabian DelphJack Rodwell and Scott Parker are all very much on the outside looking in.

Wide Men

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    Pack your bags

    Reliable James Milner looks set to go despite a lack of playing time for Manchester City. He's a typically English resource.

    Danny Welbeck will go too, as his connection with Wayne Rooney is strong and he's a versatile, useful prospect to have at your disposal.

    Theo Walcott would have been a shoo-in, but his ACL injury has ruled him out until the 2014-15 season commences.


    Checking flights

    With Walcott out and Milner—despite assured of a spot—unlikely to feature as a starter, the fight to play on the right is heating up.

    Adam Lallana, Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all battling among themselves for the chance, and form will play a major factor.

    What Roy Hodgson must ensure he includes, though, is natural width on the right, and Raheem Sterling looks a strong shout if he continues his current form.


    Pipe dream

    Ashley Young has improved over the last few weeks, but there's a host of more impressive players blocking his path still. Wilfried Zaha will need to excel in every single game at Cardiff City if he's to trouble the 23.


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    Pack your bags

    England's star man Wayne Rooney has returned to fitness and is back in the Manchester United XI. Roy Hodgson will hope his form steadily rises and peaks in time for the summer.

    The gaffer has also made it clear he is desperate to involve Daniel Sturridge in the XI where possible, and his form for Liverpool—14 goals from 14 league games—is excellent.


    Checking flights

    Rickie Lambert has been a little abject for his club this season but over the last few weeks has really turned it on. He produced a pass against Fulham so good, that had Andrea Pirlo done it we'd be crowning him king of the earth and all its resources.

    Jay Rodriguez, too, is regularly among the goals.


    Pipe dream

    Jermain Defoe won't play a competitive match until mid-March. That gives him around two months to win a place back in Hodgson's squad.

    Andy Carroll showed great promise on his return to starting Premier League action for West Ham over the weekend, but still managed to get sent off.


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    Here is the current overview of the squad, with sure-fire selections in bold, maybes in normal and long-shots in italics. Please note, this is not a mock 23-man squad, but a summary of the previous slides.


    Joe Hart, Fraser Forster
    John Ruddy, Ben Foster
    Jack Butland


    Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Kyle Walker,
     Phil Jones
    Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling, Joleon Lescott
    Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Gibbs, Steven Caulker, Michael Dawson, Steven Taylor


    Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick, Jack Wilshere
    Frank Lampard, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson, Gareth Barry
    Leon Osman, Fabian Delph, Scott Parker, Jack Rodwell, Tom Cleverley


    Wide Men
    James Milner, Danny Welbeck
    Adam Lallana, Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling
    Wilfried Zaha, Ashley Young

    Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge
    Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez
    Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe


    "Certain" to fly: 14
    Seats left: 9