After the announcement of England's 2014 World Cup squad, here are five key talking points:
Was Roy Hodgson Bold in Selecting Youth?
It was a refreshing, exciting squad that Roy Hodgson selected. But it's choosing was not bold—he could not justify experience this time around. During the season, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley have been better than Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing (all of whom were picked for Euro 2012).
The young players are our best players and are in the squad on merit, not as part a newfound thrill-seeking philosophy.
Does Hodgson Have a Big-Club Bias?
If anything, Hodgson showed a lack of boldness. He has not selected one outfield player from outside the top eight Premier League clubs. A brave decision would have been dropping Chris Smalling for Steven Caulker, or Danny Welbeck for Danny Ings.
“I don't think it really matters how well you're playing, it's who you play for,” Sunderland's Adam Johnson moaned to the Guardian back in March.
"All my caps came when I was at City. Sometimes I got picked when I wasn't playing. Now I'm playing more and I can't get a cap. It's just a fact. It's not me being sour. Some of the players, if they weren't playing for the big clubs, wouldn't be anywhere near it [the squad]."
It is hard to disagree with Johnson’s point. Whether he has done enough to get in the squad is debatable, but that Smalling and Welbeck have been selected remains a worry, considering the mixed seasons they have had.
Hodgson doesn’t have a huge pool to choose from, but there are players from mid-table and bottom-half clubs in the Premier League who have had good seasons, like Curtis Davies and Fabian Delph, who had not even been tested in friendlies.
Is Lambert Included as an Alternative to Carroll?
“It's no criticism of Andy,” Hodgson said of Carroll’s exclusion and Rickie Lambert’s inclusion. “I didn't think there was room in the squad for both."
There has been a consistent idea that England should take one of Lambert and Carroll, as though they are interchangeable lumps up front, but Rickie Lambert plays for Southampton, who pass and move with incision and speed, while Andy Carroll plays for Sam Allardyce’s West Ham.
Of Lambert’s 12 league goals this season, just two have been headers. His strengths are his technical qualities: he is probably the best free-kick and penalty taker in the entire England squad, and he is a natural finisher.
Carroll, on the other hand, has scored only headers. He has his strengths—he is the best in England at scoring the sort of goal he did against Sunderland a few weeks ago—but if Hodgson thinks they are like for like essentially because Lambert carries a bit of timber, then it suggests the Southampton man will be used purely as sub to lump it to when desperation sets in.
In which case, he should have picked Carroll.
If Gerrard Gets Injured, Who Replaces Him?
Hodgson looks set to build the team around his captain in his deep-lying midfield role, but if he gets injured, there is no obvious replacement. Frank Lampard or Jack Wilshere could fill in, but neither have the range of passing of Steven Gerrard or any track record in playing the lone, deep playmaker role.
Michael Carrick would have been the most natural for this job, but he has been left out again by Hodgson, as he was in Euro 2012. A change of formation would offer the best solution, with two from Lampard, Wilshere and Jordan Henderson sitting deep behind an attacking midfield three.
Do England Still Lack Pace?
For all the talk of exciting young talent, there are three very quick players missing through injury. Theo Walcott, Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker helped make up a devastatingly fast right flank through qualifying.
England’s likely right-sided pairing would be Glen Johnson and Raheem Sterling and while they have had a very good season at Liverpool, there is an element of direct, kick-and-run penetration that has made recent England sides so exciting to watch which will be missing.