Why Jon Flanagan Should Cover Possible World Cup Absence of Oxlade-Chamberlain

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 5, 2014

VALE DO LOBO, ALGARVE, PORTUGAL - MAY 21:  Jon Flanagan in action during a training session at the England pre-World Cup Training Camp at the Vale Do Lobo Resort on May 21, 2014 in Vale Do Lobo, Algarve, Portugal.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had a rough, unlucky season when it comes to injuries.

He lasted just 45 minutes in Arsenal's 2013-14 seasonal opener against Aston Villa, clashing with Antonio Luna and sustaining knee ligament damage that would keep him out the best part of six months.

After a few niggles and upsets post-return, he was finally hitting form ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup before more suspected ligament damage, per The Guardian, saw his world fall apart in the last night's friendly against Ecuador.

Now, England and Roy Hodgson must consider who to replace him with, and the sickening part is he was the best player on the pitch in Miami on Wednesday.

He'd seemingly played himself into contention for a starting role against Italy—just as he had done for the opener against France at Euro 2012—and in his mini duel with Ross Barkley, despite both looking superb, he had come out the near-undisputed winner.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JUNE 04:  Frank Lampard of England checks on injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of England as he lies on the pitch during the International friendly match between England and Ecuador at Sun Life Stadium on June 4, 2014 in Miami Gardens, F
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Talk has now turned to who replaces him, and the names being mentioned are Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley. Those are like-for-like swaps if Chamberlain is considered a central midfielder, but England already have a tonne of those on the 22-man roster; they're hardly in trouble now.

Instead, Hodgson should use the potential spare slot in the squad to fix the problem he should have done in the original round of selections: Right-back.

After watching Glen Johnson flatter to deceive defensively—again—against Peru and James Milner looking out of position, unconditioned and utterly lost against Ecuador, it's perhaps time to take the gamble Brendan Rodgers did earlier this year.

Jon Flanagan is the most natural answer at right-back remaining, and bringing him up from the stand-by squad, despite not being a central midfielder, is the best move Roy can possibly make.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 30:  Glen Johnson of England is closed down by Josepmir Ballon and Alberto Rodriguez of Peru during the international friendly match between England and Peru at Wembley Stadium on May 30, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Ros
Clive Rose/Getty Images

There's no precedent to say "Flani Alves," as Reds fans call him, will replicate impressive domestic form on the international stage, and the selection is far from a safe pick.

But he's is a defence-first full-back, the only of its kind on the roster, and with Leighton Baines flying forward on the left frequently, perhaps that's exactly what the Three Lions need.

Think Barcelona's balance with Eric Abidal (holding) and Dani Alves (flying); it's the tandem all teams should look to achieve and the sort of system many ignore. Jordi Alba and Alves, both flying, have caused Barca inherent issues in Abidal's wake, and many, many clubs can attest to the same.

Flanagan works hard, knows the system, is familiar with Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Co. and, critically, he is aware of his own limitations. He's a careful player; a potentially modest, yet extremely effective solution to a long-held weakness.

Right-back is the Achilles' heel of Hodgson's England for some time. Germany have been forced to press ahead with Erik Durm at left-back due to an injury to Marcel Schmelzer, and the Three Lions should be taking a similar full-back-related gamble for the finals.