SAO PAULO, BRAZIL—England’s World Cup defeat to Uruguay has raised a host of problems with the current international set-up. After two games, Roy Hodgson’s team are still without a single point. Expectations were reasonably low ahead of the tournament, and yet England have still somehow conspired to underwhelm.
Arsenal seem an unlikely saviour. Traditionally, Arsene Wenger has been renowned for scouting and developing foreign talent. However, in the past couple of years the club have assembled a strong British core. Once England’s inevitable World Cup elimination is confirmed, three of that homegrown contingent could be called upon to contribute more heavily to the national cause.
The first of those is Jack Wilshere. Since bursting onto the scene as a teenager, Wilshere has been earmarked as the future of the England midfield. However, injuries have slowed his progress with Arsenal, and subsequently had an affect on his international career. He has, for example, been something of a peripheral figure during the World Cup in Brazil.
That surely won’t last for long beyond the tournament. During England’s match against Uruguay, Steven Gerrard looked like a player approaching the end of his international lifespan. If Wilshere can stay fit, he should replace Gerrard as the cornerstone of the England midfield as Hodgson begins to build toward UEFA Euro 2016.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another member of the current squad who could reasonably expect his role to increase. Were it not for an untimely knee problem, Chamberlain could already be starting for his country. He impressed enormously during the friendly with Ecuador, only for injury to scupper his chances of participating in the opening two games.
Against Uruguay, Hodgson introduced Ross Barkley to add pace and directness to his side. The switch worked to an extent, but Barkley looked very raw and naive in possession. Although still a young player, Chamberlain is much more mature in his use of the ball. For now, he remains a better bet than Barkley. If he can regain his fitness, it would not be a great surprise to see him included ahead of the Everton man for the final group game against Costa Rica.
Finally, there’s Kieran Gibbs. Gibbs can consider himself unlucky to play in one of the few areas of the field where England have some semblance of depth. Heading into the World Cup, he found himself behind Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and even John Flanagan in the international pecking order.
However, Cole has since retired from England duty. Baines, meanwhile, has been badly exposed during the games against Italy and Uruguay. There are mounting fears he will never quite be an international-class player. He’s not young either, so Hodgson might be unwise to persist with a player whose contribution will only be medium-term at best.
Selecting Gibbs and Shaw for his first squad after the World Cup would ensure freshness and fierce competition at left-back for years to come.
Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gibbs have all had their fair share of injury problems. However, if they can retain a decent level of fitness, they all stand a chance of becoming international mainstays before Euro 2016. On the evidence of this World Cup, the England team might be much better for it.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and is reporting from his World Cup base in Brazil.