It’s 7 weeks until the start of the World Cup and international managers are dreading their players calling them the day after limping out of a game. Yesterday Gareth Southgate received one such call from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and now has an extra selection headache.
For the player who’s reinvented himself as a dynamic central midfielder at Liverpool after years of malaise and missed promise at Arsenal it’s a huge blow particularly after he spent the 2014 World Cup as an injured passenger in the squad, it leaves Southgate needing to further asses his options.
Who comes in?
The Ox’s inform teammate Jordan Henderson is a certainty to start as the holding midfielder against Tunisia after impressing for his country against Holland and dominating for his club against Roma with Eric Dier also a squad certainty. Finding a central partner for Henderson following Ox’s demise is a search that many will focus on Liverpool. Adam Lallana is due back from injury in the coming days and should get a last chance to impress in a roll that may well suit his game- in front of Henderson but behind the front 3 meanwhile James Milner has been hugely impressive of late leading to some speculation Southgate may try to bring him back from international retirement.
Elsewhere Ruben Loftus-Cheek has shown good form since returning from injury for Crystal Palace, RLC impressed on his England debut in November picking up the Man of the Match award against Germany and must be close to inclusion this summer. Tottenham confirmed on Tuesday morning Harry Winks is on his way back to full fitness: could he find something over the last weeks of the season to get himself back into contention after a promising autumn for club and country? Fabian Delph has returned to fitness for Manchester City but is perhaps too negative a player for the role. In March Southgate handed Lewis Cook his debut and has been in steady form for Bournemouth and of course there’s Jack Wilshere.
It’s par for the course with England who’ve had races to be fit and injury pullouts. Last time it was Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, in South Africa Rio Ferdinand returned home after 1 training session, in Germany there was Wayne Rooney’s metatarsal and in 2002 David Beckham just made it but which time England had lost Steven Gerrard & Gary Neville.
Further back there was Bryan Robson coming home early from Mexico ’86 & Italia and Kevin Keegan missing most of Spain ’82. Currently Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer are both doubtful for Germany as is Neymar for Brazil whilst smaller nations such as Egypt and Tunisia have lost key players they can ill afford to miss- what we can conclude is if Ox proves the only pullout England have got off lightly.