Whichever way you look at it, Jermain Defoe should have been one of the first names on the England squad list for this summer’s European Championship in France.
As the statistics will later show, Defoe has been Sunderland’s inspiration this season – almost single handedly carrying the Black Cats out of the looming relegation zone to safety with his invaluable goalscoring talents.
Defoe has been open about his desire to make Roy Hodgson’s final cut of 23 players and has certainly reinforced his ambitions with strong performances.
Defoe is the third-most prolific English striker in the top flight behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy of Leicester, who have both confirmed their place in England’s tournament squad.
“If I do go, it’ll be a dream because it will be my third tournament and playing for England is something that I’ve always wanted to do.
“I’m happy with the way I’ve performed this season. I’ve ticked every box and if I don’t go then I can say at least I’ve done everything right.”
Everyone expected that Hodgson would select Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, but after Welbeck’s injury, to omit Defoe in favour of Rashford is unfathomable.
Defoe has proved this season that he still has plenty to offer.
Addressing The Reasons For Defoe Not To Be Picked
The over-riding sense of injustice seems to stem from Defoe’s signature on his own death sentence, wavering any hope he had of returning to competitive international football the day he opted to ply his trade in Major League Soccer.
Hodgson warning Defoe in the months before the Tottenham man departed for Toronto FC in February 2014, suggesting that to play on North American shores would jeopardise his international place.
Certainly there was never any prospect of Hodgson travelling to Canada on a scouting mission, not helped by Toronto’s reputation within the MLS – a struggling side who offered nothing towards Defoe’s development, but were willing to pay £90,000-a-week for his services.
Moving to the MLS during a World Cup year certainly doesn’t aid your ambitions of playing for your country. Hodgson did pick Defoe as part of his squad for the March 2014 friendly against Denmark, but gave caps to emerging players within the England setup.
By March 2015, Defoe had already grown tired of Canada and returned to a completely different English landscape. The impressive Harry Kane was now in the England squad and by the summer friendlies in June last year, Hodgson selected Jamie Vardy and has never gone back to the Sunderland man.
In the second half of last season Defoe scored 4 times for the Black Cats – no-one batted an eyelid. Meanwhile, Vardy, Kane and Sturridge continued to impress Hodgson – who must still have a black mark against Defoe’s name for choosing the MLS ahead of his international career.
The reasons for Jermain’s inclusion however, far outweight these negatives…
Reasons For Defoe To Be Picked
Jermain Defoe’s statistics speak volumes – especially given his context as Sunderland’s lone striker, a side threatened by relegation and the team that boast some of the lowest possession and chances created stats in the Premier League.
Let’s start from the top:
Defoe Is Statistically England’s Best Striker
Defoe has demonstrated his striking potency consistently this season – enjoying his best goalscoring campaign since his Tottenham days in 2009/10 – marking the second-most prolific campaign of his entire career in the top-flight.
Defoe’s 15 league goals this season make him the third-most prolific English player in the division behind Harry Kane (25) and Jamie Vardy (24), who have both benefited from playing for two of the top 3 teams in the country rather than it’s fourth worst in the top-tier.
Importantly, Kane and Vardy are both the respective penalty kick takers for their clubs – Defoe is not. Without penalties to their names, Vardy has 19 goals, Kane boasts 20.
Defoe has also scored as many goals as Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney combined.
Penalties count too, of course. But if you compare all of England’s strikers in 2016 and remove penalties from the equation, Defoe is England’s best:
Jermain Defoe’s statistics are even more remarkable given that Sunderland have managed 46 league goals this season, Defoe, who also has an assist to his name, has directly contributed to around 35% of his team’s goals this season.
Jermain Defoe’s 15 goals in the Premier League this season have contributed to 14 of Sunderland’s 35 points. pic.twitter.com/gmBXhog72l
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 11, 2016
Notable invaluable strikes include the winning goal in Sunderland’s 3-2 comeback against Chelsea, his hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Swansea back in February and his point sealing goals in the 1-1 draws against Southampton, Newcastle, and Stoke.
No-one can question Defoe’s eye for goal and ability to influence any fixture. His talents have enabled Sunderland to either nick a victory or secure a valuable point time and time again. Defoe’s goals have contributed to 14 of Sunderland’s 38 points, indicating how vital he has been in Sunderland clinging onto their Premier League status for the tenth successive season.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that Defoe should start for England, but he certainly has a role to fill as a the man who can grab you goal with limited opportunities.
His sharpness in front of goal is further exemplified by his impressive shot accuracy rate of 66% – a rate higher than Kane, Vardy, Wayne Rooney, and Daniel Sturridge – while he has also converted 27.3% of his chances, which rises to 32.4% since January 1st.
Despite not featuring for England since November 2013, he is a proven goal-getter at international level having scored 19 goals in 55 matches, only 21 of which were starts – a very impressive haul considering the majority of his appearances were cameo substitute appearances.
Defoe could have been England’s salvation in previous tournaments and now Hodgson has overlooked his talents once more – seemingly in favour of an unproven international talent, Marcus Rashford.
Starting from the bench, Defoe could have been a real asset to England’s attack. His goals and determined performances despite his limited service have already proven plenty of people foolish for underestimating him this season. Hodgson can now be added to that list.
Inevitably at some point during Euro 2016, Roy will need to make an attacking change that will spark a goal. It will be at that moment that Hodgson turns to his bench and will wish he had taken Sunderland’s no.18 – the man in form with international pedigree and a proven goalscoring record from the bench – but he won’t be there, he’ll be watching in frustration like everyone else.