Defender with 312 Premier League appearances highlights England’s troubles

Ryan Benson

Every time an England squad is announced, it feels like we go through the same emotions on each occasion. We are filled with trepidation and just general malaise at the state of selection when compared to the riches once wasted, while we are adamant that half the squad shouldn’t be included and the manager should be binned.

<sarcasm> Of course, no-one has ever been more right about anything in life – ever – than a football fan talking about the team he supports. </sarcasm>

Nevertheless, if you can get past some of the obvious and over-the-top bias that comes with the tribalism often associated with football fandom, it won’t take you long to grow frustrated with the latest England squad.

Most will recognise that England’s problem area is defence, particularly centre-back. While the full-backs aren’t anything special, the lack of options in central positions is plain to see and somewhat highlighted by Phil Jagielka’s inclusion by Gareth Southgate.

A decent centre-back for much of his career, Jagielka is now 34, slow and on the down. The fact is, he is still probably one of England’s five best centre-backs, but considering he has never been anything more than a mid-table standard player, that he is still regarded as being one of their better options is rather damning.

Perhaps he wouldn’t have been included at all were Chris Smalling fit – though Jose Mourinho didn’t seem too convinced about his “injured” status on Sunday.

But, Smalling’s presence wouldn’t have exactly been a good rebuttal considering the Manchester United defender has been largely abysmal when involved at club level this term.

The next in the pecking order is believed to be Ben Gibson of Middlesbrough. He’s not exactly an option that will thrill anyone, but only four teams have conceded less than Boro in the Premier League this term and he has played every minute of their 11 matches.

But again, although Boro have a good defensive record so far this term, England’s dearth of world-class options means players are in with a shout after just a few decent games, as opposed to a sustained run of form.

Of course, England aren’t necessarily the only country to have this issue – Real Madrid’s Nacho Fernandez, a fairly average defender, is getting picked by Spain.

However, it really makes one realise how much England under-performed when the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell were regulars. That’s a collective standard that the Three Lions won’t see again for a long, long time.

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