Roy Hodgson has named his squad for the pivotal World Cup Group H qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland, with the return of Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney surely plastering a rather large grin across his often-furrowed expression.
The strike duo missed the England qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine through injury, but their inclusion here should breed supreme confidence against Montenegro and Poland and, in turn, a spot at Brazil’s footballing festivities.
Hodgson’s attacking head-scratcher
By being able to include Rooney and Sturridge, it is clear that the strength in Hodgson’s latest ensemble lies in his attacking stock.
The returning pair are the form English strikers, combining for eight goals in the Premier League thus far, and will surely walk straight back into the starting XI for the Montenegro game, which England are 2/5 to win.
Danny Welbeck has scored six goals in his last seven games for the Three Lions and should make-up the forward three.
Meanwhile, Rickie Lambert has performed well since breaking onto the international scene, scoring twice already in his three caps, and can be used as a style-changer off the bench.
Ashley Young’s absence bodes well for Andros Townsend
Depending on Hodgson’s preferred system, Andros Townsend has a real chance of starting the game.
England’s last two Wembley outings have seen the manager defy his critics and field a 4-4-2 formation. If he sways that way again, the nippy Spurs youngster will surely get the nod as the only natural winger in the squad after Young’s snub and Theo Walcott’s injury.
Should a 4-3-3 be preferred, Hodgson has leaned towards fielding striking front men out wide. But Townsend would still figure to feature as an impact sub, and his love of a mazy run – he currently averages the most dribbles per game in the Premier League – can change the shape of a match.
Lack of defensive cover the only worry
With a squad packed so full of attacking vitality, Hodgson seems to have pulled an Arsene Wenger in forgetting about the defensive side of the game. Kyle Walker is the only out and out right-back in the squad while centre-back cavalry Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are desperately short of international experience. Should the customary flurry of withdrawals strike the group’s backline, Montenegro’s 11/2 price for a win could begin to look more favourable.