Jack Wilshere’s participation at the World Cup for England this summer looks in doubt after the Arsenal midfielder was ruled out for at least six weeks with a broken foot.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that the midfielder has taken the news badly, saying at a press conference on Friday that he was “very down” and that he has “gone away for a few days to get away from things and think about something else.”
Wenger believes Wilshere will recover in time for the World Cup, but England manager Roy Hodgson must now make contingency plans for the summer without the influential youngster.
Although many players are still jockeying for a seat on the plane to Brazil, Wilshere was one of the few that was effectively guaranteed a place in the squad, if not the starting eleven.
While Wilshere may miss out on the opportunity to shine on the biggest footballing stage of them all, the opportunity now surely beckons for Ross Barkley to announce himself on the international scene.
In the event that the Arsenal midfielder does not recover in time to represent his country, Hodgson must assess all of his options and come to the conclusion that Everton’s emerging star deserves a place in his squad.
Barkley has enjoyed a breakout year under new Everton manager Roberto Martinez. Although he has been in and out of the side in recent times, more often than not the youngster has been employed in his favoured role just off of the striker and impressed. The role that Barkley played in the Toffee’s goal on Saturday in their FA Cup defeat to Arsenal was an advert for the qualities that he would bring to the England set-up.
With a willingness to take opponents on and an eye for goal, Barkley is capable of being a match winner on his day for his country.
As a young Wayne Rooney demonstrated at Euro 2004, a youngster with the right ability and confidence can make a big impression on an international tournament.
With the “Golden Generation” gradually phasing out amidst the introduction of a new set of players, few English midfielders have demonstrated a capacity to replicate the Everton youngster’s attacking intent or composure in possession in the final third.
There are perhaps safer alternatives out there. Players that have more experience for club and country. But none of these options would resemble potential match winners like Barkley if he was selected by Hodgson.
Tom Cleverley has hardly impressed for club and country so far this season and although he was once touted as an attacking option, he is now primarily a deep-lying player who recycles possession.
Jordan Henderson has enjoyed a solid campaign in a rampant Liverpool side thus far, but he too is not a creative individual that would pose an offensive threat like Barkley.
With players such as Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain understandably preferred by Hodgson as wide options, there is a real lack of players that can create and dribble from a central position.
Barkley could operate in a deeper role if required but that isn’t his natural position and would be to the detriment of his attacking instincts. With Wayne Rooney being the current occupant of the position just off of the striker, the Everton youngster would most likely be utilised as an impact player from the bench.
But it is an option that Hodgson should be pleased to have. Especially in a knockout competition, England need to take players in their squad that can change the course of a game and Barkley definitely fits this category.
Of course, Wilshere may be able to recover in time to participate. But England should be wary of taking an injured or a recently recovered player to an international tournament once again, as the strategy has backfired in the past. Rooney’s infamous metatarsal in 2006 comes to mind. Plans for the Arsenal star’s absence should be made now.
Perhaps there are more sensible and solid options than Barkley for Hodgson to pick from. And it is a decision that is obviously dependent upon how the manager intends to set-up his side for the opening group fixture against Italy on June 14th and beyond.
But if Hodgson needs to replace Wilshere in the squad, then he could a lot worse than taking a chance on Barkley. With his confidence and raw talent, the Everton youngster could really be the one to conjure a moment of magic and make the difference.
In an ideal world for England fans, both players would be available to represent their country this summer. As it stands however, Wilshere’s potential loss should give Barkley the opportunity to shine on the international stage.