Since the retirement of Ashley Cole, the England left-back berth has seen more occupants than a travel lodge room.
One player has really stood out at club level over the last two seasons, yet most would suspect that he will be left at home this summer.
Aaron Cresswell was one of the best signings of last season and the West Ham man has continued to impress during this campaign. Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini may take a lot of the plaudits as Slaven Bilic looks to push for a top six finish, but Cresswell and Noble both deserve to be on the plane to the Euros this summer.
Cresswell has out performed every other English left-back in the Premier League this season by quite a distance. Kieran Gibbs can’t even force his way past Nacho Monreal as his days look numbered at Arsenal and Leighton Baines has been unimpressive at Everton, after being exposed as defensively suspect during the 2014 World Cup disaster.
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As much as we would all like Luke Shaw to play 200,000 games for England and become an internationally recognised superstar, Shaw’s season has been destroyed by injury once more and he looks extremely unlikely to be fit enough to be taken to France this summer. Shaw’s game relies one such pace and power, we have little idea of how capable he will be to provide those same gut-busting overlapping runs once he returns from injury.
Another alternative, and probably the most understandable one, for Roy Hodgson is Ryan Bertrand. The ex-Chelsea full-back has been used as a left sided centre-back of a three man central defence of late and has had to demonstrate his defensive capabilities. Bertrand, like Cresswell, was excellent throughout the 2014/15 campaign and was an integral component in Southampton’s lock tight defence.
Similarities between Bertrand and Cresswell do not end there. Both have seen their careers blossom at the highest level a few years later than many of their generation and they are both showing their ability without having to play for one of the ‘big’ clubs.
Defending at sides like Southampton or West Ham is a different game to having to prevent the occasional counter attack as an Arsenal or Chelsea left-back. Bertrand and Cresswell, unless Shaw makes some heroic recovery from injury, simply have to be the two players that Hodgson takes to France.
Experience means very little, experience, if you aren’t up to standard, is a hindrance. Baines has had his chance at the top level, he was found wanting, but Bertrand and Cresswell are both players who are superior defensively to the ex-Wigan man. England are unlikely to be dominating possession in France and both Bertrand and Cresswell will fill the fans with more faith that they can stop crosses, intercept passes and close down some of the trickiest wingers Europe has to offer.
Cresswell is averaging 1.1 key passes per game, which is pretty impressive for a full-back, compare that to Bertrand’s 0.6 and you begin to notice a minor difference in their game.
If Hodgson is serious about picking players on form rather than reputation, Cresswell must be first choice for England this summer. The formation is uncertain as of yet, but Bertrand, if required, would be a good option to play in a left-midfield role as extra protection.