Later today, Roy Hodgson is to name his England squad to take on Scotland in a friendly next week. Injuries have depleted his forward options severely, with several big names set to miss out. It seems these injuries only scratch the surface of a problem area for the England manager.
Wayne Rooney is the star name in England’s attack. Since bursting onto the scene at Euro 2004, Rooney has become the focal point of the national team’s frontline. The 27-year-old has found the net 36 times for his country, streets ahead of his compatriots. An apparent shoulder injury means he looks set to miss out on the squad to play Scotland.
Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll and Daniel Sturridge are also all ruled out of contention through injury. Defoe, the most experienced member of the trio, is often seen as next in line to start after Rooney as both Carroll and Sturridge haven’t made any real impact on the international scene. Both men are now at new clubs, and will hope first team football will deliver the goals to cement their places in future squads.
Danny Welbeck is the only out-and-out centre forward who is available to play Scotland. The Manchester United striker has talent, but his goal-scoring record is questionable. In 16 caps Welbeck has found the back of the net only five times. Not a terrible record, but his club record suggests improvement is needed. Welbeck scored one league goal in the whole of the 2012-13 season.
Theo Walcott has often spoken of his desire to lead the line for both Arsenal and England. Despite starting some games as a centre-forward for Arsenal, he soon found himself back on the right wing. This is a position he remains in at international level, and in 33 caps has only scored in two games (albeit one of those was a hat-trick against Croatia). Even from the wing, Walcott should really be scoring more.
The big worry for Hodgson, however, is the lack of young talent coming through. At this summer’s Under-21 European Championship, the England squad included strikers Nathan Delfouneso, Connor Wickham, Marvin Sordell and Wilfried Zaha. None of these players have any real Premier League experience, and as a result are stagnating in their development.
Zaha is currently the exception, having joined Manchester United. However it remains to be seen how much game time he receives, and how impressive he will be.
These factors may result in Hodgson having to take some gambles in his attacking selections. Peter Crouch is currently frozen out, and the 32-year-old didn’t have a great domestic campaign for Stoke last year. However his international strike-rate is better than one goal in every two games, which is difficult to ignore.
Uncapped strikers Rickie Lambert and Gary Hooper could find themselves thrust into the international limelight, should they impress at club level. Again the question remains, can they make the step up?
Regardless who makes the Scotland squad, the striker position is a major concern for manager Roy Hodgson. With no young players making any headlines, the pool is pretty shallow. Hodgson will pray future squads don’t see as many injuries as this one.