After his star turn in Everton’s 2-1 win at Swansea, we ask if Ross Barkley should be part of England’s World Cup squad.
1. He can take a free-kick
Set pieces have traditionally been one of England’s strengths. While Wayne Rooney and Steve Gerrard can take a free-kick, it would be nice to have another option for the direct delivery. Barkley, along with team-mate Leighton Baines, has fantastic technique with the dead ball and is therefore probably handy at a penalty too. Interestingly, all four players hail from the same part of the world.
2. He is a dynamic central midfielder, and England don’t have many of them
Gerrard, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard are fine, experienced players, but they don’t get up and down with same enthusiasm as the young, quick Barkley. England have plenty of mobile options in wide and forward positions, but they are often caught short in the middle of the park. Their collective lack of pace was exposed ruthlessly by Chile recently, and who can forget how Mesut Ozil and co. took them apart in the 2010 World Cup?
If English fans are going to complain about the relative lack of technical skill compared to the likes of Spain, Netherlands, Germany and of course Brazil, they will have to accept that young, relatively untested players will need to be blooded. While still raw, Barkley has a good first touch, can dribble past players and has a fierce shot. With Jack Wilshere blowing hot and cold at the moment, that alone should be reason enough to take him to Brazil
4. He appears level headed and unspoilt by ‘fame’
Britain’s obsession with celebrity has long extended to football, and in recent years the behaviour and manner of English players has been questioned – and with good reason. He’s only recently burst on to the scene, but Barkley appears to be level headed and focused. Compare to Wilshere, who by this stage of his career had already been in trouble for some boozy scrapes, and Barkley seems to have the grounded mentality of his continental cousins.
1. He is totally unproven
A handful of stand-out Premier League performances does not an international footballer make. Anyone who comes through the academy of a club like Everton can kick a football, but how do we know he can handle the different pace of the international game? Can he handle the mental pressure?
2. Remember Theo Walcott?
There are no guarantees that Barkley will actually play. Everyone was excited by Walcott’s inclusion in the 2006 World Cup, but he didn’t even feature and it was a waste of a spot. With England’s midfield likely to include Gerrard, Carrick and one of Wilshere or Lampard (or, on current form, Jordan Henderson), is Roy Hodgson going to take a player who could be a mere flash-in-the-pan, or will he plump for an Adam Lallana or Tom Cleverley, who while not quite as exciting have a track record of sorts?
3. Could it be too much too soon?
We complain about English players being overhyped to the point of complaceny, and there is a real risk that it could all get to Barkley’s head. Better let him develop over time, and focus on bringing him through for the Euro qualifiers.
A controversial statement given the positivity surrounding him, but a couple of goals and a handful of assists do not a world-class midfielder make. No-one speaks about James Milner being a shoo-in for the starting XI, but he has won titles and scored the winning goal at Bayern Munich. So far Barkley has achieved nothing.
What do you think? Should Barkley be the first name on the team sheet, a last resort or somewhere in between? Have your say below!