Steven Gerrard, as England captain, is guaranteed his place on the plane to Brazil, and the talented heir to his throne should go, too, says Will Unwin.
Ross Barkley has earned plenty of accolades and three England caps since cementing his place in the Everton squad this season under new boss Roberto Martinez, but Roy Hodgson’s desire to play safe and go with reliability could see him stay at home in June.
The Everton midfielder possesses the physical qualities that have been lost by Gerrard and Frank Lampard as the years have passed on their illustrious careers. His ability on the ball cannot be matched by any other English player in his position.
Facing Arsenal on Saturday lunch-time, the youngster came up against the experienced duo of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, who should know how to deal with these young upstarts.
The Frenchman, however, learned the hard away about the attributes the former Sheffield Wednesday loanee has in his locker. In the 32nd minute, Barkley brushed aside Flamini in his own half before running 60 yards with the ball at his feet, then accurately setting up Kevin Mirallas, who laid it on a plate for Romelu Lukaku to fire home from almost a yard out.
Barkley’s superb performance at the Emirates should have included a goal when Lukaku capitalised on fellow Belgian Thomas Vermaelen’s trip, but Barkley curled his pull-back over the bar from the penalty spot when unmarked.
Roberto Martinez praised his young midfielder after the Arsenal defeat, saying: “I thought he was a really threat, especially on the counter attack. He looked dangerous, he looked fresh. Overall I think his contribution was very very good and back to his normal self.”
His challengers for a first class ticket to Brazil have failed to take the league by storm. Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley are both suffering from the newly-found mediocrity suffered by Manchester United under David Moyes, with neither deserving an automatic call-up from Roy Hodgson.
Chelsea man Lampard has had age cruelly catch up with him, as his pace goes the majority of his attacking play has been lost with it, meaning it’s hard to justify picking him alongside Gerrard and Carrick in a 23-man squad, as they all operate in similar, deep positions.
James Milner is a firm Hodgson favourite due to his versatility, which will most likely earn his trip in June, despite his lack of game time for club Manchester City. The emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a player who can easily switch positions on the pitch, playing all across Arsenal’s midfield since returning from injury in January.
Former England striker Michael Owen also advocates Barkley’s selection, saying: "I'd be keen to push players like Ross Barkley, I think what we've got to make sure we have in Brazil is legs.
"In this day and age maybe we haven't got as good players technically as Brazil and Spain, so we need to run as much if not more, than any other team that is better then us, and for that you need players that have got the stamina.”
The man Barkley should have faced on Saturday, Jack Wilshere, will almost certainly join Gerrard in Brazil, if fit.
Others have forced themselves to be considered for the central midfield roles at international level, such as Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey are on the periphery, especially are the Liverpool man’s unspectacular efforts against Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday night.
England’s midfield can be pedestrian at times considering the crop of players that work within Hodgson’s system, but the pace, power and skill that Barkley would bring with him to Brazil could be a game-changer, the man to come off the bench when legs are tired to push the opposition back and ensure the Three Lions aren’t overly reliant on the inconsistent guile of Wayne Rooney and prowess of Daniel Sturridge in the final third.
There’s still plenty of time until the squad is announced, players will go in and out of form and pick up injuries, but there’s little doubt at the moment that Barkley’s endurance and skill are unlike anything else available to Hodgson at this moment in time and considering the minimal chance England have of winning the tournament, the Everton midfielder is type of player that should go to the World Cup this year.