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Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool & Man Utd aces’ availability gives Hodgson selection headache

England's Jack Wilshere (centre) replaces team mate Steven Gerrard. Picture: Mike Egerton/EMPICS England's Jack Wilshere (centre) replaces team mate Steven Gerrard. Picture: Mike Egerton/EMPICS

Sunday, February 3, 2013
11:33 AM

Roy Hodgson has no intention of shunting players out of position to make life easier for himself.

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The England boss had all his senior midfield men available for the first time when he selected his squad for Wednesday’s friendly with Brazil.

Scott Parker and Gareth Barry were the first casualties, not even making the cut, and Phil Jones has dropped down to Under-21 duty.

That still leaves Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere and Michael Carrick, not to mention Tom Cleverley, Leon Osman and James Milner, who have also featured in central midfield for their clubs.

Fabio Capello’s solution was to shift Gerrard into a wider role, where he formed a productive link with Wayne Rooney.

Hodgson does not fancy that idea.

It might not make him popular. But he is adamant trying to fit square pegs into round holes is not the way to progress.

“You must balance your team out,” he said.

“You get as many of your best players in the team but if you are really very fortunate and have got four exceptional players, who play in the same position and they are all fit and ready to play, I’m afraid you have to make the choice.

“The mistake can be to try and include them all.

“But I’m not going to ask Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard or Michael Carrick to play on the right wing.”

Hodgson knows no matter which way the decision goes, it will be criticised by some.

The 66-year-old is experienced enough to realise that is the drawback of being a manager.

But he prefers to have talk like that rather than angst about a lack of decent players.

“The talk and headlines don’t worry me,” he said.

“When you work with a team you know one day you will have to leave someone out and give another guy a go - and it’s often when a younger player is coming through.

“It’s always a difficult moment. You know it’s got to be done and you are making the right decision but on the other hand you are hurting someone who has done a fantastic job for you.

“But with a national team you have to be a little bit more sanguine, as do the players.

“The fact is they are all stars in their own right.

“Frank Lampard is to Chelsea what Gerrard is to Liverpool, what Wilshere could become for Arsenal, what Carrick is to Manchester United.

“You are not exactly comparing small clubs there.

“I’ll make my decisions as honestly as I can and it certainly won’t be through lack of respect for the one I leave out.”

If there is anything to be read from Hodgson’s words, it is that Gerrard might end up partnering Wilshere against Brazil.

Although their time on the pitch together is limited to the 13 minutes that separated Wilshere’s introduction in Sweden last November and Gerrard’s exit.

The pair were in opposition last Wednesday though, when Arsenal came from behind to snatch a draw against Liverpool.

And Hodgson was gratified to see a healthy respect between the pair.

“You can’t force relationships on people but their performances were exactly what you would want to see from two top players.

“They were respectful. They defended against each other very well, without resorting to a silly tackle or foul.

“It is interesting in football how often that happens - at the end of a game the two top johnnies have got that mutual respect.”

The situation is complicated.

After all, on Thursday Hodgson stated his belief Lampard could gain the seven caps required to join Gerrard in England’s exclusive 100-club.

Carrick is regarded as the most secure English passer in the Premier League.

But Gerrard is the captain. And Wilshere is the future.

And Hodgson believes they can operate in tandem.

“There’s no reason why that can’t work,” he said.

“When you have two players of great ability, who understand the game well and have good tactical awareness, you should be able to use them together.”

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