There is an injury concern for England after Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered a knee injury in a World Cup warm-up against Ecuador yesterday. Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to be sidelined for somewhere between ten days and three weeks before returning to fitness, and it now leaves England manager Roy Hodgson with a difficult decision to make regarding his final squad for Brazil.
Oxlade-Chamberlain played well against Ecuador and was one of the real positives coming out of the game — until the injury occurred, that is. So what does Hodgson do now? Does he take Oxlade-Chamberlain and accept he will miss the early games but could be back for the final group game and beyond if England advance? Or does he bring in a fully fit player right away?
It could be a wasted place in the squad if Hodgson decides to keep him in the 23-man squad, but there are not many other options outside of that. The outfield players on the standby list are defenders Jon Flanagan and John Stones, Manchester United midfielders Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, and strikers Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll — none of whom are even close to a like-for-like replacement for Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Arsenal midfielder may not have been in line to start anyway, but he definitely would have been a dangerous substitute for Hodgson to have had up his sleeve. It will be difficult for Hodgson to potentially replace the pace and direct dribbling that Oxlade-Chamberlain brings; certainly nobody on the current standby list could do that.
Outside of the players on standby, somebody like Adam Johnson could be an option, but if he wasn’t good enough before, or even for the standby list, then perhaps it will encourage Hodgson to wait on Oxlade-Chamberlain instead. It’s a difficult decision for Hodgson to make, but having limited options is what will make the decision even harder yet.