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Why Roy Hodgson Needs to Bet on England’s Young Guns

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While England have considerable veteran depth, England’s gaffer needs to take risks, giving opportunities to Young Lions, to ensure World Cup success.

While England have considerable veteran depth, World Cup success will come down to England’s gaffer taking risks by giving opportunities to Young Lions.

In the lead-up to the World Cup, it is natural to speculate on the squad Roy Hodgson will name to wear the Three Lions in Brazil. While he typically opts to include veterans like Ashley Cole, one can put forth a compelling argument that he needs to take more risks to succeed past the competition’s group stage.

Specifically, one can point to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw, and Raheem Sterling as examples of England’s young talent. Each player is undergoing a good run-of-form at the moment in addition to possessing the passion necessary to change games, but will be considered "risky" investments.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, who will almost definitely be on the plane to Brazil, has proven that he is more effective as a centre-midfielder than a winger in recent Arsenal matches. As David_Wyatt noticed in his recent write-up on the OC’s potential, he should be starting week-in and week-out for England. His most recent display in club play at Bayern Munich is indicative of his game-changing quality. He successfully dribbled through one of the toughest teams in the world ten times, matching the entire Bayern squad’s number.

The Ox will likely be deployed on the wing in Brazil in Theo Walcott’s absence. To make such a decision would be a waste of his potential. He is a weak-crosser and is most effective at making incisive runs from deep, utilizing his pace and strength. To start Oxlade-Chamberlain in England’s central midfield is a risky proposition, because it means dropping a player like Frank Lampard from the starting-eleven.

If the OC is deployed in the middle of the park, the next risk that Hodgson ought to take is placing Raheem Sterling on the wing as a starter during the competition. He has displayed superb finishing and pace, cutting apart defenses with clever runs into dangerous areas. He hit the woodwork during England’s friendly with Denmark and was certainly one of the brighter players during that match. Despite this, he is unproven. With Danny Welbeck looking for a spot in the squad, it might be unrealistic for Sterling to become a consistent player in the Three Lions starting-eleven, but if Hodgson respects club statistics (Sterling’s WhoScored Rating: 7.3, Welbeck’s: 6.95), he would have fewer reservations in starting Sterling over Welbeck.

As many of our writers in the most-recent Lions of the Roundtable argued, Hodgson ought to drop veteran Ashley Cole in favor of Luke Shaw in England’s final-23 - a risk on account of Shaw's relative inexperience on the international stage. Statistically speaking, Shaw has been a stalwart at left-back this season, with a WhoScored rating of 7.07. Cole, in his few appearances after being subordinated to Cesar Azpilicueta, has a rating of 6.89. He has passion, a characteristic foreign to many players in today’s game.

What do you think? Does Hodgson have the audacity to drop veterans and try out Young Lions? Will taking risks help England succeed or force an early exit from the World Cup?