London – Another England game, another wave of withdrawals. As if the notion of international friendlies weren't debased enough, England manager Roy Hodgson will go to Sweden on Wednesday with a squad stripped of a number of key players.
Theo Walcott is out after limping out of Arsenal's draw against Fulham on Saturday, joining Wayne Rooney who had to come off after taking a knock with 11 minutes left to play in Manchester United's win over Aston Villa.
Jonjo Shelvey, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon are also now unable to play, prompting Hodgson to call up Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson, Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Tom Huddlestone.
Midfielder Steven Gerrard, who was set to win his 100th cap in Gothenburg, will need to pass a fitness test after tweaking his knee in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, has criticised Hodgson for calling up midfielder Jack Wilshere, who has only just returned after 17 months out with injury.
“Jack is an important player for us and now he is fit and playing and available for selection. He understands we are going to put him in the squad,” Hodgson said, adding that conflict will always exist between national teams and club teams.
“We are never going to get a 100 per cent situation but we are perfectly satisfied,” he said.
Hodgson hinted that he sees Wilshere as part of a young breed coming through who could change England's approach away from the rigid 4-4-2 he favoured during the Euros.
“He is the type of midfield player all teams are looking for today - a lot of energy, ability on the ball, capable of running with the ball, very tenacious in his play and the necessary pace of course,” he said.
“All the top teams in the world and are going down the route of pace, technique and mobility as opposed to routes that have been successful in the past, not least for teams like Sweden and England.”
Wilshere, he said, trusts him to “look after him” in the friendly against Sweden, adding that the full 90 minutes might be a bit much for him at international level at this point in his career.
Seemingly the only club manager happy to see one of his players in the squad is Everton's David Moyes, who is delighted the 31-year-old Leon Osman has at last been given international recognition.
“I'm really pleased Roy has selected him, because on form in the Premier League, he is playing as well as anybody,” Moyes said.
“He is a determined, committed little footballer, and a really good footballer. If given the opportunity, he will help England play and get them on the ball. He wants the ball, he has lots of attributes and he is a tough little lad as well.” – Sapa-dpa