Published On: Wed, Apr 25th, 2018

5 players looking to take Oxlade-Chamberlain's spot in England lineup

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All it took was a rather innocuous tackle on Aleksandar Kolarov to deny Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain involvement at this summer’s World Cup.

Related: Oxlade-Chamberlain ruled out of World Cup after suffering knee injury

The Liverpool midfielder travelled with England for the previous edition of the tournament in 2014, but was an unused substitute in each of his country’s three matches before a group-stage elimination.

With the 24-year-old out of the reckoning this time around, who is going to take the place he was making his own in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI?

Eric Dier

The obvious candidate and, barring injury, a certainty to be on the plane to Russia.

Dier‘s versatility is his greatest asset. Most of his appearances under Southgate and at Tottenham Hotspur this season have been in defensive midfield, but he’s also comfortable playing in the middle or on either side of a back-three.

Whether he can be a regular in England’s lineup remains to be seen, though. He was named on the bench for the first of March’s friendlies against the Netherlands, allowing Jordan Henderson to impress with a purposeful display. When Dier was selected for the following fixture with Italy, he produced what BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty described as a “solid and unspectacular” showing.

Without the box-to-box skills of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dier is currently playing second fiddle to Henderson or hoping for inclusion in Southgate’s preferred defensive trio.

Jonjo Shelvey

Shelvey‘s last England appearance came in a brief cameo against France in November 2015, seven months before Roy Hodgson was about to oversee an ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign. Dropping into the Championship with Newcastle United obviously didn’t help Shelvey’s international credentials, but his inconsistency has been most detrimental to his career.

Rafa Benitez is now uncovering the best of Shelvey, putting him in a deeper position where his ball-carrying ability and superb cross-field distribution is at its most potent. His current sparkling form is a far cry from when Benitez said Shelvey “let everyone down” in a season-opening home defeat to Tottenham.

Right now, it’s difficult to see Shelvey as anything other than a plan B – but it could be a potent one. The 26-year-old’s service is ideal for finding the runs of second-choice striker Jamie Vardy.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Loftus-Cheek made his England debut with four others – Jordan Pickford, Joe Gomez, Jack Cork, and Tammy Abraham – in last November’s 0-0 friendly with Germany, and was the best player on the park.

Southgate is a fan: “This season, going out and playing, has helped him. In the early season I saw him (for Crystal Palace) and he showed flashes of what we saw against Germany. I think he can affect big matches like he did.”

His experience playing under Southgate for the under-21 and senior sides will work in his favour, and the midfielder, who is on loan to the Eagles from Chelsea, is gradually improving since returning from injury in March.

Jack Wilshere

Arsenal‘s focus on Europa League commitments may work in Wilshere‘s favour. The Gunners’ remaining three matches of the Premier League season are a mere distraction, but if Wilshere can pull the strings in those games he could put himself in with a chance of being included in Southgate’s final throng.

There’s no denying his industriousness and eye for a pass, but taking a player who is so prone to injury could be a risk. He’s coming off yet another spell in the treatment room, and is fighting to be fit for the first leg of Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final with Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

What Wilshere has more than any other player on this list is international experience – he’s won 34 caps – but he’s also started in fewer league games this season. Even Jake Livermore and Cork would likely get selected ahead of him right now.

Dele Alli

Questions surrounding Alli‘s club form and the performances of Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard in March’s friendlies have loosened the Spurs midfielder’s grip on a starting berth. And if Southgate opts to play just Sterling behind a front man, the position Alli plays at Spurs is taken.

Related: 4 conclusions drawn from England’s early World Cup auditions

But there may be an alternative option, and one that could surprise rivals at the World Cup. In Alli’s early Spurs days following his move from MK Dons, he was often selected deeper in the midfield – more of a box-to-box role akin to a portion of Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool career and, incidentally, similar to the role Oxlade-Chamberlain has flourished in on Merseyside.

Playing that far back might be detrimental to Alli’s creativity – since the start of last season, he’s provided more assists (17) than any other Englishman in the Premier League – but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was trialled as a shuttler between defence and attack in June’s warmups with Nigeria and Costa Rica.

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