Ashley Cole is set to start for England against Germany at Wembley tonight, but it would appear his time as England’s first choice left-back is drawing ever closer to an end.
Cole remains a brilliant left-back – perhaps the finest to ever play in that position for the Three Lions – and England are spoiled for choice in that position, with Kieran Gibbs and Luke Shaw also competing.
But can Baines establish himself as Roy Hodgson’s first choice before the World Cup? We think it’s about time there was a changing of the guard. Here’s why…
1. Baines is lethal at set-pieces
The most obvious reason, but a key one. Baines’s pinpoint deliveries from set-pieces is well known and is a significant reason why he should get the nod for his country. He can score and create with his wicked left-foot. Who do you want chucking the ball into the box when you need a goal with 5 minutes to go – Cole or Baines?
2. Baines is younger
At 28 (going on 29) Baines is no spring chicken, but he is significantly younger than Cole, who will be 33 when the World Cup comes around next summer. Baines has already showed himself capable of playing in the England side and could become a long term choice before Gibbs establishes himself in the national setup.
3. Baines is more of an attacking threat
Baines is not only lethal from free-kicks, but likes to get forward at every opportunity. He links well with Steven Pienaar at Everton and is always bombing forward and making overlapping runs. At 32, Cole is no longer the attacking threat he was a decade ago.
4. Baines is less injury prone
Baines only got his recent England chance because of a rib injury to Cole. Injuries are a part of football, of course, but Cole is picking them up with increasing frequency, which is to be expected as time goes on. But in that case, is Baines a more reliable choice?
5. Baines is still improving
For at least three seasons, Baines has been getting better and better. He has gone from unsung hero at Everton to a key man, so much so that Manchester United almost snapped him up last summer. The next logical step is surely to allow Baines’s abundant talent to mature in the national side.
Bet on England vs Germany.
Bet on Germany to pull off a narrow win.