Losing two of your best centre backs is a problem for any manager so Roy Hodgson now has to come up with a new pairing ahead of the crucial qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro over the next week and a half.
Rio Ferdinand has withdrawn to prolong his club career but the bigger loss is Gary Cahill for several simple reasons.
To begin with Cahill is a much quicker player and the lack of pace, which has sometimes been in the centre of the back four, has always been a weakness that international sides have used against England.
Cahill has always been superb when it comes to reacting to a situation and getting into position, whether he’s been caught out in his own role or whether he’s reacting to fill in for someone else like Ashley Cole who may be higher up the pitch.
It’s the aerial threat and dominance which he provides which is a massive loss to England. They should win their next two qualifiers comfortably but there are going to be spells when San Marino and Montenegro look to utilise set pieces.
For that reason, it’s vital to have someone in the heart of the defence who can bully his way to the ball, head clear and get the ball out of play to give the entire defence a little room to breathe.
Ferdinand is equally efficient aerially in terms of his defence but Cahill is the far superior of the pair when it comes to attacking. He absolutely steams into the penalty box on free kicks and corners, which is how he scores his goals at club level.
There’s also good cause to suggest that Cahill is a fitter player than Ferdinand, which seems ironic as he’s had to pull out of the latest squads due to injury.
His cardiovascular fitness is superior which means a smaller chance of fatigue later into games, which in turn means reduced chances of England conceding late goals, which is vital if they are holding a slender lead.
Chelsea also have a better defence by a goal than Manchester United this season. They have conceded three goals less at home but have conceded two more goals away from home, which means based on form this season, Cahill edges the head-to-head ever so slightly.
England will adjust and Hodgson has some reliable players to fall back on such as Steven Taylor and Joleon Lescott but neither of those two has the same core pace and reaction time as Cahill, which is a huge blow for the country.
Who should Hodgson go into the qualifiers with as his centre backs?
image: © Ben Sutherland