Defoe, Lambert or Carroll? - Roy Hodgson's World Cup dilemma

Carroll England

Roy Hodgson faces a big decision ahead of the 2014 World Cup. With Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck all likely to be on the plane, who joins them? Connor Armstrong runs the rule over West Ham, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur frontmen.

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup now just eight months away, the big questions start to come into focus. One of which will be, who is England's fourth striker?

England's qualifying campaign has seen no fewer than four strikers accompany the North-West trio of Sturridge, Rooney and Welbeck, with Tottenham's Jermain Defoe, West Ham's Andy Carroll and Southampton's Rickie Lambert all used by Hodgson to compliment his regular crop.

But who should be going to the World Cup? Should Hodgson opt for the traditional selection of four strikers, it allows just one space to be left open ahead of the 2014 tournament. Whilst there is much water to pass under the Premier League river before Brazil rolls around, one would assume that the aforementioned regular trio will already be booking their flights.

Below, we look over the pros and cons of each of the other potential candidates:

Jermain Defoe

The experienced Tottenham Hotspur front-man has clocked up 54 international caps, amassing 19 international goals in the process. A renowned poacher with a clinical eye for goal, the advantages of including Defoe are all too apparent. However, whilst Defoe may best operate alongside a strike partner, Hodgson has appeared to lean towards a 4-2-3-1 formation in qualification, and it is arguable just how much Defoe's all-round play offers to this set-up. Lacking the physical presence of Carroll or Lambert, and without the pace of the likes of Zaha, Sturridge and Welbeck, it perhaps becomes difficult to see how the Spurs forward fits in.

In addition to this, the summer arrival of Roberto Soldado at White Hart Lane has only lessened his playing time. Whilst in the past Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has favoured Emmanuel Adebayor, it appears that this season will see Defoe limited to cameo appearances from the bench and cup games, unless he can uproot Soldado. Villas-Boas has favoured a 4-5-1 formation or 4-4-1-1 formation, in which Defoe has often struggled to create opportunities for himself, but has still shown glimpses of his famed 'sharp-shooter' reputation. Perhaps his all-round play does not equal that of Rooney, Sturridge or Lambert - but his nous in front of goal is something that it is hard to rival.

Last season saw Defoe contribute 15 goals in 43 games, an average of 0.34 goals per game in all competitions. Whilst the former West Ham man is yet to find the back of the net in six Premier League appearances this season, his cup contributions cannot go unnoticed, with 8 goals in just 5 League Cup and Europa League games.

Defoe may be 31 now, but a regular run of games and the rediscovery of his predatory instincts may catapult him to the forefront of Roy Hodgson's thoughts ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He has crucial tournament experience, despite missing out at EURO 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. However, he was selected by Fabio Capello for the 2010 World Cup, scoring England's only goal in a 1-0 win over Slovenia in the group stage, which confirmed England's progression to the knock-out stage. Defoe featured again at EURO 2012 under current England boss Roy Hodgson, but failed to score in his appearances.

Rickie Lambert

In contrast to Defoe, Southampton star Rickie Lambert has remained at the core of his team's success, the face of Pochettino's attacking and dynamic Southampton side. Whilst Lambert's age may be of concern to some, at the ripe old age of 31, Lambert has contributed 3 goals in the first 9 games of the season. This season is just his second in the top-flight, but in his debut season Lambert struck 15 goals, more than any other English forward. In addition, Lambert's well-famed range of passing and link-up play has contributed to goals for team-mates like Jay Rodriguez, who profited from Lambert's aerial dominance in the Saturday evening meeting between Southampton and Fulham.

Lambert lacks the mobility of Sturridge, Welbeck and even Rooney, but what he does offer in his sizable fame is a wealth of technical ability. Capable of stopping the ball dead, spreading fifty yard passes and threading intricate through balls - as demonstrated in his link-up play with Danny Welbeck against Moldova, Lambert is far more than just a target man for an England set-up.

Whilst Lambert can capably take on the role of 'lone striker', a role he plays for club side Southampton, questions will be raised over his capability at international level. Receiving his first call up in August 2013, Lambert scored with his first touch in an England shirt, leading England to a 3-2 victory over arch rivals Scotland at Wembley Stadium. He followed it up with a goal and two assists against Moldova, earning him much praise from the media. He made his third appearance in England's dull and uninspiring 0-0 draw in Ukraine.

Whilst Lambert may not be as glamorous or appealing as the trickery and flair of Sturridge or Welbeck, the value of such a player at an international tournament cannot be underestimated. Lambert would represent a gamble, but is a player with the heart and desire to step up his performances when called upon, as he has done with alarming regularity throughout Southampton's ascension to Premier League surprise package. 

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll's career has been dogged by injury and the burden of the huge pressure placed upon him, as he became the most expensive Englishman in footballing history when Liverpool shelled out £35m for the former Newcastle United talisman. Carroll already has that valuable tournament experience, having contributed to England's qualification from the group stage of EURO 2012, most notably in the clash with Sweden, in which he scored his second, and most recent England goal.

Carroll has appeared for England on nine occasions, scoring twice, once in a friendly with Ghana at Wembley Stadium, and he also scored the opener with an impressive header against World Cup play-off contenders Sweden. However, the West Ham target man has failed to muster a single competitive appearance for club or country this summer, having been dogged by heel and ankle problems. Carroll has been sidelined since his £15m move from Liverpool this summer, following a successful loan spell with the London club last season. Carroll was reunited with former boss Allardyce, scoring 7 goals in 24 games in the Premier League.

Carroll can offer a physicality unrivalled by Welbeck, Sturridge or Rooney. Intelligent movement and dominant heading ability makes him a viable option and he can be seen as direct competition for Southampton's Rickie Lambert due to this. Whilst Carroll perhaps lacks the vision of Rooney and Lambert, the clinical finishing of Defoe, or the dynamism and quick feet of Welbeck and Sturridge, he certainly has plenty to offer the England set-up and could offer a vitally different approach for Roy Hodgson.

With age on his side, Carroll needs to focusing on shrugging off injury and finding a run of goalscoring form to drag himself back into the competition. The 24 year old's manager, Sam Allardyce, has outlined hopes that the Geordie forward could rejoin full training by the end of November, leaving him just over half a season to put himself in the thoughts of Roy Hodgson once more.

Who would you take to the FIFA World Cup - Defoe, Lambert or Carroll?

image: © andrew_j_w

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