The form that Everton have shown in the early part of the Premier League season has surprised a lot of people. A large part of this has to be attributed to a defence which has conceded only eight goals in seven games. Phil Jagielka has been a main stay in this defence and he is about to get his chance to cement his place at international level despite questions over whether he has what it takes to succeed.
So far in his England career, Jagielka has been used as a stop gap measure in the respect that he has come in and done a job when a higher profile player has not been able to play. Every time he has played well and can hold his head up with a lot of respect and pride. His performances for Everton suggest that physically he is as fit as he ever has been and he has shown many attributes which can make him a long term Terry replacement.
He still has half a yard of pace which is crucial when playing international football. It is nothing compared to the sort of pace he had in his earlier days at Sheffield United but it means he won’t get beaten in a straight fight with a nippy little striker or winger who has cut inside. It also means that England don’t have to drop so deep which takes some of the pressure away from goalkeeper Joe Hart.
“You'll have to see who takes the mantle of leading the back four, I'll chuck my name in the hat. John's decided to retire now and there's a few of us competing for the two spots available. You've got Gary Cahill, who had a great game against San Marino going forward, and Joleon Lescott, who had a fantastic Euros, plus the other lads coming into the squad like Ryan Shawcross. It's going to keep us on our toes,” Jagielka told the BBC.
One thing Jagielka will never do is allow any defence he is playing in to be physically bullied. He is incredibly strong on the ground and in the air and this means England will be able to dominate against predictable teams that don’t have many answers when it comes to finding a pass in behind. A lot of international football is now passing based but the physical presence of a defence and of a side is still one of the best qualities to come out of this current England generation.
Jagielka also has leadership skills which are good enough to get him into the team by himself. This means he can take the pressure away from the higher profile players in the side such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and others. It also means that his teammates know he is going to stick up for them if an opposition side is trying to use less than conventional tactics to gain an advantage against England.
Jagielka has a great chance of a regular England spot but it’s up to him to show all of these qualities every time there is an international.