With a little under three months left to the World Cup, the excitement is building up in the air over England’s chances and who gets a plane ticket to South Africa. There are a few obvious ‘shoe-ins’ in the wide areas for the squad – barring fitness – including the likes of James Milner and Aaron Lennon. But the rest (especially since Beckham’s injury) it’s an open shop! Taking good form is just as important as the amount of caps they’ve won. England has competition in wide areas and the latest name who must be included in this list is Manchester City’s Adam Johnson.
Although Roberto Mancini has said he thinks he is not ready, I disagree. He is not the finished article – not by a long way – but he is actually someone that England rarely produces: a gifted, two-footed winger who can play right or left side of midfield and possess the ability to dribble past players with skill as well as pace.
He is young, unproven and unknown to many in the world of football, who showed against Sunderland how to positively change a game scoring a goal of the highest order. If his form continues he will have just a good a chance as the other contenders.
Stewart Downing: good, solid, left-sided midfielder – can cross the ball at ease, but is not a true goal threat or a creator of opportunities and doesn’t terrorise defenders with his ability. A safe bet, will offer balance and no more.
Shaun Wright-Phillips: if his performance against Sunderland was anything to go by he can flatter to deceive. He is quick, very quick, but looks to come inside to play square when begging to just roast a few players. Johnson showed in 15 minutes what Wright-Philips couldn’t do for the previous 75.
Joe Cole: the only question mark with Cole will be fitness, he has all the party tricks with the bells and whistles to boot with end product! And he is a proven at international level – he simply needs more game-time.
Ashley Young: another player with a bundle of talent who frustrates and goes missing for too long in big games (i.e. the Carling Cup Final) and his form has been inconsistent this season hence him dipping in and out of Capello’s squad.
Theo Walcott: has been hit with an Argos catalogue of injuries over the past 12-15 months which has subsequently affected his form and confidence. Still needs to improve his decision making at key moments. An excellent performance against Burnley and cameos against Porto and Hull suggest that he coming into form at the right time, and is as fresh as a bottle of Lenor!!
If England are going to cause a major surprise and have a successful World Cup then Capello will need to have players who are ‘game-changers’ – who can come off the bench and make something happen. Johnson has that in his locker, and to be a given a chance to showcase his ability would be a huge benefit to England.