With one more friendly match to play, Fabio Capello has to decide on whom to take on his 23 man squad to Euro 2012. And with several questions to answer, including whether to take the suspended Wayne Rooney or should John Terry still be captain amidst racism allegations, Capello has got a very difficult task ahead of him.
Below is what I believe Capello’s squad selection should be:
GoalKeepers (Joe Hart, Scott Carson and Rob Green)
In Joe Hart, England finally have a superior world class keeper to marshal the backline, since the days of David Seaman. First choice at Manchester City and for the national team, Hart is the one player guaranteed his position in the tournament, offering quick reflexes, aerial presence and sound positioning. The dilemma that faces Capello is who to take as back up, in case the worst happens and Hart is injured. With Scott Carson earning a call up to the Spain and Sweden friendlies, it seems the Bursapor keeper will be in the squad, as well as Rob Green; who while not a fantastic back up, does offer experience in the role.
Defenders (John Terry, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling, and Phil Jones)
Two defenders are guaranteed on Capello’s list: John Terry and Ashley Cole. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they are consistent for the national team and are favourites of Capello. The problem is to find a partner for Terry and a permanent player for the right flank. The most likely option for centre back, would be Gary Cahill, who has had some successful results and can be the ball-playing defender to Terry’s no-nonsense defending. Both Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka can stake a claim in the squad; with Rio Ferdinand on the outer, after fading fast due to the injuries and club form.
In Ashley Cole, England has one of best consistent full back in the world. His place is assured but Capello does have other options at left back including, Leighton Baines, Stephen Warnock or Kieran Gibbs. But with defensive places limited, Capello would most like select Lescott, as he is more than capable in playing at left back. Right back, is where the problem lies for Capello. Glen Johnson has been favoured over the last couple of season, even though Manchester City’s Michal Richards has been more consistent. Manchester United duo, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are also most like be called up. Smalling has been in good form at right back, and can replace and Phil Jones’ versatility might prove useful if injury should befall the backline.
Midfielders (Scott Parker, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Jack Wilshere and Steve Gerrard)
Capello had opted for functional players in his three man midfield of late. Scott Parker, after some solid displays will start and can provide great cover ahead of the back four. Frank Lampard is another Capello favourite, who after being criticised for a poor start to the season has come back to top form. Lampard’s economic use of the ball, his ability to score from midfield and help out defensive earns him his place. Manchester City duo Gareth Barry and James Milner will most like be on the plane to Poland and Ukraine. Barry is a similar player to Parker and one that Capello loves. Milner may lack the finesse of his more of his more creative peers, but his versatility (out wide or tucked in midfield) and professionalism make him guaranteed his selection.
Yet, Capello needs some more creativity in his midfield, to supply the forward line. In my guess, Jack Wilshere and Steve Gerrard would be selected. While, they may both be injured and may not return to till 2012, they are key players for Capello. Wilshere, if fit, will be a starter, his verve and attacking qualities are what England need. Gerrard is a tricky one for Capello; if he can get some games under his belt, as well as keeping his pace and is able to play off the lone striker (as Rooney is out) Gerrard will be on that plane. His experience in major tournaments, not in a performance aspect, can help the squad.
Forwards (Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Daniel Sturridge, Theo Walcott, Andy Carroll and Ashley Young)
Capello’s biggest problem ahead of the tournament lies in the front line. With so many options available to the Italian, Capello has to choose wisely on who he wants, but the biggest headache of all, lies whether or not he takes Wayne Rooney. Rooney is one of England’s better players, but being suspended for the opening group stage is a concern. My guess is that Capello will take Rooney, and assuming England overcomes the group stage, Rooney will be in the starting line; he’s far too important for the team and he should be fresh and fit, however the lack of match practice is an issue.
The question though, lies with who to cover for Rooney? The best bet would be, surprising, Darren Bent. Known for his burst of space and finding space in the box; Bent provides decent cover and more importantly is a consistent goal threat. Another option is Andy Carroll. Putting Carroll up front will result in England going direct and playing the long ball. He is a nightmare for defenders, big, strong and able to hold them hold, he can be England’s plan B if they are down and need a result. Chelsea starlet Daniel Sturridge is another who has been in great form this season. Able to play on either side on the front three, as well as leading the line, Sturridge would be valuable addition to the squad.
Theo Walcott has slowly found his feet over the past year and so. While at times, he has struggled for consistency at the highest level, Walcott has the pace to burn and can cause left backs a lot of problems. So to, Ashley Young. Able to play, left, right and centre, Young offers versatility up front for England. He, like Walcott has pace, and probably is more efficient with his delivery from the flanks.
England’s Probable XI for the first group game:
Hart; Johnson, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Wilshere, Parker, Lampard; Walcott, Bent, Young.