It’s been a football special today with this being the last of the three part special in the light of England’s preparations for the World Cup. Catch up on the friendly findings and also what we found out about one of the television choices on offer. Onto the main issue of the final 23 and from what I’ve seen and for what it’s worth, here are the seven players who I reckon will be returning home courtesy of Don Fabio Capello.
Stephen Warnock: Ashley Cole’s obviously fit and Leighton Baines would appear to be the back up. There’s really no need for a third left-back especially seeing as though all he offers is that defensive option. It will have been good for him to be among the contenders, but he hasn’t even had a cursory run out. He shouldn’t be surprised, either, but naturally he’ll be a bit disappointed.
Matthew Upson: Now I think Capello can afford to get rid of two centre backs especially with the versatility that Carragher provides. No I’m not thrilled at Capello selecting Carragher in the 30, but the thinking makes sense if you’re looking for cover for Johnson at right-back. You’re already taking King because he’s that highly rated, so you’ve essentially got cover for the centre-backs and if the right back position really becomes problematic then you can always slap Milner there. Really with the season Upson has had he should be grateful that he’s even in the 30.
Michael Dawson: Having established Capello affording to drop two centre-backs then the last one to go would be Dawson who would be slightly more unfortunate than Upson to be the one to go. Capello to all intents and purposes has preferred to see if King can hack it, and he’s shown the goods. There’s also the very tentative argument that if we do need a holding midfielder who can actually defend then King could provide that. I know it’s tentative but it’s another reason to go with King rather than Dawson who at least could provide consistency and fitness.
Scott Parker: We’re assuming that Capello will go all out to make every provision for Gareth Barry’s fitness. If that is the case then we don’t need another central midfielder. In fact it would be a danger to take too many central midfielders at the cost of other spaces especially with the much-of-a-muchness we have in central midfield. I think Parker’s had a better season than Huddlestone as the talisman who has hugely contributed to West Ham staying in the Premier League. As it’s been a holding midfielder we so desperately need in case Barry isn’t fit, then Parker would have been ideal especially playing well off Lampard or Gerrard if need be. He may not be as accomplished a passer as Carrick or Huddlestone, but he can harry and hassle better than these two. Were it up to me I’d go for Parker rather than Carrick, but the latter’s international experience and Parker’s lack of it puts him at the huge disadvantage and the fact he never got a few minutes on the itch was a sure sign that he was not going.
Tom Huddlestone: The final central midfield spot would be contested between Huddlestone and Carrick. I reckon Tom has been given the chance in the two games to impress Capello with what he can offer the side. Whilst not being an embarrassment he has not overly impressed either. Carrick is slightly overrated in my opinion, he hasn’t had a great season and I don’t see him collaborating well with either Lampard or Gerrard. Fletcher at United would do most of the digging work and although Carrick knows his game, it’s difficult for me to see how he contributes anything distinctive to an England set-up. For all that though the choice is between Tom and Mike and most people would go for the second guy.
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Joe Cole can play on the right. Aaron Lennon plays best on the right. Theo Walcott plays best on the right. James Milner can play on the right. Isn’t that enough for people on the right. I mean even Steve Gerrard can play on the right! So we’ve got more than enough options on the right already. I’m not into Capello’s business of playing right-sided players down the left. It was surprising to see Capello not select Downing. Adam Johnson’s cameo against Mexico was one of the few very good performances in both matches. I’d like to think that would help convince Capello of his merits as a naturally left-sided player who can give that width that no other player offers. That being the case someone’s got to go. Aaron Lennon is the best right-sided midfielder we have. For all of Walcott’s abundant pace his repertoire is more limited than Lennon’s especially in beating the player. Capello evidently loves Walcott hence all the chances given for the brother to play and to be fair Walcott can offer pace up front and goal-scoring abilities that his competitors don’t. So someone’s got to go. Wright-Phillips hasn’t played that often this season and although I prefer him to Walcott, the other factors go against him. Sure his step-dad won’t be happy, but then since when have we been in the business of pleasing people’s step-dads?
Darren Bent: I don’t get the argument for taking five strikers. When you take on the option that England has a tendency towards just playing one up front, then the question really becomes more forceful. I am in favour of taking four strikers, that’s more than enough flexibility for playing one up front or two. When you add the attacking options from the midfielders and especially that performance from Joe Cole yesterday, then it goes to the argument of not needing the fifth striker. I get the outcry for Bent based on his excellent goal-scoring record for a mediocre Sunderland side this season. There’s no doubting the man’s been on goalscoring form. Yet in terms of combinations and offer to the team as a whole he’s out on his own. He doesn’t play well with Rooney. Crouch and Defoe already have an understanding. Rooney plays best with Heskey. There’s the gap for a quality striker to slip back home for the summer and that quality striker has to be Bent or Brent as he was called yesterday.
Now it’s up to Capello to see what he turns out with tomorrow. After that we can begin to look at England’s chances in South Africa.