England take on Slovakia in a friendly on Saturday (17.00, Setanta Sports 1) then the Ukraine in a World Cup Qualifier on Wednesday (20.00, ITV1).
Here is the England squad in full (since the withdrawal of Ledley King):
Goalkeepers: David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham United), Ben Foster (Manchester United) Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Joleon Lescott (Everton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), John Terry (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), Matthew Upson (West Ham United), Ledley King (Tottenham Hotspur). Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), David Beckham (AC Milan), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool). Forwards: Carlton Cole (West Ham United), Peter Crouch (Portsmouth), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).
Our weakness is our strikeforce. Carlton Cole? Really? Heskey is an able foil, Crouch an impact sub… and Rooney is yet to find his best position or arguably form for his country. That is a severe paucity of options. Where are the world class English forwards? They are not abroad; are they being overlooked in the Premiership? Let’s have a look at the top scoring Englishmen…
Steven Gerrard 13
Peter Crouch 11
Kevin Davies 11
Gabriel Agbonlahor 10
Darren Bent 10
Frank Lampard 10
Carlton Cole 9
Jermain Defoe 9
Wayne Rooney 9
Michael Owen 8
Matthew Taylor 8
Andrew Johnson 7
Jason Roberts 7
Marlon King 6
James Beattie 5
Of these, those not included are Davies, Agbonlahor, Bent, Defoe, Owen, Taylor, Johnson, Roberts, King and Beattie. Let’s have a look at them…
Kevin Davies – What does he offer that Emile Heskey doesn’t? Well, goals, for a start. Heskey is arguably a better link man, better at providing and laying on chances – but Davies is good at holding the ball up, a real pain in the arse for defenders, and is scoring goals. He suffers from playing for Bolton; perhaps he would get more of a chance at a more fashionable club?
Gabriel Agbonlahor – He was included for the last game against Spain, as well as several other of Capello’s squads. However, he is on a long barren streak at the moment, and probably deserves his demotion to the U21s.
Darren Bent – Going by Capello’s maxim (which he seems to have abandoned in the case of Ben Foster) players will not play for England without playing regularly for their club. And as Bent is far from first choice at Spurs, he will suffer. His total of 10 goals is impressive for a bit part player, but his all round game is just not good enough for international football.
Jermaine Defoe – Injured – but assured of a role if fit. Who would have envisaged a time when Defoe was so sorely missed?
Michael Owen – Capello clearly doesn’t fancy him – and he’s not fully fit. And he’s lost most of his pace. But for my money he is still the best finisher England have, and should be in the squad. If he’s fit, who else would you rather throw on with twenty minutes remaining and needing to nick a goal?
Matthew Taylor – He is a midfielder. Which says a lot for the English strikers.
Andrew Johnson – There is perhaps a case here, but 7 goals in 26 appearances is hardly setting the world on fire. He is essentially a poor man’s Defoe (or Owen) and is different to our other strikers – just not good enough!
Jason Roberts, Marlon King, James Beattie – They are simply not international class. All big, bustling strikers they are already behind the likes of Davies and Cole who themselves are short of international class.
So there we are – we just don’t have any good strikers. It’s not Capello’s fault – aside from possibly Owen, and only when he’s fit, it’s difficult to make a case for anyone who’s been excluded.
At the back we look extremely strong – if a player with the quality of Jonathan Woodgate does not make it you know you have strength in depth. Likewise in midfield, where although the perennial Gerrard/Lampard debate is yet to be resolved they are both indisputably great players, and are ably supported/backed up by Barry and Carrick in the middle. Wide you have a multitude of options right, with SWP, Lennon, Walcott, Beckham, and Gerrard – one of whom may play left.
But Capello must have a big headache up top. It’s likely he will play Gerrard off Rooney, which is potentially exciting – but other than that combination (and that will obviously remove Gerrard’s dynamism from the midfield) there is little to whet the appetite. Heskey and Cole? No thanks.
Oh how we long for the days of Shearer, Sheringham, Owen, Fowler, Ferdinand, Wright, Collymore, Le Tissier, Cole – at one stage they were all available for England selection. That seems incomprehensible now; with that embarrassment of riches Carlton Cole would be seeking a second nationality.
Fortunately the likes of Slovakia and the Ukraine should not expose our lack of striking options – but we need to find a potent pairing in time for WC 2010.
Las Camisetas de fútbol de adidas se encuentran entre las preferidas de muchos equipos. Descubre por qué visitando nuestra colección en la web. by Matthew Rowe