Back last week when I penned that it was just four months until the States clashed with England, I wanted to follow that up with how the match up was rounding into focus.
Ashley Cole had just went down with a cracked ankle and Wayne Rooney was running around and making like he was some fusion of Old Ronaldo and New Ronaldo.
One minor problem.
TSG hadn’t taken a shot yet at defining Fabio Capello’s men. Oops.
So in that vain, we’re taking that shot today at the 23-man squad for the Queen. We’re no experts, so bear with us and point out where we’ve erred.
Due to exposure to the candidates, this will be a lot easier to done with England’s squad than say Slovenia (where nearly all players are from internal leagues) and Algeria with the exception of center backs Nadir Belhadj (EPL) and Madjid Bougherra (SPL) and dynamite midfielder Karim Ziani (Ligue 1).
We have a decent following now across the United Kingdom so I would, of course, welcome all your commentary and criticisms as well.
Goalie: Ben Foster, Robert Green, Joe Hart
We’ll call the goalie position on England’s squad, its fuzziest. Hart, Green, these are good keepers. World class, probably not.
Of course, the venerable David James is missing from this picture and if TSG is selecting the squad James easily goes over Ben Foster. It’s a no brainer for us; not for Capello.
The Italian manager of the English has shown an uncanny penchant, with the exception of David Beckham, for freezing out–maybe a poor choice of words here–fan favorites from the past who are not superstars now.
Darren Bent, nary more than a sniff of the pitch. Michael Owen obsolete; the ruckus around his candidacy dying down.
David James? Seems similar as the Portsmouth man has had to contend with the drama of Pompey for most of the year as oppose to his candidacy.
Again, for our part, we’ve never seen Ben Foster be dominant, not even behind a Manchester United line.
Outside looking in: David James
Defense: Ashley Cole, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Wes Brown, Wayne Bridge, Matthew Upson, Steve Warnock
England is hurting right now. Both their wide backs have or will miss extensive EPL time due to injury and their center back and captain Rio Ferdinand hasn’t played since Victoria was better known as a Spice Girl. Oh and the last member of that back line we all know about.
Trying times for England fans in advance of a World Cup with oh-so-much promise.
Let’s assume Cole gets back and gets fit 2010, well then he’s a lock. Same goes for the pairing of Terry and Ferdinand–though English fans would probably take the 2006 versions.
On the right back slot, Glen J is not shoe-in, but he’s certainly first choice.
With the questions of those ailments, Wayne Bridge, a 2006 Cup vet, can slot in on the left (as can Gareth Barry in a pinch who will be in the midfield) and Wes Brown can slot in on the right. Brown is a valuable man for Capello for his ability to play the corner and the interior, since he can’t overlap as well these days.
That leaves two spots. Upson if you back-up in the middle–as is Brown.
Now, one to go and for TSG we think it will be Warnock.
First, let’s get rid of the pretenders. Joleon Lescott seems to have gone wayward with his big contract at Manchester City. He now finds himself on the bench. He’s not a typical wing guy where England need the most cover and his offensive campaign from two EPL campaigns ago now seems like an anomaly.
Gary Cahill has a health issue and Micah Richards after one fine run of form this year is back in a rut and looking technically lost.
That leaves Warnock–who’s got some knocks–versus the younger Baines and we see Capello going with the more experienced this go around.
Outside looking in: Leighton Baines, Micah Richards, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott
Midfield: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Aaron Lennon,David Beckham, James Milner, Ashley Young, Michael Carrick
A lot of flexibility in the midfield for the Three Lions as the starters look nearly set. Should Aaron Lennon be match fit, it’s going to Gerrard, Lennon, Lampard, Barry.
Gerrard and Lennon will drift up the pitch, Lampard will follow behind and Gareth Barry will clean up any mess left over. That being said, TSG is high on attacking Barry who, in our opinion does not have sufficient speed to close down all who come through.
Beckham, like we said in December, too many reasons to take him. Milner was the best player in the EPL for the first half of the campaign. He brings a wicked set shot and ability to score from afar, along with defensive integrity. Solid choice.
Now, the Lions are likely down to two spots and we have them going to Ashley Young and Michael Carrick, although we’re more certain on the former.
TSG is high on Young and think he’s a no-brainer. A deadly crosser of the ball (though not quite Beckham) and ability to attack one-on-one, the combination of offensive skills makes him invaluable.
As for Carrick, we say he goes on reputation, knowing how to play Rooney, and his unique penalty kick style (wink). Our challenge with Carrick is that you’ve got Milner and Barry who can both handle the defensive chores. That being said late game with a lead, maybe you have the fresh legs of Milner and Carrick patrolling the middle.
Missing out here are lead-footed Tom Huddlestone (who’s underrated in our book), Shaun Wright Phillips who loses out the speed race to Defoe up the pitch and Lennon and Young (to a lesser extent) in the middle.
Theo Walcott’s an option here, but even with his quickness he needs to make up ground in a hurry.
Leighton Baines is also an option here and perhaps his candidacy stronger as he can play in the midfield as well as in the back.
Next in line: Shaun Wright Phillips, Theo Walcott
Striker: Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch
The arguments up top for Capello center more around who starts than who’s going.
Rooney, Heskey and Defoe are locks. The question being does Capello slot the zippy Defoe off Rooney to start or does he play with target man Heskey to provide service.
Heskey has been an inconsistent starter and Defoe has been in form–so Defoe likely starts.
The next decision is for pace or height-and-service off the bench and it’s a tough one. Crouch is established veteran who always seems to find some value in a misplayed ball or scrum in the box late in the game, he’ll bring the service.
The speed will likely come in the form of Gabriel Abonlaghor who is not a household name unless you follow the EPL, but soon should be. To watch Agbonlahor is to see the likely World Cup starter in 2014 should he stay on the upswing.
So speed, height? With Lennon attacking from the left, Defoe up top and with Heskey as the only target man, we say Capello takes Crouch, but TSG would like Abonglahor.
Perimeter options like Darren Bent and Carlton Cole because of their in-between game and oh-forbid an injury to Wayne Rooney should receive much more consideration than they do.
Next in line: Gabriel Abonglahor, Carlton Cole
So that’s our 23 for the queen. If pressed on starters right now, I think we’d go with the following assuming all are match fit:
STR: Rooney, Defoe
MID: Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Lennon
DEF: Cole, Ferdinand, Terry, Glen J
G: Robert Green
Of course all of this can and will change, but after a little feedback from the TSG community, we can get started on breaking down the match-ups.
One thing that I think is a negative for England is that all their national players do their club ball in the EPL. There is something to be said for having experience across multiple leagues with their different types of game play.