We’re No Experts: 23 for the Queen

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.

Lando, creating questions at LB in London...

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.

Due diligence.

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.

Too often Foster means thumbs down...

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.

Bridge, back in Capello's starting 11 rolodex...

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.

Milner: Underappreciated and underutilized in our book...

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.

Will Capello go with a part-timer to start up top?

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.

Great first start — look the addition of “unbreakable”Two preferences:
– the picture become much more of a graphic
– the graphic centered up top (while I actually like your design the center graphic t’s appeal more to a wider audience.)


31 responses to this post.

  1. Switch James with Foster; Richards with Warnock (Capello is bringing three left backs, right?); Wright-Phillips and Walcott for Milner and Young.


    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/16 at 12:36 PM

      Ashley Young is faster than SWP & Walcott. He also provides better service. Did you not see how he destroyed Evra over the weekend?


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 12:44 PM

        Before or after United went down to 10 men?!?!

        Delivery from both flanks (Downing and Young) was very good.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/16 at 12:50 PM

          George…picking on your roots here. :>

          I think we should start an all England disappointment team.

          Here are some players on my list:

          Stuart Downing David Bentley Theo Walcott Micah Richards (still has time) Anton Ferdinand Ben Foster


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 1:04 PM

          You forgot these clowns Matthew:

          Scott Carson
          Phil Jagielka
          Curtis Davies
          Tom Huddleston
          Jemaine Jenas
          David Bent

          Scott Parker has been very consistent for WHU this season. One for the holding role? Probably too late.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/16 at 1:07 PM

            If you didn’t have Barry (overrated in my book) and Milner (underrated in my book), Parker would get a shot. He doesn’t take nothing from nobody.

            Phil Jagielka (don’t get me started).

            Curtis Davies…completely as well as Jermaine “If I can’t play exactly how I want I don’t care” Jenas

            I’m a Huddlestone fan…but he should be better.

            Scott Carson too…all good calls….

            You might as well through Joleon “I’ve got paaaiiidd” Lescott in there as well.

            US side — wow…I think that’s a new column for us..


            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 1:18 PM

              Gareth Barry should have stayed club captain at Aston Villa even if it was only for Martin O’Neill management. He did a brilliant job at Wycombe and Leicester with no money and is working his magic at Villa (with an English spine).

              He was part of Clough’s back-to-back winning European Cup team, so has been there and done it and commands immediate respect.

              But we all know that he went for his payday, like Lescott, Adebayor, Toure, Robinho.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/16 at 1:23 PM

              I’m a fan of Barry’s impact on a team from an organization, leadership, do-the-dirty work perspective.

              I just think he can be exposed when he’s in his position.

              Ironically, I would like him more in the USA’s two defensive midfielder set…where he could provide cover for the freelancing Bradley…..

              You can’t mention Barry in the same breath as Robinho…Robinho’s a waste of talent.

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 1:36 PM

              Barry lacks pace – I think that is his biggest weakness. He is an intelligent player though.

              I wasn’t comparing their talent – more that they’re both greedy ba$tards…

              3rd March will be a good indication (minus injuries) from Capello.

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 1:29 PM

              I do like Tom Huddlestone. I think his passing range is very good. And he has a hell of a shot on him – his power is reminiscent of Scholes. He just didn’t take his chance for England.

        • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/16 at 1:07 PM


          Yessir. I really enjoy watching him play. Also probably the most flud runner I’ve ever seen.


  2. I haven’t seen Gerard play for the Three Lions since our 2-0 drubbing a few years back, but if I remember correctly he likes to float into the middle of the park in the offensive third (his role for Liverpool). Given that penchant, I think Sweatpants would be wise to play Deuce farther up the pitch and use Holden’s speed and defensive tracking on the right hand side. It would give us a least one positive in the matchups category.

    Note: Gerard is the better player, but we have the USS Rico to take care of him defensively.


  3. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 7:43 AM

    GK: I do not believe Capello will take Ben Foster *unless* he gets some playing time. However, I feel that is very unlikely as he is 3rd in line, and the fact that Van Der Sar is so consistent. We’re coming to the business end of the season and I cannot see SAF rotating the GK position. David James will start as long as he can remain fit.

    Defenders: I do not feel that Capello will take 3 left backs, especially when Warnock is not proven at international level. And coupled with the fact that Milner and Barry can provide cover. Richards will be in if he can improve his consistency for Man City.

    Midfield: I believe the first 6 are on the plane – as long as Lennon’s form gets back to his pre-injury levels. Walcott has been disappointing this season, but he has time. SWP hopefully won’t go. I think he is too wasteful with his delivery, and his decision making needs to improve – meaning he doesn’t seem to know when to pass or run at players, especially when the opponent doubles up on him. I think Joe Cole and Stewart Downing are contenders with Ashley Young. Long shot, but Owen Hargreaves (the Canadian-born Manc!), could be a surprise but time is running out.

    Forward: I cannot see anybody dislodging these 4 unless major form or fitness worries. Bent seems to be doing well at Sunderland, but like when he was at Charton, there wasn’t too much expectation. He did OK at Spurs, but he squandered too many good chances. And with England so far, he hasn’t taken his opportunity. I like C.Cole, not because he’s from my home town, but he’s like a Heskey Jr. If he can improve his hold up play and link up play and create he might have a chance, but I think Euro 2012 is more realistic. Gerrard and Rooney LOVE playing with Heskey.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 7:52 AM


      Gerrard Rooney Lennon

      Barry Lampard

      A. Cole Terry Ferdinand Johnson


      I see where you’re coming from regarding your ‘diversification’, but what I think is more important that playing in multiple countries, is high pressure , big time games. Many of our players have played in World Cups and European Championships. But equally important I think is the Champions League (& Europa League) experience, playing arguably the world’s premier club competition year in year out. If the EPL is a step up from MLS, then CL is also a step up from EPL – and we’re down to the last 16.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/16 at 7:59 AM

      I probably should have consulted you first here george.

      My premise on the backfield specifically is that Wes Brownis your first rightback and Warnock can play there in a pinch.

      I just can’t see Capello taking as technically deficient player as Richards outside.

      Maybe I am being to strong but suppose Johnson is out. Do you really want Richards let’s say responsible for defending Podolski or Gomes if the lions get that far?
      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 8:21 AM

        I can see Milner being our versatility ace – he can play either full back and across the midfield, and has done so well for Villa for the last season and a half. You’re probably correct about Richards – good Premier League player, not so sure for International football – and if we come up against Portugal, you’d switch Ronaldo to the other flank wouldn’t you? We also have Luke Young flying under the radar and doing his thing at Villa. Offensively not too much of a threat, which could be an issue, but again, not proven at this level. Now is not the time to experiment (example: Danny Mills WC2002). And one last thing re. left back spot: what do you think of Kieran Gibbs? Many ‘experts’ say that he is the long term successor to Ashley Cole.

        I forgot to mention Abonglahor. I can see the better teams easily cancelling out his threat of pace by sitting deep. He could be an impact sub, if we are ahead and stretching the opponent, but I think Defoe has to be the 1st choice impact sub, given his recent goal scoring for both club and country. It would be a bold move for Capello to take 5 forwards…


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/16 at 9:14 AM


          On Kieran Gibbs…yes…he’ll be a player in my book.

          Luke Young…don’t see it this time around.

          Agree on Abonglahor….if Defoe is not going to be starting Gabi is redundant.
          Man, I would take Gabi on the Yanks in a heartbeat.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 9:32 AM

          I sort of feel sorry for a lot of the forwards now as ordinarily, they’d be in. Just bad luck that they’re around at the same time as Rooney, as the team is built around him (and rightly so). I love his pace, which is what defenders hate. Can anybody say “ref, that’s a penalty”?

          I am not the biggest Crouch fan, but he does provide a great ariel threat, and gives us the long ball / route one option – especially against teams where their keepers don’t come and claim the ball.

          A lot can happen in 3 months. I mean, Ashley Cole might even be fit!


        • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/16 at 12:46 PM

          What if Crouch discovered the wonders of the weight room. . .?😡. Seriously though, imagine if he had the physique of King James. That’d be one hell of a nightmare.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/16 at 8:02 AM

      Meant to write wes brown is first in line after glen johnson.
      Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  4. Posted by Pino on 2010/02/16 at 8:47 AM

    C. Cole is a beast! Arsenal should have snatched him up when they had the chance. God knows they could use an Englishmen these days


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 8:53 AM

      My little cousin used to play school football against him back in the day, and he said that he was a fully developed man at 14 – his school used to bring documentation to prove he was the right age and not a ringer!


      • Posted by Pino on 2010/02/16 at 9:08 AM

        ha ha ha i believe it. Didnt Nigeria try to call him up for their national team once?


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/16 at 9:18 AM

          On Carlton Cole, I’m not sure he’d even be in the discussion today if Zola didn’t start setting him up for success at West Ham.

          He was lost before that…now he’s a focus of some of the attack as well as a more refined player.


  5. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 9:42 AM

    Cole was doing OK at Chelsea and was “one to watch out for” (a bit like Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere presently). Then the Abramovich revolution started and demanded instant success, went the foreign route… and spent big money on proven strikers.

    I believe Zola liked what he saw of Cole during his Chelsea days. But you’re right Matthew, Zola has to take a lot of credit.


  6. Posted by Rich on 2010/02/16 at 10:27 AM

    I am obviously wrong (as no one has objected), but I thought England was running a 4-3-2-1. I assume they are playing a 4-2-3-1 now as GC indicated. When did they switch? Why? My understanding was that Capello went 4-3-2-1 as he felt it fit the talents he had. I guess I am wondering what changed.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 10:52 AM

      I cannot remember England ever playing a Christmas tree formation under Capello (or ever to be honest – apart from 3-5-2 under Venables and Hoddle, it’s been a 4-4-2 all the way). He plays with 2 ‘holding’ players in Barry and Lampard. And when in possession the 4 obvious offensive players, with the full backs overlapping to provide width and space for Lennon and Gerrard to cut inside. Plus, I think Rooney has been great this season for club and country playing more centrally – scoring goals for fun.

      Obviously, the differences in formation can be very subtle (4-3-2-1 vs 4-3-3 vs 4-4-2 diamond) and generally more noticable when in defence, seeing players tuck in and become narrow, dropping off etc. Interesting observation though, I never really interpreted England playing a 4-3-2-1.


      • Posted by Rich on 2010/02/16 at 11:24 AM

        I thought they lined up like this.


        Gerrard Rooney

        Barry Lampard Lennon

        A. Cole Terry Ferdinand Johnson

        I thought the idea was to unleash Gerrard as his form for England has never quite matched his form for Liverpool. Anyway, your point that the differences are subtle is valid so I guess it is a trivial issue. Thanks for the reply though.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/16 at 12:13 PM

          Nothing is black and white and is open to opinion and discussion.

          The only thing I would say or add is, in that formation, I’d play Beckham or Milner as a right-midfielder, as Lennon / Walcott / SWP are out and out wingers (hence their position being slightly further forward).


  7. […] 5. The Shin Guardian: We’re No Experts: 23 for the Queen […]


  8. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/21 at 9:03 AM

    Not too shabby if Capello was watching:

    Aston Villa 5-2 Burnley

    A Young 32
    Downing 56
    Downing 58
    Heskey 61
    Agbonlahor 68


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