30 Lions

Is this Englands number 1?

We’re 30 days away from the “big match” and both the US and England have released their initial 30 man rosters. For the most part, Fabio Capello’s picks were fairly obvious but there are some interesting selections as well as some glaring omissions.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.

Certainly not England’s strongest position but all three will make the final 23. Capello will be using these next two weeks to assess which one will be number 1. Green seems to be the first choice but his form with West Ham has not been excellent, keeping only 5 clean sheets all year. Given his defense was horrendous all season (see Upson below), and it’s a wonder that he kept 5 clean sheets – it’s his shot stopping abilities that have earned him Capello’s favor. David James is the most experienced and that goes a long way in a world cup, but he is injury prone and though has shed the unfortunate nickname of yore, “Calamity James”,

he is still prone to the odd gaff now and then. Joe Hart is the keeper in form and made the PFA Team of the Year but he is only 23. Unless the others succumb to injury or he has a blinding training camp, he will go to South Africa as the number 2.

Hopefully for England, Ledley King will be able to play without the need to be propped up.

Defenders: Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.

Capello chose 10 defenders in his 30 man squad. At least 2 and maybe 3 will not be in the final 23. Englands defenders are either old (but experienced), creaky and slow or young and inexperienced. The two that don’t fit into either category are Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson, both of whom will make the final 23 and will probably be in the starting 11. Terry, Ferdinand and King are also shoe-ins and Dawson who’s uncapped will most certainly make the trip after a fine season with Spurs. The rest of the spots are for backup positions and the most interesting battle will be for the back-up left back position between Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock. Both had fine seasons for Everton and Aston Villa respectively, but Baines is younger and better with set pieces and will get the nod.

Upson will be sent home as well as he just isn’t what he used to be. He’s getting older and was at fault for many of West Ham’s goals this season. This was a waste of a pick as Capello could have brought someone like Gary Cahill to gain some valuable experience and even have a shot at the 23 man roster.

When all is said and done, Jamie Carragher will be on the plane to South Africa. He’s versatile and experienced playing against international competition. He’s a no-nonsense defender, offers little in the way of going forward but is solid in the back. Sadly he’s about two years removed from his very best (one the top 3 CB’s in England from 05-09) and his form dipped noticeably this past year but he will bring up the intensity at trainings and can play any one of the defensive positions in a pinch. Considering England’s health concerns at the back, this could be very useful.
Not going – Warnock and Upson.

Can he capture the form he showed in 06?

Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Out of the 12 midfielders picked, only 8 will be South Africa bound. Who is taken will depend on Gareth Barry and his ankle injury. If fully fit he will slot in as the defensive midfielder, but he is a major doubt which is why Scott Parker, Michael Carrick and Tom Huddleston were brought in. Normally Carrick (or Hargreaves if he wasn’t injured for the past 19 months) would be the automatic back up but Carrick has shown poor form as off late. Parker who last played for the three lions under McClaren was one of the shining stars in a dismal West Ham team this year, is a booking waiting to happen and is a very long shot to make the squad.

The England midfield options are versatile which presents the Italian manager with some difficult decisions to make. Lampard, Gerrard and Milner are all going and could very well be in the starting 11. Barry if healthy will go. The remaining 4 spots are all training ground battles that can go either way. Huddleston versus Carrick, Cole versus Johnson and SWP versus Lennon versus Walcott. Carrick has the experience and though poor of form is reliable and tested, whereas Huddleston might be a little too green for the 2010 World Cup. He’s young and one for the future and hopefully will make the most of the next two weeks, but in the end will be watching the world cup from a TV in a sunny vacation spot. If Barry is injured I would slot Gerrard or Milner as the CDM with the other playing on the left and Lamps in the top of the diamond.

Joe Cole, once proclaimed by a Brazilian manager in 2006 as the only member of the England squad that could make the Brazilian team has either been out of form or injured for the better part of 18 months. His second half display against Wigan though was vintage Cole and earned him the call up. The question is can he recapture the form that made him an automatic choice for club and country 4 years ago? and if he does go, at whose expense? Choosing between Lennon or Walcott is just too hard and if both healthy will go to South Africa. Cole has two weeks to show that he has recaptured his form from two years ago otherwise his place will go to Adam Johnson

The biggest question is why wasn’t Ashley Young given a chance to prove himself. The pacy winger who can also play as a forward had a great a year for Aston Villa. He’s young, good on the ball and exceptionally fast. The only explanation is that Capello see’s Lennon and Walcott as obvious choices but then why include SWP? He’s been pushed out of the City starting lineup by Johnson and when he does come on as a substitute, he hasn’t done anything of note.
Not going – Parker, Huddlestone, SWP and Carrick (If Barry remains fit, otherwise the United midfielder is on the plane)

Will the robot make an appearance in South Africa?

Forwards: Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney.

The remaining 5 people on the list are all forwards. Fabio Capello made it clear when he was first hired that he would make selections based on form. Accordingly both Heskey and Dafoe should not have been invited let alone go to South Africa, but both will be on the plane. Dafoe is an incredible finisher and will be a terror of the bench so he will go. Crouch is also a definite as he possesses great ball skills, is an unselfishish player and his height are all good for a different option off the bench. He could also start depending on the opposition.

Heskey  has trouble getting a game at Villa, hasn’t scored since February, and has the least amount of assists out of all the selected forwards BUT BUT BUT…he does have what none of the others do, and that is something which is incredibly important to Englands chances of doing well in South Africa. He has a great understanding with Wayne Rooney. They play very well together and Capello knows this and its for this reason, why not only will the big man be in the final 23 man squad but why he will also be in the starting 11. Unfortunately this means that the EPL’s second leading scorer Darren Bent will be the odd man out. He has been given several chances to prove himself at the international stage and has not impressed.
Not going – Bent

All in all Capello has picked a very solid 30 man roster. With the exception of SWP, Parker and Upson, all the rest can make a strong case for being included. Personally I think you take all 5 strikers and drop a defender or midfielder as Bent could make a difference coming off the bench.

Capello makes his final choices on June 1st. No matter who he takes or drops, this will be a solid team. Will it win the world cup? No. Will they make the semis? Maybe if they practice penalties and enjoy a little luck, but they will cause problems and are not to be taken lightly.

26 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 5:53 AM

    Shaun, as always, great article and well written. I shake your hand firmly. I agree wholeheartedly with almost everything that you have said. But there are a couple of exceptions.

    “Parker… is a booking waiting to happen” That is something I overlooked and is a priceless bit of analysis.

    J. Cole – “His second half display against Wigan though was vintage Cole and earned him the call up” I have to disagree here. Cole came on when Chelsea were winning 4-0 and the game was over, and Wigan were down to 10 men, so there was space all over the pitch for Cole to exploit and enjoy. I think Cole’s primary purpose for England will be a can-opener from the bench as he can produce something from nothing in the last third. His contribution against United and the WCQ vs. Andorra spring to mind.

    I also cannot see Gerrard playing as a holding midfielder. Eriksson and McClaren tried too many times to play both Gerrard and Lampard centrally, but they just didn’t gel. I’d rather Gerrard not be in the team than have him at the base of midfield – that’s just a waste of his talent and there are better players suited to perform that role, and I don’t want to go back to Eriksson and McClaren era where they just picked the “best players” and stuck them in . Moreover, Capello’s preferred formation utilises 2 defensive midfielders (Barry & Lampard), with Lampard in a slightly more advanced role.

    I couldn’t agree more re. Young. I am still scrating my head on that one.

    I think the bottom line is that Capello knows his starting XI for 12th June (except Barry). There are a couple of can openers, but I feel many of the substitutions will be to take key players off if and when the game is safe, rather than a Plan B – especially in the ealier stages.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 6:40 AM

      Oh and BTW, all things being equal, I think all of the contenders in the top half of the draw (Groups A to D) will fancy their chances of getting to the SFs as they won’t face the favourites (Spain & Brazil) until then. Once you get that far, it really could be the small things that can decide thing. And who knows, if either one of those (Spain or Brazil) don’t top their group they could face each other in the Last 16! Can you tell that I have thought about the permutations a little too much?


    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2010/05/12 at 7:38 AM

      Good point on Gerrard. Capello has made them work together and they did well in the qualifying campaign on the pitch at the same time but i agree Lamps should get the nod based on his season. I wonder if he will try Gerrard up top with Rooney and have Walcott or Lennon on the right, Milner on the left, Barry back and Lampard ahead of him. That way they can introduce one of the big men or dafoe around the 60 minute mark if it isn’t going well.

      At least there are options to be had.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 7:58 AM

        I have actually thought about dropping Heskey, and playing Gerrard off Rooney, but it wasn’t tested during any of the few friendlies we had. I feel Capello will use this month and 2 friendlies to fine tune and to take a look at the players on the cusp, rather than make wholesale tactical changes. But I also like the way Gerrard cut in and pops up at the back stick once Lennon/Walcott skins his man and sends one over (which is why Spector [6’0″] will get the nod (pardon the pun) over Cherundolo [5’6″]) But I like the way you’re thinking Shaun.

        I still cannot believe Young wasn’t included over SWP. I seriously feel like throwing my toys out of the pram…


      • Shaun, great column and analysis, thanks.

        I must admit, when you had Gerrard as a DM, I thought “yes, please!” The ‘ard men have never shown the understanding necessary to do the “you stay, I go” thing despite years of trying. Lamps has more tactical awareness than Gerrard, who tends to get forward early in the attack, but Frank’s tendency is to get quite far forward late in the attack. If England then lose possession, you’d see a lot of US counterattacks that ended up 3 v 3 or 3 v 2.

        I think Gerrard’s best position for England would be playing behind Rooney in the Dempsey role and dropping Heskey. You just can’t stop Stevie-me from doing what he does so you let him make the kind of slicing diagonal runs he tends to make while a more tactical Joe Cole offers support and A. Cole overlaps to provide width on the left. Lennon plays as a true winger on the right.

        Rooney’s ability to play on his own up front has only become truly apparent over the course of the current season, and could change Capello’s previous thinking up front. He could finally drop Heskey in favor of a player that can get goals in Bent. It may have seemed inconceivable earlier this season but it could be Defoe that is dropped due to his declining form, but it’s unlikely due to his ability to poach goals and score out of nothing. For me, Rooney and Crouch are the two players who are definitely on the plane then it’s 2 of the other 3.

        I like the passer/destroyer combination at the base of midfield for England and I think that’s the very basis of Capello’s tactical system. He’ll try to avoid disrupting that combination as much as possible – as we’ve seen even to the point of naming a player who could be out for 7-8 weeks to the 30 man roster. Milner and Lampard would really be 2 passers but you could just about see it if England can dominate possession. I wouldn’t actually count Parker out over Huddlestone and Carrick if Barry isn’t fit. Carrick seems a shadow of what he was a season ago and Huddlestone’s lack of pace is the sort of thing that quick counter-attacking side could get a lot of joy from.

        In England’s midfield, Lampard, Gerrard and Milner are on the plane, and a fit J Cole and A Lennon are also on the plane. That’s five spots, leaving 3 more. The battle among the wingers is really between A. Johnson (left foot, has played inverted for City but Capello will see if he can play on the left), Theo Walcott (speed, speed, speed, goal-kick) and SWP (trick, trick, shot/cross, throw-in) and among the DMs it’s Carrick, Parker and Huddlestone.

        Regardless of whether Barry is fit, Capello brings one of those three – as backup or his replacement. If Barry isn’t fit, he might bring 2 of the 3 wingers, or he might still bring 2 DMs in a position that tends to suffer from card accumulation.

        If Capello goes for 7 defenders – which is clearly a risk if Ledley King is on the plane – it’s 2 of those wingers and 2 of the DMs. I seriously doubt that 7 defenders would mean 5 forwards, it would definitely mean 9 midfielders.


        • Posted by sfshwebb on 2010/05/12 at 9:07 AM

          Yeah – throwing Gerrard for the sake of getting him in there was a mistake on my part but i do like him behind the striker. At least try it out in the pre world cup friendlies.

          SWP should be left at home and i would bring the other two wingers. I would only bring one of the DM’s. Based on the latest Terry news, I might bring Huddlestone as he can and has played CB before. Just purely as back up.

          The idea of bringing 5 forwards is more of a pipe dream for me and has to do with being a Liverpool fan and never having enough striking options cause the idiots sold the decent ones off. I guess with Gerrard and Walcott being able to play up top with Rooney, bring 9 midfielders isn’t a bad idea.

          Great analysis though


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 9:22 AM

          It’s funny how the very traditional British 4-4-2 meant a tournament squad of 8-8-4, but now teams have evolved and moved away, the squad shape hasn’t necessarily followed suit… Algeria play a 3-5-2, right? So does that mean their squad will be 6-10-4?

          Tuesday mentioned a great point regarding United’s European adventues this year, especially away from home – Rooney playing the lone striker role, with support from the flanks. England have enough width and speed to do something similar. But during WCQ, Heskey made so much space for Rooney et al.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 9:49 AM

      Plus Shaun – you want Gerrard as far up the pitch as you can get him. You don’t want him making those silly back-passes!


  2. Posted by Fireball on 2010/05/12 at 6:20 AM

    I can’t figure out why Carragher and not Hargreaves. Carragher doesn’t scare me, but Hargreaves does.

    Also, I think Cole is a great inclusion, for the match-winning mystique. Dempsey-esque. He was the best player for a terrible England in 2006 from what I can remember. Johnson won’t start will he? If it’s between Johnson and Cole off the bench, I choose Cole.

    On a completely different note, what do people think of MEXICO’s squad? I haven’t heard much back and forth since everyone’s talking about Davies. But…only 5 midfielders? Really? What happens if Blanco has a heart attack?


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 6:33 AM

      Fireball, they play in two entirely different positions, Carragher being a centre back and Hargreaves(who was our best player in 2006, IMO) is a defensive midfielder. However, Hargreaves – like Davies -is not fit. It is a shame, but it is end of story as far as I’m concerned. He has played about one minute of football and playing upto 7 games in a month is too much too soon.


  3. Posted by Fireball on 2010/05/12 at 7:04 AM

    I’m aware they play diff positions. I’m saying Hargreaves brings more value in his position than Carra in his. They’ll have cover at central defense with Rio-King-Dawson (I might even bring Upson instead of Carra, Shaun’s article notwithstanding, b/c I think Carra has had a shaky season too), but I don’t think anyone can do what Hargreaves does. If he’s not fit, he’s not fit, then yeah, end of story. But it’s not quite like Davies because Hargreaves was fit enough to sub in, while Davies is not. There’s a month to go. I think it’s more like an unfit Fabregas being named in Spain’s 30 rather than Charlie left at home.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 7:19 AM

      That is a valid point but IMO, if a player is only fit enough to be subbed on, then the WC is not the stage to try to regain that fitness (unless it was a slight tweak). England have a couple of question marks, but the risk is low. Hargreaves would be a major fitness worry and it’s not worth the risk even if he is our best (only) holding player when fit. I feel that you cannot waste a sub on bringing on a like-for-like DM on during the game. Capello took a couple of educated gambles, but this one is just too far.

      NB – It would be also interesting to find out what United’s stance on this was.


  4. Thank goodness for 6 center backs. Word is that the curse of the metatarsal has struck John Terry and he’s out of the big cup, the old Oxford.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/12 at 7:23 AM

      Now now Tuesday. Do you want me to get the Dempsey voodoo-doll out at 1500 EST?!


      • No, seriously, I would be just as gutted for John Terry as I was for Charlie Davies. I really hate it when players miss the big cup through injury. I think English are drinking too much Lucozade and not enough Milk in their early years.


  5. Posted by Jimmy Salango on 2010/05/12 at 7:57 AM

    John Terry possible broken toe training with Chelsea…… KARMA??


  6. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/05/13 at 6:08 AM

    Not sure where to share this, but Donovan is attempting to shit stir. George feels it’s a little early for such mind-games and verbal-warfare…



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