Name: CG Special Subject: Stating the bleedin’ obvious
Brian Clough used to say football was simple. Fabio Capello needs to consider a couple of simple things in order to secure qualification to the European Championships next summer. Pick the players who are in decent form and pick players who are going to be able to play together. Very simple.
More often than not, a group of players that plays together for a significant period of time, will make a decent side. These days, the England team does not get enough time to train and play together, with their club commitments being so much more important/financially rewarding. Throw in Darren Bent alongside Bobby Zamora with little time to prepare and it won’t be surprising if they don’t gel instantly. Capello could do a lot worse than to pick as many players from Manchester City and Manchester United as he can. They at the top of the Premier League so their players must be in at least better than average form. They’ve looked head and shoulders above the rest this season and the players will already know how to link up. Spain managed to win the World Cup last summer using mainly Real Madrid and Barcelona players. Could be worth thinking about..
Picking the players in good form was something Capello promised during the early stages of his reign as England manager. He seemed to be true to his word at the beginning and by the looks of the squad selected to play against Montenegro on Friday, the former Milan boss is looking to embrace that tactic once again. Pretty much anyway – poor old Joey Barton’s not been selected. You wouldn’t have thought something as important as current form would be overlooked, yet England managers have become masters of it over the past few years, making some staggering decisions along the way to failure after failure. But well done to Capello for recognising the contributions of Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Scott Parker and Danny Wellbeck this season.
Gabriel Agbonlahor has a right to be a little disheartened not to have earned a call-up on the basis of his early season form at Aston Villa, while I’m also not as convinced as the rest of the world on the merits of Bolton centre half Gary Cahill. He’s not a bad player but he has been overvalued by his club and the rest of the country has just gone ahead and bought the hype. Let’s not forget, he is leading the defence of the team which is sitting bottom of the Premiership, hemorrhaging an average of three goals per game. I’d bring in Joleon Lescott instead, who has looked confident and comfortable alongside Vincent Kompany at the heart of Manchester City’s defence during Kolo Toure’s absence. I’d make room for Agbonlahor by removing one of the so far unjustifiably expensive Liverpool boys, who are yet to link up as Kenny Dalglish had hoped. Of the two, Andy Carroll should probably be spared the axe since he offers something which no one else in the squad really can.
A team made up of mainly City and United players (a couple of Chelsea boys too, for now) should be confident of gaining the point they require in Podgorica tomorrow evening. Particularly as Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic went all defeatist and signalled his intent to play a weakened team in order to focus on second place in the group. Here’s how I think Capello should line up..
Joe Hart – No competition. Literally. Even the retired lads Paul Robinson and Ben Foster have not been anywhere near as impressive as Hart this season.
Micah Richards & Ashley Cole – You want your full backs to get forward and these two won’t disappoint. With Cole you have bags of experience while Richards’ versatility gives the manager extra options.
Phil Jones & John Terry – It would be harsh to simply describe one as a donkey and one as a composed footballer but it’s a combination that could work. Not much will get past Terry, whose leadership and experience could also prove vital in away games. Jones has excellent positional sense and has shown he enjoys getting forward to help out the front men.
Scott Parker & Frank Lampard – A bit of an ageing central midfield but the wide men and strikers will do more than their fair share of charging about. The play has a tendency to slow down when Lampard gets on the ball but he has the ability to control the midfield on his day. He has answered his critics in recent matches and playing alongside Parker will allow him to push forward.
Ashley Young & Adam Johnson – What’s good about playing Young and Johnson is that they have the ability to switch wings. Their direct styles will frighten full backs, they have great ability in picking out the strikers and both have shown they have an eye for goal.
Wayne Rooney & Danny Wellbeck – When they play together, United win. Of all the strikers in the squad, they will probably strike up the best partnership. Both have shown tremendous early season form and should be confident of unlocking the Montenegro defence.
With James Milner, Gareth Barry, Andy Carroll, Theo Walcott, Darren Bent and the rest, England will be fine.