COS contributor Josh Owen continues his look at who Fabio Capello needs on that plane to South Africa.
As I continue my predictions for the World Cup, we will move on to the outside midfielders, and select four once again.
England have an abundance of wingers, so Capello has endless options for his widemen. If the strikers will be as I predicted, and he decides to start with Rooney and Crouch, or Rooney and Heskey, the outside midfielders will be vital to the team to deliver the ball on to the heads of the big men.
In contention for the spots are Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and James Milner from the Villains, although Milner has proved he can play in the center as well. From Arsenal, well there is only one, Theo Walcott, who can also play up top. Joe Cole from Chelsea was in my opinion the star of England from the World Cup in Germany apart from Owen Hargreaves, but has been struggling with injuries all year, and therefore has failed to make many appearances for the blues. From City Shaun Wright-Phillips has been consistent and has some England experience as well as new boy Adam Johnson who signed in January from Middlesborough. Lastly from Spurs, who clinched their first ever UEFA Champions League spot today have the speedy Aaron Lennon and David Bentley, who has been filling in for Lennon who was out for long spell with an injury.
With such a large quantity Capello will have to pick four of the best quality for the trip to South Africa, but I think there may be a shock for the readers when I say who I think will be named, or who I hope will be named.
First if he stays fit, Aaron Lennon. His stunning pace and keen eye for a wicked ball in will work wonders with the size of the strikers in the box. He has shown how dangerous he can be time and time again for the Three Lions and I would be in shock if he was not called up. He is my personal favorite of them all, who is only 23, but at the age of 19 was one of the impact players for Sven Goran Ericksson’s England in Germany. Surely if he is not struggling with fitness, he will be on the list. Whether the ball is played to his feet and he beats a defender one-on-one, or in behind for him to run on, he will surely provide a different aspect to the game. When he gets going, defenders will have to aware of the pacy winger.
Next, the Englishman from Arsenal, Theo Walcott. Although he has been off his top form this year in the Premier League, I feel there is a simple explanation, he does not belong in England. As a Barcelona fan, when I saw Theo Walcott come on in the Champions League, I didn’t think much would happen. Little did I know he would turn around the game completely, and after seeing Barca dominate Arsenal for 70 minutes, in 20 minutes Walcott brought his team back from 2-0 to 2-2, adding a goal himself. Theo Walcott belongs in La Liga. He is not strong enough, or tough enough, to play in brutal Premier League, but if England are facing a flashy team, Walcott will come on and rip them to shreds. Not all teams will be warriors like England, and Walcott is the man to change the game against flash. Like Lennon, his pace will provide an extra outlet for the men in the middle when things aren’t going their way.
In the last World Cup, Joe Cole was a difference maker for England. He was their Brazilian, the pretty boy, who had the flash and the skill to take on defenders and added the spark and creativity Gerrard and Lampard can not provide. He was as I said one of the highlights of the England team. However, he is struggling with injuries, and has failed to hold a starting spot this season. I would love love love to see Joe Cole playing for England, but with the injuries I just don’t see it happening. So who will be the flashy playmaker? Adam Johnson. Everytime I watch the kid he impresses me more and more. Since January Johnson has a goal and four assists, and I can sense the boy who has such a promising future will start his international career in 2010. He has been, apart from Tevez and Bellamy, maybe the best player for the richest side in England since he has signed, and I am backing him to fill in the shoes of Joe Cole.
Last but not least, if you thought that was shocking, prepare yourself. David Bentley will be the fourth man to go. All of the wingers in England are very similar, they demonstrate thrilling pace and skill, but I feel Bentley can provide something completely different to the team. A lot like Gerrard when he plays out wide, and David Beckham, Bentley will build his game on the ball into the box. The right wing man over the years demonstrated he can score goals as well as provide a ball into the box. With on and off performances for England, and Spurs this year, I feel while Lennon was injured, he really stepped up. When you think about it, there is no one with the quality Bentley has shown he has who has the same style of play, who isn’t out with a torn ACL. I believe we will all be in for a shock when Bentley is named on the final squad.
You all must have realized I have not named James Milner, so I am going to make myself clear. Capello will pick James Milner, 100%. Milner will be the utility man. I have no idea where he will be on the pitch. He could be playing right back in Johnson gets hurt, left mid, right mid, or hopefully center mid. Apart from Lampard I would say Milner has been the best English center mid in the league this year, and his peers agree, after he was voted Young Player of the Year by them. Milner is an amazing player, and wherever the tenacious hard working Milner shows his face on the pitch, I will be happy. I don’t know where Capello intends to utilize Milner, but with his versatility and obvious skill and ability to maintain possesion, he will be there.
Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Shaun Wright-Phillips are great players, but I took one of each style of player, maybe two for the pace. Young and Wright-Phillips almost have the speed of Lennon and Walcott, but they are just not quite at the same level. While they have both impressed at times this year, I don’t think they will make the cut. Downing has also been playing well for Villa, and although I feel he has loads of ability, I’m not sure if he can be a game changer when it really counts.
So my picks on the outside… Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, Adam Johnson, and David Bentley.