COS contributor Luke Harrison takes a look at those in Fabio’s armoury who are primed and ready to take on the world.
The focus has been on Fabio Capello’s decision to drop Theo Walcott but Adam Johnson has every reason to feel equally, if not more, disappointed with being left out of the England squad. Not only is he the only natural left winger who made to thirty man squad but his form for Manchester City as seen him move ahead of Shaun Wright- Phillips in the pecking order at Eastlands. Wasn’t good club form one of the ‘must have’ to have even to entertain having a chance of getting into one of Capello’s England’s squads?
To be fair on the Italian, he is still learning as an international manager and the jigsaw puzzle may not be as black and white when putting the picture together as he first thought when taking the job on (Gareth Barry springs to mind). But, in a squad that the fringe players have been picked on their on versatility, Johnson will feel his own has been over looked.
Brought from Middlesbrough in January where he played as a left winger for the first half of the season, he moved to the blue half of Manchester on the right wing, adapting well to life in England’s top league. This, forcing more time on the bench for his England colleague Wright- Phillips, who has since been linked with a move away from the club.
Wright- Phillips has been played on the left hand side for England it’s true but, the lack of balance that England have shown in their friendlies this year, surely the squad was crying out for a natural left winger such as Johnson? Good pace, two good feet. In addition to this his rave reports in training in the England camp and with the impressive, all be it short, introduction against Mexico.
Johnson could have romanced South Africa 2010, just as Gazza did in Italia ’90.
In the end, Johnson’s inexperience cost him and Capello has gone for Wright- Phillips who impressed earlier in the year against Egypt. Two starts against Mexico and Japan worked against Walcott who was heavily criticised by Capello in a team review of the game against the first of those two opponents
A few eye brows may be raised with Warnock’s selection ahead of Baines who played against Egypt and Mexico. Warnock though did play a bit on the left wing in his younger days and can mix it up in the centre of midfield. Joe Cole, who may have had a sleepless night on 31st May, is in there for his experience and versatility (as he proved in the Japan win when he had half a dozen different positions in forty- five minutes, including left wing) and can offer something very different as an individual and to the formation of England- which in the later stages may be needed.
The real winner though of this selection is Aaron Lennon. At twenty three, he is about to go to his second World Cup and looks set to make the right wing position his own. Unlike Walcott there has been improvement in his game for all to see this season, particularly in his final ball.
Walcott, who was convinced he had done enough to earn his place, must ask himself now what’s next in his career. In and out of the Arsenal side, where he has spent his time at the club trying to convert to a right winger, despite banging goals in for fun up front at his old club Southampton. Does he need to return back to his days up top? The way he took his goals against Croatia in qualifying proves he has the finish to match his pace. Does he need a fresh start away from Arsenal? Whatever the young man needs to do is get his confidence up for next season as his own England future concentrates now on Euro 2012.
Back to this summer though and the ‘transfer deadline day’ saga that surrounded the England twenty three man squad is over. For Capello it’s time to get some much need work done to prepare his starting eleven for 12th June. He may though look back at previous England campaign’s with a hint of jealousy over the amount of friendlies they had to prepare.
In the calendar year of 1966, England played eight friendlies before the start of the tournament. True it did start later but before England’s second most successful World Cup in 1990, they had five friendlies between 28th March and 2nd June. Times have very much changed of course with the development of the Champions League especially. The two friendlies England have had since the league season finished has more been about filling the squad up than building a team with continuity and understanding to take on the world.
The squad players, in a way you hope won’t be needed in some cases as this will mean injury to those that are first choice.
Important though all the same but now the parade of the England twenty three is over, Capello has to rediscover the passion England had in qualifying and build the continuity and understanding in the performances. Importantly to do this he must find the right balance of the team. Find an effective role for Steven Gerrard to not only do what he is good at but makes sure it fits in with the rest of the team and as there isn’t a Adam Johnson to fly down the left wing whether its Gerrard, Joe Cole or someone else, to balance the team out down the left. Capello has got to get it right at the World Cup and, he has to get this right, first time, on 12th June.