In naming his 23 man provisional squad today, the usually safety-first-to-a-flaw swede decided that he may as well go out with a bang for the last, and most important, England squad he ever picks.
Eriksson happily took Wenger’s bait and included 17 year old Theo Walcott despite the fact that he has yet to play in the Premiership and hasn’t played first team football since January. In-form wingers also make a surprise appearance as Middlesbrough’s Stuart Downing and Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon have also been included at the expense of Shaun Wright-Philips (haha!) and…err..Paul Konchesky??
Spurs captain Ledley King is also on standby, having featured frequently and played well for England recently but is sidelined with a metatarsal injury which means that Eriksson’s – and no one else’s – favourite player Owen Hargreaves appears from nowhere yet again.
But the strikers are really the interesting story here, Eriksson and Joe Cole himself reckon the Chelsea winger can play as a second striker which leaves the team with Rooney, Owen, Crouch, Walcott, Joe Cole.
In the incredibly likely scenario of Rooney and Owen missing a match at the same time due to random foot injuries, it means that we could well be left with Crouch up on his own or Crouch + untried teenager. Crouch would probably work best as it allows England to play a holding midfielder (Carrick) and give both Lampard and Gerrard freedom to get up the pitch and score goals. The real shock is not really Sven’s selection but the fact that he has never shown such flexibility until now.
To be honest, if Walcott is as talented as he’s made out to be it may not be that big of a gamble on Eriksson’s part – but to rely so heavily on two strikers with such massive questions marks over their fitness certainly is.
It looks more and more that the performance of Peter Crouch will shape England’s World Cup campaign….Yippee!!
Ed: Sven has also just admitted he has never seen Walcott play live.