COS contributor Josh Dean continues his look into the players who should be on the plane to South Africa.
Before I start the defense I need to cover what will happen if Gareth Barry can not make the World Cup. He has suffered an ankle ligament injury and could be out for awhile.
Rumour has it that the man to get the call up will be Owen Hargreaves. He has only played 20 seconds all season, and that was last weekend against Sunderland. Capello has said he is “under consideration” for the spot, which is a shock to me, but great news. Hargreaves was the best player in the last World Cup for England, and after the impressive performance Sir Alex signed him from Bayern Munich. I would be thrilled if he makes the cut. He is a great ball winner and will bring a lot to the England team as he did in Germany. Make sure you tune into the Man U game this weekend, as he might get more than 20 seconds, maybe even 30. Other than that you may see utility man James Milner come into the middle, where he impressed me as well this season for Villa.
In the defense the standard back four has been Glen Johnson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole. Although they have struggled with injury and media this season, they should definitely have cemented starting spots. Johnson was one of the highlights for Liverpool’s sub-par season, scoring twice in his first two games, and I think he will be strong attacking down the flanks, as well as Ashley Cole, who before his injury was on the best form of his life. With Barry or Hargreaves holding they will surely be bombing on down the flanks. Terry and Ferdinand… what can I say? They are starting center backs for the two top clubs in England, and they have formed a strong partnership. They will definitely be together in the back.
Which leaves three open places for defenders, with Wes Brown, Matthew Upson, Micah Richards, Ryan Shawcross, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Stephen Warnock, Leighton Baines, Gary Neville and maybe even Sol Campbell up for a spot.
The first spot I think will go to Wes Brown. Not only can he play center back and right back, but he is solid in both positions. Spending his entire career at Manchester United, Brown has managed 23 caps for England. He is a very tough tackler, and he will make sure he is the man and not the boy in a 50-50 tackle, which with Brown is more than 50 for him. Although he may not be as gifted on the attack, he is calm with the ball at his feet and that is vital for a defender. I give him the nod.
Ledley King has not been able to play consistently, so I think that automatically rules him out although I admire his rocklike defense.
Next I think Michael Dawson deserves a spot over Matthew Upson, who would be my second choice for a back up center back. He is a lot stronger in the air, and has been very consistent for a strong club. Also Upson’s strength is leadership, which he showed leading a weak West Ham United squad, but do we need a leader in the back? He would be partnering the new captain Rio Ferdinand and the old captain John Terry. Although leadership is very important Dawson’s strength in the air would be more important to the England squad.
On the left back, the back up has to be Leighton Baines. He is skillful and is strong on set pieces, and without Barry, they may need his left foot to drop the ball into Rooney and Crouch. During the Cole-Bridge crisis I though he was pretty solid against Egypt. His passion and desire is admirable and I hope Capello admires it too. Despite his lack of height I think he is a strong left back and will make a good back up to Ashley Cole at left back.
Gary Cahill has been pretty good this year, and rumour has it he could be rewarded by Wenger with an offering to play for the Gunners. He has been regularly named for Capellos squad, and I think he has a decent chance for a preliminary spot, but not a full spot.
Sol Campbell and Gary Neville are past their prime, and I don’t consider either of them starters anymore. Sol Campbell has been impressive for Arsenal but I think it would be too risky to bring him along, especially with enough options where a risk is not necessary, same with Gary Neville. Ryan Shawcross still does not have an England cap, and although he was on the squad against Egypt, and he is a tough defender, according to Wenger a little too tough, he won’t be on the plane.
I flat out dislike Lescott. After a transfer request from Everton to Manchester, he played one game for Everton this season against Arsenal and his team let in six goals. I thought this was very unprofessional and I question his attitude. I also question whether he can play at the highest level, especially after his performance against Croatia in 2008. Richards and Jagielka are just not on the same level as the others, and I would pick Sol Campbell over the two of them, although I feel Richards is stronger than Jagielka. I like Richards defending a one-on-one, and feel he will be on England sooner or later, but just not yet. Warnock again is just not on the level of Baines, and Capello feels the same after starting Baines over Warnock against Egypt.
So I chose
Johnson (RB), Brown (RB/CB), Terry (CB), Ferdinand (CB), Dawson (CB), A. Cole (LB), Baines (LB)
With 20 spots filled that leaves 3 for the goalkeepers. Tune in.