Out with the old…
…and in with the new.
England manager Fabio Capello has elected to look at some of his younger players for the international friendly against Hungary on August 8th 2010.
Stuart Pierce left Kieran Gibbs, Micah Richards, Lee Cattermole, Jack Wilshere, Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott out of his U21 squad to face Uzbekistan – leading to murmurs in the press that all six will be called up to the full squad.
Of those six, perhaps Johnson and Walcott are the least surprising. After all, both were very close to making it into the on the plane to South Africa.
After the fiasco of being brought into the fold for the 2006 World Cup in South Africa, perhaps being left out of the 2010 squad has proved a wake up call for Walcott. He is clearly a talented athlete, who can scare the wits out of defences at the highest level with his pace, but his moments of brilliance are far too sporadic. His supporters still point towards that run against Liverpool in the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League quarter-final, or his England hat-trick against Croatia in September 2008, but the infrequency of these moments only goes to illustrate why he wasn’t brought to South Africa.
Walcott undoubtedly has huge amounts of potential, but needs to work on an end product and tactical discipline before he loses his pace.
Adam Johnson is actually older than Walcott at 23, but came to prominence later – having only begun to play regularly in the Premier League in January. While he doesn’t have the blinding speed of the Arsenal winger he is a more tricky player with the ball at his feet and from set pieces. Many fans’ issue with Johnson though is that they have yet to see him torment a world class full back, for particularly in games against Manchester United and Arsenal he was very quiet – and in the 4-2 win over Chelsea the Blues played a rare three centre backs in defence.
Micah Richards also has England squad experience. He looked to be the long term replacement for Gary Neville after impressing during the Steve McLaren era, but a move into central defence has seen his stock fall rapidly. Were he to be played at right back again, he might be able to recover the excellent form that won him his call-up in the first place. Glen Johnson’s place in the starting XI is by no means secure.
Lee Cattermole came on in leaps and bounds last season at Sunderland, and with Owen Hargreaves seemingly dead, there is certainly a vacancy for a spoiler in midfield. The fear with Cattermole is that he attracts an enormous amount of yellow cards, and this will not impress Fabio Capello. Should he cut the fouls out of his game though, he could be extremely useful for England.
Arsenal youngsters Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere are both supremely talented individuals who haven’t looked out of place at the highest levels of either the Champions League or Premier League. The only obstacle for each is that they might not get the first team football they crave. Gael Clichy is currently first choice left back ahead of Gibbs, but recovered his best form last season after a season or two of decay.
Wilshere is a versatile performer, and possibly the best England prospect out of all of the above. In front of him in the Arsenal team are Cesc Fabregas (if of course he stays), Andriy Arshavin, Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, and arguably Theo Walcott. Wilshere was frequently Bolton’s most creative player in his loan spell last season, and if he is afforded the playing time at Arsenal this season he could well develop into a phenomenal player.
One name I was slightly disappointed to see in the U21 squad was Jack Rodwell, for having broke through to the Everton team last season he has plenty of Premier League experience, and would present an interesting option in midfield. The prospect of learning alongside players such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard could do wonders for someone who looks like developing into a cultured all-round player.
I don’t advocate a complete reform of the England squad, for some of the more experienced names still have something to offer. England friendlies such as this offer an opportunity for younger players to integrate into the team though, and hopefully they should be at the forefront of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign. Should Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong be persuaded to pledge allegiance to England rather than Ghana, and with prospects such as Connor Wickham on the way, the future looks surprisingly rosy for England.
The U17s won the European championship this summer, the U19s made it to the semi-finals of their equivalent tournament, and the U21s were runners up last year. It’s time for the senior team to do something.
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