Emile Heskey is probably the most debated player in England. Why? Because he is one of the first players on Fabio Capello’s team-sheet and a lot of people struggle to see why. Well, I am one of those people. Heskey is a good player but is he a player who should be starting for a team with very real hopes of lifting the World Cup this summer? I think not.
The general belief, and evidence will back it up, is that Capello likes to have a big-man up front in order to get the best out of Wayne Rooney. Rooney’s record of 9 goals in 9 qualifying games would suggest that this might be a wise idea but, with other potential players looking better than Heskey, should Capello persist with the Villa striker or is it time he gave a chance to the challengers?
There are 3 candidates that stand out. Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole and Bobby Zamora. Crouch has had a number of chances but is not as strong as Heskey and, despite his size, prefers the ball played to his feet than towards his head. He is a player who could provide something different but I don’t think he is quite what Capello is looking for in a partner for Rooney. Carlton Cole is probably the player who has the most potential out of the three but has struggled with injury this season and that may have an effect on his chances. Then we have Zamora, a player who, this time last year, would not have even been considered as a potential World Cup player.
Having named his England squad to face Eygpt this week, I was very surprised, and slightly annoyed, that Capello had not selected Zamora. After choosing an in form Darren Bent for the friendly against Brazil, you would have expected him to give the Fulham striker a chance. Zamora has been in red-hot form and just this week helped Fulham to set up a tie with Italian giants Juventus in the Europa League. Even the stats would suggest that Zamora should be considered. In 21 league appearances this season Heskey has 3 goals and 1 assist. Very worrying stats for a player who is more than likely to wear the number 9 shirt at the World Cup. On the other hand, Zamora has 8 goals and 4 assists in 23 games and 15 goals in all competitions. Surely a no brainer?
Not only is Zamora playing better, but he is also a very similar player to Heskey. At 6ft1 he is just 3cm smaller than Heskey and although he weighs nearly 2 stone less, he makes up for it with pace and an ability to turn quickly as well as being one of the toughest strikers in the League for defenders to play against. If Capello wants a player who can hold the ball up, bring team-mates into the game and even pop up with a few goals, then Zamora is his man.
If his form this season continues until the end and Heskey labours along as he is doing so at the moment, Capello would be a very brave man to leave him out. With Juventus in the next round of the Europa League, Zamora will know that a good performance against the Italian’s former club will surely put him in the frame for selection.