Following on from analysing the defensive option article, which I think by and large Capello got right by the way; here I’ll take a look at the midfield choices.
Centre Midfield – Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard, James Milner – Some interesting choices here, Barry has been ruled out for around a month so it’s obviously just a ‘we’ll wait and see what happens’ affair with him, but I very much doubt he’ll recover in time. This leaves a space open next to Lampard in the middle of midfield with Parker, Carrick, Huddlestone and Milner all vying for it between them. I’ve excluded Gerrard, as although a central operator by trade, he looks to have nailed down the left wing berth under Capello and he’s giving the freedom to roam inside unchecked, so I doubt whether he’ll take his place in team alongside Lampard.
I imagine there will be three central midfield spaces with Milner taken regardless due to his versatility to cover a number of positions, and he very much seems like Capello’s go-to guy. Lampard takes one of them obviously; Carrick would appear a favourite for the other one despite regressing completely this term and it would be a real worry to see him lining up in the middle in the latter stages of the tournament such is his total inability to control the tempo even in the slightest against quality opposition.
This would leave a direct fight between Huddlestone and Parker for the final place. I’d personally lean towards Parker as he’s been superb this term and a shining light in a poor West Ham side, his ability to drive a team on and add a little bite to proceedings is something notably missing in every other option available above and without Hargreaves (a preposterous rumour in the first place) making the squad, he’s the nearest thing we’ve got.
Huddlestone is still a young lad at just 23 years old, his time will come on the international stage, perhaps even as soon as the next Euro’s should we qualify. For me anyway, he looks vulnerable in a 4-4-2 formation, his huge frame can make him look a bit lumbering at times and he’s not the hardest to knock the ball past. He does possess a nice range of passing, but if you go down the Miciahel Carrick route, there’s really no need for two of them in the squad and he offers less than Parker when compared to the other options. Who will make the plane? Lampard, Gerrard, Milner, Carrick and Parker
Wingers – Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adam Johnson and Joe Cole – I see three spots open for contention on the wings and of the five chosen provisionally, it looks to me as if Shaun Wright-Phillips is most in danger of missing the trip. Lennon is an absolute must, an electrifying winger when fully fit and a real outlet who has added a consistency and maturity to his game in the past season or so. His fitness is in doubt after missing a long stretch of the Premiership campaign, but he should be fine to go despite having a lack of match practice, something he’ll probably earn in the games against Mexico and Japan.
Walcott will probably go to his second World Cup as a backup striker come winger and even though his form doesn’t fully warrant a place in the squad on merit this season, his hat trick against Croatia away will live long in the Italian manager’s memory and only serves to highlight that if given the right service, he can potentially be devastating with space to run into, something the England side will hope to exploit, and although undoubtedly a pretty stupid footballer, he’s a nice option to have on the bench and be able to bring on as an impact player with his quick legs able to stretch the play and test the tiring legs of any defence.
Adam Johnson looks to have edged ahead of former mentor at Boro Stewart Downing, who it has to be said has had a mediocre season of little note at Villa. He lacks the pace to trouble the best and although when fit, he’s normally a regular in Capello squads; the Italian has obviously seen enough of his inability to break down sides. Johnson remains raw, but much like Lennon in 2006, his ability to go past his man means he’s probably worth taking a chance on and he’ll go in reserve.
Joe Cole looks to have burst into life the past month or so, his flair and guile are an added bonus and he represents something different to the aforementioned wingers above. He was our best performer at the last World Cup and he’s remained a consistent performer for club and country in the past, but I made a bet with a friend just over two months ago for £10 that he’ll just miss out and I’m standing by that as I don’t think Capello’s seen enough to convince him that he’s worth taking over the others. I’m saddened to see Ashley Young miss the 30 as I’ve always thought his dead ball delivery is second to none, but Capello is obviously still worried by his lack of skill in the ball retention department and he unfortunately misses out. Who will make the plane? Lennon, Walcott and Johnson
Written By James McManus