Will the real Micah Richards please stand up?

What happened to Micah Richards? A couple of years ago he could do no wrong, he was the first choice right back for England, becoming the youngest ever defender for his country when he made his debut against Holland aged 18, was a regular for Manchester City and there were rumours of Chelsea wanting to sign him for £18 million. Now, he cannot even get a look in for England, has suffered a big dip in form and looks like a shadow of the player he was supposed to be.

Richards burst onto the scene for City in 2005, making his debut against Arsenal, and was tipped for a bright future. Strong, versatile and possessing an abundance of pace, Richards can play at both centre back and right back and was tipped to be a world class player for both City and England. After an excellent season in 2007/08, where Richards was a regular for England and was a key part of City’s defence alongside Richard Dunne, Chelsea were keen to sign him, but he opted to sign a five year deal with the Eastlands club. Richards even captained the side in Dunne’s absence, making him City’s youngest ever captain.

But since then, it has all gone downhill for Richards. At times last season, the defender was woeful, making some key errors that cost City dear. This season, Richards has shown improvement, but at times still looks error-prone and that excellent potential he has, looks just like that: potential. Under Mark Hughes at the start of the season, Richards was looking great in some games, like the player we always thought he would be: bombing forward, strong, defensively sound and confident. But since Mancini took over at Eastlands, Richards has regressed, always looking like he is about to make a mistake, whether that be a poor pass, a dodgy clearance or just losing his marker.

If we take a look at the stats for this season, Richards has been in and out of the team on occasion, sometimes Pablo Zabaleta is preferred, as in the recent wins over Wigan and Fulham, and Richards has sometimes been substituted in the second half when he has been starting games. The defender has made 20 Premiership appearances for City this season, scoring 3 goals and adding one assist, compared to playing in 33 league games last season.

What is the problem with Richards? Confidence has played a big part in his recent struggles. Richards often looks to the bench for guidance and instruction and his positional play is often suspect, in terms of watching his man and staying in line with the back four.

Although, we have to cut Richards some slack, mainly due to his age. The defender is still only 21, which is hard to believe considering all that he has accomplished so far in his career. He still possesses obvious potential and with the right guidance and maturity, I believe Richards can still be a key player for City and England.

With that in mind, why is Richards not in the conversation for a World Cup place? Glen Johnson is first choice at right back and although he is great going forward, his defending leaves a lot to be desired. Wes Brown is injured at the moment and even Gary Neville is in front of Richards in the pecking order. The main reason for Richards’ omission from the squad is the fact that Capello doesn’t rate him and while the Italian is in charge, it seems like we won’t be seeing Richards as a regular for England.

What do you think – is Richards destined to be world class or average and should he be going to the World Cup?

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