Tuesday, 16 March 2010

England squad prospects

As we get closer to the World Cup, the make-up of the elect 23 grows larger and larger in the public consciousness. David Beckham's Achilles snap has only heightened this. Rather than copying and pasting various City player's declarations that 'fourth is important to us' (I'll come back to that tomorrow) I think it's time to have a look at the City players with a shot at making Fabio Capello's final squad, and to attach relatively arbitrary percentage chances of their being included.

Gareth Barry

The lone certainty. Barry has played almost every game under Capello, who brought to England the doble pivote system which served him so well in previous jobs. The partnership of Barry and Frank Lampard is the foundation of the England side, breaking down opposition play and making it possible for Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney to perform further up the pitch. As we all know Barry's had a pretty patchy season in blue but Owen Hargreaves' injury makes him odds-on to keep his place in the side. Michael Carrick is improving but Barry's selection and assured performance against Egypt two weeks ago ensure he'll start at Rustenberg on June 12. Chance of making squad: 100%

Joe Hart

Of course he's been at Birmingham City all season but he's still ours - and may well be a full-time Manchester City player again come June. He has had an exceptional season at St. Andrew's - the best English goalkeeper this season by a distance. Were it not for the continuing mastery of Cesc Fàbregas he would be a certainty for the PFA Young Player of the Year - the first goalkeeper since Mervyn Day to win it. But recent evidence suggests that Capello is likely to prefer the experience of David James or Rob Green. This is fairly puzzling, but Hart's inclusion in the squad for the Egypt game suggests he's next in line. That, and Paul Robinson's month-long absence with a calf strain more or less confirm Hart's place on the plan. 90%

Joleon Lescott

Like Joe Hart, Lescott is currently behind an out-of-form West Ham player in the pecking order. Capello clearly rates Matthew Upson - partnering him alongside John Terry against Egypt - despite the humiliation visited on him by Nilmar in Qatar in November. But with long-term injuries to Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill, Lescott seems to have a decent hold on fourth choice, ahead of Ryan Shawcross, Roger Johnson and Matthew Dawson. So if Lescott keeps up the form which won him the prestigious TLDORC Player of February gong he should keep his place - particularly given his ability to play left-back in a crisis. Of course, all it would take is an injury or a dip in form and Shawcross, Johnson or Dawson - all of whom have been better than Lescott over the course of the season - could steal in. But I reckon he's got a decent chance. 60%

Shaun Wright-Phillips

Shaun is the player I'd most like to make it, as the MCFC Academy graduate with the best chance. But I fear he will just miss out. The right wing position is famously competitive and even with David Beckham absent I think he's behind Aaron Lennon and a resurgent Theo Walcott in Capello's preferences. SWP has seen a lot of England gametime recently, and has a good scoring record, but deep down City fans know that he is not quite of international class. And if we've spotted this then I'm sure that Fabio Capello and Franco Baldini have. The one possible opening is if Aaron Lennon fails to recover from his muscle injury, in which case SWP could go as back-up to Walcott. But with Milner, Gerrard and possibly Joe Cole offering choices down the right it's not looking great for our Shaun. 40%

Adam Johnson

This is an interesting one. The combination of Beckham's injury and Johnson's audacious goal on Sunday afternoon led to some speculative press about the chances of AJ's inclusion on Monday. Capello is known to be fan of his and he would offer something slightly different. Being one of the two quick English left footers helps, given that we have a tradition of playing right footers - Paul Scholes, Joe Cole and Steven Gerrard out there. And while Steward Downing has his own admirable qualities, Johnson has a bit more pace and a bit more magic than his former Middlesbrough team-mate. He's nowhere near the finished product, and was noticeably quiet against Liverpool and Chelsea recently - but stranger things have happened than his inclusion. 20%

Micah Richards

This is a disappointment. Four years ago it looked very likely that Richards would make this plane - and many other such planes in the future - but we all know that it hasn't quite happened for him. He's had a good season, better than last year certainly, but he still does not have total ownership of the right-back slot, and the failings Capello is so critical of have not been entirely expunged. Now that Glen Johnson is fit, and with Wes Brown as a solid understudy it would take at least one injury for Micah to muscle his way onboard. And with James Milner fancied as a right back even that is not assured. But he's still 21 - there will be more chances in future. 5%


Elephant said...

I would be amazed if Lescott doesn't travel, not least because he can fill in at left back in a pinch. With WB out and Cashley shaky, I can't see Capello staking everything on Baines.

I am still sore about Graham Le Saux being rubbish in 1998 with no cover, so I might be a bit prejudiced about this one.

Johnny Crossan said...

You forgot Bridge

JPB said...

No I didn't.