Posts Tagged ‘Ferdinand’

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Part Three

18/04/2010

A semi-regular feature (ok, just twice) has been an attempt to look into Signor Capello’s mind and try to make an educated guess on who might make the England squad for this summer’s World Cup. When first written in March last year the following conclusion was reached:

James, Foster, Kirkland.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Brown, Upson, Bridge.

Lampard, Gerrard, J.Cole, Young, Beckham, Hargreaves, Wright-Phillips, Barry.

Rooney, Walcott, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe.

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Another go was made in November and there weren’t too many changes to be honest:

James, Green, Foster.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Upson, Brown, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Milner, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, C. Cole, Walcott.

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So, what’s changed since then? Quite a lot since you ask. We’ll start with Goldenballs himself David Beckham. A shoo-in for the squad if fit, he injured his Achilles in the last-minute of a Milan league match and will not be fit in time. He’ll still be going to South Africa, but purely as a cheerleader. I think Fabio Capello would sooner pick his mum for England than Michael Owen but he’s been saved the hassle of having to explain to the press why it wasn’t going to happen as Owen is out injured too.

In my last preview I had doubts over Wayne Bridge going just to the low likelihood of needing a second left back but now he won’t be going due to John Terry’s assertion that the role of club and country captain allows you to shag your best mate’s fiance and then pay her to get rid of the consequences. Capello harbours hope that Bridge may change his mind but he won’t.

england squad

Capello's first squad. How things change.

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Goalkeepers:

Five months ago David James looked certain to be first choice but a succession of niggly injuries and a relegation battle with Portsmouth seems to have given a chance for Rob Green. There’s no doubt in my mind James is still better but it may come to whether he can play seven games in a month. Either way both go.

The third spot is now clearly Joe Hart‘s after a great season at Birmingham. He won’t play but I imagine it’s to give him experience ahead of him becoming the first choice for the Euro 2012 campaign. This is the least interesting position in terms of uncertainty; barring injury those three will 100% go to South Africa. Next in line would be Paul Robinson I reckon but the less we think about that the better.

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Defenders:

The first choice back four pick themselves and they should all be relatively fresh given their various injuries this season. Yep Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand being fit are key to England’s hopes (along with Rooney of course) given how poor the back up is. The drop-off in each position is quite worrying and none of the backups really strike me as being international quality.

Matthew Upson is still the go-to centre back if one of the main two go down. Joining him will be Joleon Lescott who can provide cover at left back and probably Wes Brown who can provide cover at right back. It’s a scary thought if either of those two have to play full back – can you imagine them trying to stop a Ribery or a Messi *shudder*.

The more I think about it the more I believe it will be seven defenders only, especially when you can call on certain midfielders to provide cover too. Barry, Milner, Carrick and Gerrard have all played defensive positions adequately. Desperately hoping for an injury or two will be Phil Jagielka who is certainly next in line.

Should Capello go a bit cautious then Leighton Baines will now be the second left-back while shockingly, and mainly due to lack of any other alternatives, Gary Neville would go if Johnson was crocked. Ryan Shawcross has been looked at but the fallout over the Ramsey tackle has put paid to his hopes. Michael Dawson? Perhaps but I doubt it.

A couple of interesting wildcards would be Ledley King and Sol Campbell. When fully fit the former is probably better than Terry but he’s rarely fully fit. The latter meanwhile has been a revelation since rejoining Arsenal in January. As backups they wouldn’t have to play every three days but I guess the risk is that if Terry or Rio were badly injured then they would be needed more often than they could handle. Still though, it could be worth a gamble.

wayne bridge john terry veronica perroncel

No longer friends, no longer teammates.

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Midfielders:

Again we’ll deal with the first choice guys first. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry have been there and done that. All are super experienced and in the team. Beyond that it starts to depend on who the opposition is. James Milner has gone from nowhere to possibly challenging for a place in the first XI.

Aaron Lennon should regain fitness in time to take a right-wing spot against weaker sides, while the fact Owen Hargreaves still isn’t fully fit means Michael Carrick will be the nominal defensive midfielder. That’s the Michael Carrick who has been found out against every top side he’s faced this season.

If I had written this two months ago Theo Walcott would probably not have been going but he’s recovered form well in the preceding time. You still feel his one weapon is pace though. Stewart Downing seems to be the only left winger under consideration but I haven’t really been that impressed by him.

Joe Cole is desperately trying to find some form in Chelsea’s last few games – he’s under great risk of not going but at the same time he has skills which no other English midfielder has. It may well come down to a straight choice between him and Adam Johnson, who has been excellent in his three months at Man City.

The one thing against the latter is the he normally plays on the right (even though he’s left-footed) and there’s already Lennon and Walcott in the squad. That said Beckham would still have gone if fit so there’s no reason why Johnson can’t be a third option on the right as well as one on the left too. It could come down to the next friendly.

Shaun Wright-Phillips wasn’t in my squad last time I did this and he won’t be in this one either, despite Beckham’s injury opening a spot. Johnson has usurped him at club so no doubt he will at country. Plus it may also be that Wright-Phillips is a bit average. Sorry Ian.

People knocking on the door marked injury backups? Hmm, Tom Huddlestone has had a decent season at Spurs as a central midfielder with centre back skills but I think Jagielka would sooner go as a centre back with central midfielder skills. Ashley Young just doesn’t seem to be liked Capello as for my money he’s better than Downing but is very much on the fringes.

There’s a real dearth beyond that. Jack Rodwell? Scott Parker? Lee Cattermole? Your guess is as good as mine.

capello england

Johnson and Cole? Just one, not both.

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Strikers:

I think it’s still very much four strikers plus Walcott as a fifth forward. Wayne Rooney is so important it’s unbelievable. If he gets injured you’re probably looking at a second round knock-out. With him fit it’s at least the quarter finals woo! Anyway, he’s first name on the teamsheet.

Emile Heskey is under a lot of pressure right now. Obviously the point of Heskey isn’t goals but how he enables others (like Rooney) to play better – the thing is though that there’s only so poor a season someone can have before you have to look at alternatives. He should be fine, I think. Jermain Defoe is an impact striker – not good enough for 90 minutes but capable of being a 25 minute nuisance.

Peter Crouch will need to make sure he performs well in the next squad get together as Bobby Zamora looks set for a call up ahead of the final friendly. Zamora perhaps is more of a replacement for Heskey in terms of skill set and what he’d give the team but Crouch should be concerned too. Carlton Cole would go if Defoe was injured, while Darren Bent would go if Cole and Defoe were unfit. Gabriel Agbonlahor doesn’t seem to be on the radar and rightly so.

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So where does that leave us? Well for my money these are the 23 going to South Africa:

James, Green, Hart.

Ferdinand, Terry, Johnson, Cole, Brown, Upson, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Milner, Carrick, Lennon, Walcott, Johnson, Downing.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, Crouch.

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Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 23 Preview

26/01/2010

I love it when you can sit back, relax and just watch the points roll in. Last gameweek saw several teams play twice, two of which were Arsenal and Man Utd. 13 goals and four wins later for those two sides and you have the basis of a great fantasy week.

I suspect that anyone who didn’t have a Mr Rooney or Mr Fabregas in their side is now a long way back in any individual league. They combined for 70 points+ depending on who you chose as captain and it just goes to show it’s always worth taking a points hit when the top teams play twice.

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Gameweek 22 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Yes, as touched on earlier it was a personal competition between Fabregas and Rooney to see who would score most points in gameweek 22. Rooney struck first blow with a goal, assist and three bonus for 12 points against Burnley. Fabregas then responded with a goal, clean sheet and three bonus for 11 points in his first match against Bolton. So far so close.

Fabregas then had the return match against Bolton and decided to do even better and score 13 via goal, assist and man of the match. This had me worried slightly as my closest rivals had him as captain and thus had 48 points in the bag while I was waiting on Rooney. I needn’t had worried. Four goals and a man of the match against Hull later I was looking at another 20 points and 64 altogether. What was particularly sweet was that for everything Rooney did in that game the more my lead would increase. I like it when that happens.

Wayne Rooney top gun

Maverick keeps approving, Rooney keeps scoring.

Elswhere, you probably had a good week if you had Kyrgiakos (19 – unlikely really), Kuyt (18) or Anelka (16 in one game). Over twenty players got into double figures so if you got less than 100 hang your head in shame.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Fabregas/Arsenal – It’s a tough away game against Aston Villa but I genuinely don’t feel confident in anyone else this week. The man is on a single-handed mission to score and assist enough goals to overcome the handicap that is Manuel Almunia’s goalkeeping skills and Eduardo’s newly developed habit of shooting pea-rollers straight back to the opposition keeper when faced with a clear one on one. He’s a big game player and destroyed Aston Villa in under half hour while still injured a few weeks ago. He’s fully fit now…

2. Gerrard/Liverpool – Should be back against Wolves apparently and as usual will be important if Liverpool are to win. They’ve been in good form recently and should deal with Mick McCarthy’s side without too much hassle.

3. Anelka/Chelsea – No games stand out really so I’m putting Anelka here simply as Chelsea have a home game. Birmingham are no mugs as the many people who had Rooney as captain against them a few weeks ago found out (2pts I believe it was), but Chelsea should still win. Anelka terrorised Sunderland last week so is in good form.

fabregas fantasy football captain

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1.  Ferdinand/Man Utd – Returning injured players are the theme this week and we’ll start off with Rio Ferdinand. Out for most of the season with a bad back, he played against Hull and got an easy clean sheet and bonus point. His price has fallen all the way to £6.6m and he could be a good alternative to Evra or indeed Vidic if you still have him.

2. Bendtner/Arsenal – Approaching full fitness and when he’s not injured he always plays. Eduardo has been good for assists only while Vela is not ready yet. Bendtner should slot straight back in and with the number of goals in Arsenal will be a good source of points in the months to come.

3. Arteta/Everton – Another player nearing full fitness. Everton have been gradually improving and he should be the catalyst to ensure a bit more creativity in the second half of the season.

rio ferdinand man utd

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Defoe/Spurs – More of a personal vendetta but I do think there are other similarly priced strikers who are better (like a certain C. Tevez). I think this the second time this season I’ve brought him for some easy home games and he’s done f all. There won’t be a third time.

2. Walcott/Arsenal – If Sunday’s display in the FA Cup against Stoke is anything to go by, it will be a while before he has the confidence and form to be scoring consistent fantasy points.

3. Man City midfielders – Judging by all the transfer speculation in the media, it seems Mancini isn’t especially happy with his central midfield lot. Something to keep an eye on.

jermain defoe spurs

Are you taking the mick?

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T.

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Mark II

18/11/2009

EDIT: Updated version – April 2010

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Way back in March I wrote a post that tried to predict England’s World Cup squad for next summer’s tournament in South Africa. In it around 50 or so players were analysed; everyone from certainties like Wayne Rooney to certainly nots like Curtis Davies. With the friendly against Brazil fresh in the mind and only one more international break before the end of the season, there isn’t much time for players to impress if they haven’t already. As before let’s work our way through who’s on the plane through to who won’t be going at all. .

Key men (if England are to reach their usual quarter final):

First name in the squad is the captain John Terry simply as he’s captain. I personally think he gets found against the very best strikers but there’s no chance of him not going. He’s swiftly followed by Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Rio Ferdinand goes as long as he’s fit, though it’s a concern if he doesn’t make it simply as playing style wise he’s harder to replace than Terry – England don’t have a lot of ball playing centre backs but do have a lot of one paced ones.

Gareth Barry is defensive midfielder of choice though may be usurped by a fit again Owen Hargreaves. They’ll both be on the plane however. Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson are the first choice full backs and are far ahead of their immediate competition.

Fabio Capello

Thinking...

On the plane (extra leg room provided):

David Beckham has sorted another loan spell at AC Milan and I’m positive he’ll be going to his 4th World Cup. He’s very much a bench player these days but still offers great set piece ability as well as experience. Emile Heskey has not been in great form and is no longer in Aston Villa’s starting XI but that said he will still be on the plane. He won’t score but he makes Rooney et al play better so for that reason is picked.

David James is first choice keeper, and despite his age should be able to handle that number of games in a month. Theo Walcott has had a succession of injuries but has done enough in the games he’s played to go as a wide man who can play up front. His pace is a big asset, plus he strikes me as someone who does what he’s told hence Capello likes him.

Matthew Upson and Jermaine Defoe should go as first back-up centre back and striker respectively. Neither are going to win you a World Cup final but they’re the best reserves in their position. Defoe just needs to watch his petulance slightly as there’s no point having a player who is going to miss games after needless red cards..

Looking for their passport (they are going out of Europe after all):

Joe Cole should be a little worried, just as he hasn’t found a way into the Chelsea team after injury, but at the same time he offers dribbling ability and creativity that not many can match. I was quite down on James Milner in my last prediction but did say he had a shot of making it. He seems to be impressing Capello right now and can play in a few positions. I do wonder whether he ultimately misses out due to the competition on the right side, though he has been playing down the left for England so you never know.

Aaron Lennon will be there or thereabouts, possibly in a straight battle with Milner for a spot. Rob Green looks like he’s firmly established as England’s number two while Wes Brown’s versatility of being a right back and centre back should mean he finds his way into the squad.

Fabio Capello training

Still thinking...

On the fringes (which bits are chopped?):

Wayne Bridge is doing his best to play his way out of the squad. You could argue about whether you really need to take a reserve left back, especially when the likes of Gareth Barry could play there if needed. Barring injury, the first choice defence are going to play every game so specialist reserve left back may be an area to gamble on not taking.

Of the other alternatives Capello has picked during his tenure, Leighton Baines and Steven Warnock don’t strike me as being quite good enough. If Joleon Lescott goes he provides left back cover too but he is quite shaky defensively so I don’t think he does. There is dearth of centre backs though. What price Kieran Gibbs continuing his rapid progress and staking a claim? Of all those players, he’ll be the only one playing Champions League football but a lot depends on whether he can keep Gael Clichy out of the Arsenal side once the Frenchman returns from injury. He appears to have just injured himself too.

I reckon Michael Carrick probably only goes if Barry or Hargreaves are injured and even then he’s shown countless times for Man Utd that he’s not a big game player. Gabriel Agbonlahor offers pace and will find himself with Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole and Darren Bent in the queue for the 4th striker spot.

Capello has only ever picked seven strikers so it would be a surprise to see him take five of them, not least when Walcott can play up front. Of the four I would say that the Sunderland man had his chance against Brazil and didn’t take it. I think Agbonlahor doesn’t give enough variety when compare to the others – with a 4th striker you want someone who offers something unique.

In that regard I’d say it will be a close run thing between Crouch and Cole.The former has a good international record (against crap teams at least) and is very tall (though not that good in the air) while the latter is a more complete striker who has pace, power and can play the target man role too. It’s a tough choice to be honest and I think Cole may need to break his international duck in the next round of fixtures if he’s to pip Crouch.

Ashley Young may find himself as number 24 on the list of players though personally I would find a space for him. It does seem like Capello isn’t quite sure of him yet. There aren’t too many options down the left but it does seem like either him or Milner would go but not both.

fabio capello press

Still not quite sure...

Too late to make it? (need good form and injuries to others):

Stewart Downing has upgraded clubs but has six months to shine at Aston Villa following serious injury. The same probably goes for Phil Jagielka at Everton. Tom Huddlestone got his first call up against Brazil and while he’s decent player, he’s not yet international standard. Jimmy Bullard? Unlikely but you never know. I see him being a good pundit though. Scott Parker has a very outside chance of being one of the back-up central midfielders; he’s certainly no worse than Carrick in my opinion.

Ben Foster? Joe Hart? Chris Kirkland? Take your pick for the third goalkeeping spot. I doubt it will be the latter though.Of other players we mentioned last time Jack Wilshere isn’t yet getting regular games at Arsenal while Jonathan Woodgate is permanently injured. Dean Ashton has essentially retired.

However Gary Cahill has played well enough at Bolton to come on to the radar as 4th centre back and has a chance of going if Capello takes eight defenders. Everton’s Jack Rodwell could be a dark horse but I think it is one tournament too soon for him. The same goes for some of the West Ham youngsters like Mark Noble and Jack Collison.

Fabio Capello touchline

Now thinking "Why are they so useless?"

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Providing ITV analysis (or BBC if they’re good):

I had Shaun Wright-Phillips as going six months ago but now I think he misses out as you have Lennon, Walcott and Beckham providing all you need down the right (dribbling/goals/crossing). SWP can do all three but not as well and his poor performance against Brazil has sealed a seat next to Papa Wrighty on the studio sofa.

Jermaine Jenas is another who isn’t particularly defensive or attacking. World Cup squad players need be specialists once you get beyond the first team, there’s no room for these jack of all trades types who provide little. Michael Owen has yet to be picked by Capello and barring injuries to four of the seven strikers we mentioned will not be going to South Africa.

Micah Richards needs to get back in the Man City team before he can think about England – it’s all gone a bit pear shaped for him hasn’t it? He hasn’t been picked in a year; Capello just doesn’t like his terrible positional play. Scott Carson had a shot at being third choice keeper but he won’t be going and neither will Paul Robinson, who you could roll the ball to very slowly from 30 yards and he’d still find a way to let it in.

Sadly, Ledley King can barely handle three games in a month, let alone seven. He would 100% go if he could. David Bentley, Kevin Davies, Anton Ferdinand, Gary Neville – no, no, no and no.

fabio capello michael owen shaun wright phillips

The closest Owen has ever and will ever get to being in Capello's plans.

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Possible squad:

James, Green, Foster.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Upson, Brown, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Milner, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, C. Cole, Walcott.

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The three keepers speak for themselves as do the first four defenders. Versatility is the name of the game so to complement Upson you have two centre backs in Brown and Lescott that can cover the two full back slots.

In midfield you have the three main men plus a fit again Hargreaves. Beckham goes for his experience while Lennon and Joe Cole provide the skill and trickery on either wing from the bench.Milner offers the most versatility of the remaining midfield options so gets the eighth spot.

Up front Rooney is a given, as is Heskey due to their partnership. Defoe is the main back up and I think Carlton Cole will play his way into the squad, pipping Peter Crouch whose record of scoring against bad teams is of no use when you only have good teams in the World Cup. Theo Walcott rounds off the squad as a foward player who can play right wing or as striker.

At most risk is Lescott I’d say and possibly Milner too. You may want more cover in central midfield and down the left so perhaps Carrick and Bridge or Gibbs (who could also play left wing) end up going instead.

T.

Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Defenders

29/07/2009

Defenders are another area where there are two schools of thought. Either splurge on attacking players and just see what you have left, or have a solid base on which you can rely each week to get a clean sheet. I prefer the latter but it’s quite difficult to have quality across your squad. Invariably this means defence is an area where you try and make ends meet.

To be honest you can set up your team so that you have three solid players and two from relegation strugglers. This way the three wil play every week and if for some they’re injured you’ll at least get a couple of points from the two subs. Again, if it’s anything like last season where an unheralded team does well, you could end up with a John Paintsil coming off the bench to score you six points every week. Not bad for a £4m player.

Eyes of a serial killer points scorer.

Eyes of a serial killer points scorer.

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Expensive (£6.5m-£8m)

Following his all-star performances last season, Nemanja Vidic tops the defenders list at £8m. Understandable as he scored 187 points which was good enough for fourth overall, but I don’t expect Man Utd to have quite as good a defensive record this year. Well certainly not 12 clean sheets in a row or whatever it was. You have to ask whether Vidic will get you £1.5m worth of value in terms of extra points compared to a £6.5m defender like Evra. I’m not so sure myself.

Last year saw the second lowest goals total in Premier League history, and this is reflected with defensive prices being higher than ever. The six main players competing to be in the Chelsea defence all cost over £7m! Even Carvalho, who was injured for ages and scored the grand total of 44 points. The only Chelsea option I like is new signing Yuri Zhirkov. I agree with the Football Guy that he’s likely to play left wing, which means clean sheets, goals and assists. He’s expensive at £7.5m but worth it I’d say.

Elsewhere you’re welcome to go for Rio, Carragher, Johnson etc but I’ll be looking for cheap players in top four defences. Right back at Man Utd is an area to watch, all the candidates fall in the next category. I avoid Arsenal defenders as Arsenal defenders don’t generally keep enough clean sheets to warrant costing £6.5m. They may surprise with Vermaelen now marshalling but it’s unlikely. Gallas scores quite a few goals though. Baines is interesting at Everton, he really kicked on in the second half of last season. He takes his fair share of set-pieces so could be good for some assists.

Seven assists last year.

Seven assists last year.

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Mid-range (£5m-£6m)

There are some good picks to be found at this price level if you look hard enough and you could form quite a nice back three. As mentioned, the candidates for right back at Man Utd all fall at £5.5m (Wes Brown at £6m aside) and hopefully it will be one of Rafael, O’Shea or Neville who gets it.

Elsewhere it’s the range of defenders who play for Europa League chasing clubs – the likes of Fulham, Everton and Aston Villa. It’s difficult to see who stands out really. All the Fulham boys are now unappealing at £5-5.5m. Villa really need to replace the retired Martin Laursen if I’m to pick anyone from their back five – they fell apart without him post Janaury. Everton will hard to beat as usual so maybe a Yobo or Jagielka (when he comes back). With Man City signing Toure plus Barry in midfield, they should concede a lot less. Bridge is good for assists and should get some clean sheets.

I like the look of Insua at Liverpool but he won’t play too much initially. To the lower end of the scale (£5m) you should be looking at the key defender for the mid-table teams like Bolton and West Ham. Guys like Cahill, Upson and Woodgate for Spurs will often be the key to a particularly good result against a top side and will thus snaffle the three bonus points that will come with it. All three of them got 15 points + in bonuses last year.

Underrated.

Underrated.

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Cheap (£4m-£4.5m)

Here’s where some of the fun of fantasy is.  You’ll find yourself with 14 of your squad picked and you’ve only got £4m for your last defender. You then spend ages debating whether one particular Burnley defender is better than another despite knowing nothing about either. It usually ends up being pot luck with who you choose (invariably based on last season’s Championship appearances) and more often than not I’ll pick someone with the best name. How about Ronald Zubar from Wolves? Or Danny Shittu from Bolton (an oldie but a classic). Kallio? Stoor? Zayatte? To be honest your guess is as good as mine. You can at least be safe in the knowledge that whoever you pick, they’ll be getting transferred in Gameweek 2 for someone who actually plays.

On a more serious note there’s some decent bets at £4.5m who I expect to have good seasons. Steve Bruce made Wigan into a good defensive unit when he was at the JJB and I expect him to do the same now he’s at the Stadium of Light. I’m not a 100% on who will be first choice but someone like Ferdinand could be a good shout. I was impressed with what I saw from Roberto Martinez at Swansea last year and he should see that he continues Bruce’s good work at Wigan. Bolton, Blackburn and Stoke should also provide a few options (Faye is still £4.5m as is Nelson).

Say hello to your third sub!

Say hello to your third sub!

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T.

England World Cup Squad Predictions

26/03/2009

EDIT 1: Update – November 2009

EDIT 2: Update 2 – April 2010

Another month passes, another international week appears just when you least want one. The title race was just beginning to get interesting with Liverpool gathering momentum and Man Utd being on the rocks. You’ll notice there hasn’t been a post for a couple of days. This is mainly due to my brain switching off at any thought of international friendlies and qualifiers. I guess the games are important but I for one am happy to just wake up in ten days time knowing that everyone who was meant to win probably has and that I spared myself from watching 180 minutes of tedious football.

Coming soon...

Coming soon...

One good thing is that we are only 15 months away from the World Cup in South Africa. I thought it might be fun to have a go at picking the potential squad of 23. Three goalkeepers are standard even though the likelihood of the second choice playing is tiny, let alone the third choice. That leaves twenty spots for outfield players which I shall divide into eight defenders, eight midfielders and four strikers. We’ll assume everyone is fit to play so even Ledley King will get considered, much to Mr Redknapp’s chagrin…

Jermaine Jenas? You must be joking!

Jermaine Jenas? You must be joking!

On the plane (first class of course)

Most of the first choice XI picks itself so the usual suspects can consider their position safe barring a dramatic loss of form or injury. People like Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard, Terry, Ferdinand and Ashley Cole have nothing to worry about. If fit they go. David James will probably still be playing well enough but I wonder if he can hold off Foster as first choice. Joe Cole is one of the few in the squad with the ability to take on a man but his injury record is a worry. Gareth Barry may well be at a bigger club than Aston Villa next season and his versatility at three positions gives him an advantage over someone like Jenas (the other advantage being that he’s better, full stop).

I like you

I really like you.

In the departure lounge (drinks complimentary)

I think next season should see Ben Foster finally become first choice England goalkeeper. I imagine that if he’s not playing for Man United by Christmas, a loan move in January will ensure he has enough football under his belt to make the cut. Glen Johnson has improved greatly at Portsmouth and could well be first choice right back. Carrick and Hargreaves are both strong contenders as they play for Man United and are the best holding midfielders England have. It could be a bit of luxury having both those guys and Gareth Barry too. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, it may well be Carrick who misses out. Walcott and Agbonlahor offer similar skills (great pace, inconsistent finishing) and it wouldn’t surprise me to see both picked. Walcott is very much ahead in the race though and for now Gabby belongs in the next column. Joining Walcott will probably be Heskey and Crouch. Both offer something different, which in international football means you get picked, even if your goalscoring record is not great. Matthew Upson appears to have established himself as third choice centre back meaning he plays if either Terry or Rio are injured. I’m not convinced he has what it takes against the very best. I’d sooner take people who can play full-back and centre half as my reserve defenders and free up a midfield or striker spot. Wayne Bridge probably goes for the simple fact he possesses a left foot and plays full back. No chance of dislodging Cole but better than any other reserve. Wes Brown seemed to be first choice right back earlier in the season but I’m not sure how long he can keep this up without being first choice right back at Man United. As he can play centre back too, he should make it. We can’t end this bit without mentioning Sir David Beckham (believe me that knighthood is coming). For all his critics, his lack of pace, and superstar lifestyle, there’s no denying that he loves playing for his country and has done everything he can to ensure Capello still picks him. Personally I think he still has a lot to offer coming off the bench, and his experience and dead ball expertise will be useful in closing out games. Plus, if some other players showed half as much passion when playing as he does, you might actually have a team that cares.

I quite like you.

I like you too.

Looking for their passport (ever forgetful these footballers…)

Lots of players who have done well this season will need to maintain their form next year if they are to make it. The likes of Phil Jagielka, Carlton Cole and the aforementioned Agbonlahor have all had good seasons at smaller clubs but will have to show it’s not a one off. The latter’s Villa teammate Ashley Young stands a good chance of going for his crossing ability alone and he offers pace from midfield which is a bit of a rarity in the England squad. For Carlton Cole to go, a defender may have to be sacrificed. To be honest I would go with seven defenders and five strikers, you’re more likely to need options to chase a game than defend it. Micah Richards will presumably bounce back next year from a poor season at club level and his ability to play right back and centre half gives him advantage over a few others. Kirkland should go as third choice keeper and it’s good to see him get rid of the injury proneness that blighted the early part of his career. Jermaine Defoe takes the spot of poacher ahead of Michael Owen. His (ex-)partnership with Crouch is another plus point. Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon offer pacy right wing play which will be a nice alternative to the slow right wing play of Beckham. It may come down to a choice between SWP and Young, but I’d happily take them both.

I think you're ok. I need eye contact if I'm to like you.

I think you're ok. I need eye contact if I'm to like you.

Browsing lastminute.com instead (not good enough for Don Fabio)

A couple of years ago, you’d put a lot of money on Michael Owen breaking Bobby Charlton’s scoring record. He’s now stuck on 40 however and Capello clearly doesn’t fancy him. I know his play is limited to the penalty area (being generous) but if my team needed a goal with ten minutes left, there are few better poachers in the English game. Joining him are West Ham teammates Scott Parker and Rob Green and ex teammate Anton Ferdinand, all decent players but not quite international quality. Gary Neville’s time has been and gone and his injury nightmare has seen several right backs overtake him in the pecking order. Phil Neville will do his usual trick of being in every squad in the run up to the finals but then not make cut. Stewart Downing will need a move to a bigger club, as he’s become a bit stagnant at Boro. He seems somewhat one paced for a winger and will probably miss the cut. Joleon Lescott seems to behind Jagielka in the pecking order though if he cuts out the mistakes he may yet be taken for his left back ability. Joe Hart and Paul Robinson need solid defensive campaigns to be considered, as do Jonathan Woodgate and David Wheater.

You can make eyes at me all you want, but I'm just not that into you...

You can make eyes at me all you want, but I'm just not that into you...

Wild cards (looking for a great 2009/10)

It’s always tricky to break into a squad with only a year left before the finals but Capello has shown that he looks at form not reputation. I tend to think that with the last couple of squad places it’s worth taking a gamble on something different rather than just wasting it on another generic central midfielder like Jenas (nothing against him personally but he does epitomize the kind of player who is jack of all trades). Sven had the right idea in taking Walcott to the last World Cup but never got round to actually putting him on the pitch. James Milner could be an outside shot if he continues improving at Villa though I personally don’t really rate him. Ledley King would be a great option at centre back but he can’t handle seven games in a month. Dean Ashton could feasibly to the job that Heskey does but with perhaps a few more goals. He’s always getting himself injured though. Jack Wilshere is very highly thought of at Arsenal despite being just 17 but it would require him to start playing regularly in the league which will probably be a season too soon. Beyond that you have the usual selection of players who get tipped for a potential England call but actually have no chance of going barring a deadly viral outbreak which wipes out the 50 best players in England. I’m talking about the likes of Kevin Nolan, Kevin Davies, Jermaine Jenas, David Bentley, Tom Huddlestone, Darren Bent (noticing all the Spurs players?), Leighton Baines (though a good season could see him challenge Bridge), Luke Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Curtis Davies, James Beattie, Jimmy Bullard and Andy Johnson.

High five, up above, down below, you're too slow and you're staying home.

High five, up above, down below, you're too slow and you're staying home.

Potential squad:

Goalkeepers

James   Foster   Kirkland

Defenders

Terry   Ferdinand   Cole   Johnson   Brown   Upson   Bridge

Midfielders

Lampard   Gerrard   Cole   Young   Beckham   Hargreaves   Wright-Phillips   Barry

Strikers

Rooney   Walcott   Heskey   Crouch   Defoe

T.


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