Posts Tagged ‘James’

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Part Three


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


The Six Pointer – Arsenal deficiencies, Arsenal deficiencies & more…


1. While Man Utd clearly deserved their win against Arsenal on Sunday, they were greatly helped by the non-performances of three Arsenal players in particular; Almunia, Clichy and Denilson.

Almunia has been a liability all season. He appears to have no confidence in his own decision making and no confidence from his two centre backs, Gallas in particular. Perhaps the Nani goal was unfortunate but I’ve seen Almunia do that weird palming thing too many times (e.g. Bentley last season) to think so.

almunia arsenal man utd

Words fail me.

There’s a level of technique which he clearly doesn’t have, and won’t learn at the age of 32. Mentally he looks shot and I struggle to think of which Premier League teams he’d get into right now. Certainly no-one in the top half.

With Fabianski being just as dodgy at the moment, it leaves a big hole to fill. Part of me wishes there had been a cheeky loan move for David James as a six month stop gap. Certainly the position will be one to address in the summer.


2. Clichy is perhaps still a bit unfit but not for the first time this season he was given a torrid time by so-so right-winger. After Wright-Phillips and Young, Nani joined the list of players who have outwitted him positionally and through a bit of pace.

His form hasn’t been good for a while now and I’d hazard a guess that Kieran Gibbs will be pushing him very hard for a first team spot next season.


3. Another player who has stagnated is Denilson. If you get beaten fair and square then fine, but if in one of the biggest games of the season you’re half-heartedly jogging back while the opposition are breaking at speed then something’s not right.

denilson arsenal

Jog on jogger.

Denilson has always been someone who divides opinion, on the surface a player who does nothing particularly well but nothing particularly badly. However, two weeks running he has now casually made half hearted attempts to stop breaks which have both resulted in goals.

Aaron Ramsey may give away the ball more but at least he makes things happen and chases after people. I’d play him next week if Diaby isn’t fit.


4. Playing three tiny players up front doesn’t work. I like the 4-3-3 formation but it only works if you have a variety of players. Van Persie, Arshavin and Bendtner offer different heights, differing skills and differing work rates and it was one reason why Arsenal were playing so well at the start of the year.

A trio of Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky is just too similar. Arshavin to his credit wasn’t that bad and caused a few problems against Wes Brown but it’s just a shame Bendtner wasn’t match fit which would have allowed the Russian to face Rafael instead.


5. Theo Walcott isn’t going to the World Cup unless he has a dramatic improvement in form. He’s been found out for having one skill (pace) but not the intelligence to do anything with it.

I know he’s been out injured a long time and he was only a sub but you could say the same for any of his (few) games this season. There’s struggling to get into a game and then there’s complete anonymity. The problem with Walcott is he often finds himself in good positions; he just rarely makes the right decision. I know he’s a confidence player but how can he gain confidence if he’s never doing anything worthy of lifting it.


6. If you count the Champions League and cups the last eight games against Man Utd and Chelsea have resulted in one draw and seven defeats with just five goals scored and 18 conceded (thanks to East Lower). In two home games this season against the top two Arsenal have been crushed 3-0 and now 3-1.

Yet still Wenger believes in his players and refuses to buy anyone new. I wrote last season about how it was misguided to refuse to sign players because they might ‘kill’ a current player.

arsene wenger arsenal man utd

Mr Grumpy, meet Mr Stubborn. Mr Stubborn, meet Mr Grumpy.

I don’t really care if Denilson suddenly has his path to the first team blocked or if Walcott has to work that little bit harder to get a start. What matters is the success of the team and sometimes the feelings of players have to be sacrificed.

An 18 month deal for an experienced player that can do offer an alternative is hardly to going to finish the career of 21 year old Denilson. It may however have helped win a trophy this season, something which now looks unlikely.



England World Cup Squad Predictions – Mark II


EDIT: Updated version – April 2010


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


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?"


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.


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.


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.


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