Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughTime for tinkering, Fabio! - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Time for tinkering, Fabio! - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Time for tinkering, Fabio!

One announcement from UEFA and the English press has enough ammunition to fill an opinion page on any slow news day for the next seven months; should Wayne Rooney be taken to the European Championships if he is banned for the opening three games (appeal not withstanding)?

Aside from the arrogance of the Twittersphere to pre-emptively blast a situation where the press argues the case for and against for the next half a year (admittedly, a scenario not difficult to envisage) before such a situation even happens, the answer is simple to this mind. You take him, but with one caveat.

The reason you take him is that he is England’s one genuinely world class forward, as his 25 goals and 15 assists in his last 48 (all competitions) games at club level alludes to. That’s his worth in pure statistical terms, let alone his other attributes that make him what he is; wok rate, technique, eye for a pass, link up play and so on.

But he is more than that as he is the only player who is eligible to pull on an England shirt who will mentally as well as physically frighten top class defenders. Despite the stats saying that England, since 2003 have won 60% of their games with Rooney compared to 69% without, with all due respect, if I were a defender, I would much rather be up against Bobby Zamora than Rooney.

It would not be clogging up a space in the 23-man squad to take him for two reasons; firstly, as England play essentially with one up front now, three (plus Rooney) out and out strikers in the squad should be enough. Secondly, with players like Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and Steven Gerrard in the squad (presumably) you have the resources to cover the lone striker and second striker role.

However, here is the caveat. Rooney cannot play in any of the England friendlies from now until June (cue huge grin from a certain knight of the realm) for the simple reason that it would not make sense to.

In a situation where a group could plausibly contain Spain, Portugal and France (or Poland, Denmark and Estonia that said), you need to know what your best team is and who can play with who as one slip up in the tough European Championships groups could be enough to knock you out, unlike the World Cup. Therefore, every friendly game from now until June is important to ascertain what our best line up is for the group games, particularly regarding the attacking options.

If we are to stick with Fabio Capello’s apparent preferred formation, a loose 4-2-3-1 with an interchangeable front four, there are many different alternatives.

There is the target man in the lone striker role, a Carroll or possibly a Crouch, the more mobile, predator striker like a Jermaine Defoe or the halfway house between the two in the form of a Darren Bent or Zamora.

Then, who do you play behind them in ‘the hole’? There are probably only two alternatives here; Ashley Young or Steven Gerrard with the former showing his ability to link up with Darren Bent in the away game against Bulgaria last month but the latter having a superior passing ability.

Moving on from this, if Young were to play in the number ten role, what then for the wingers? Walcott, Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson, are the current prime options with conventional wing play (left footer on the left, right footer on the right) better suiting a Carroll or Zamora playing, in theory for putting in telling crossers, with the opposite for a striker such as Jermaine Defoe who would benefit from wingers cutting in and playing a telling pass.

Whatever Capello goes with, all the variants need to be tested as they have not been before due to Rooney’s starring role but these players now find themselves in a position where they have to step up if England can make it through the group stages of the historically tough European Championships.

Let the jostling begin.


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