England are there – but who gets the nod

While it was easy to forget following the somewhat disappointing turn of events, England’s turbulent 2-2 draw against Montenegro in Podgorica on Friday night did secure their place in Poland and Ukraine for the 2012 European Championships. Everyone is considered and available for selection, the only exception being a certain temperamental Manchester United frontman.

GK – Joe Hart

Manchester City’s 24-year-old stopper is a very straightforward inclusion to the team. Capable and reliable, Hart shows experience far exceeding his years and will undoubtedly lineup between the posts for England’s Euro 2012 campaign, fitness permitting of course.

There would also appear to be very little competition for Hart’s place at present. Scott Carson’s recent inclusion in the squad after his resurgence at Bursaspor is sure to be a relief to him following his torrid time in his last appearance in that ill-fated clash with Croatia in 2007, while David Stockdale is surely not yet ready to stake a serious claim for the number one shirt.

RB – Micah Richards

The right back position has become perhaps the biggest point of discussion in recent times for England, with a host of candidates filling in. The previous permanent incumbent of the role was Liverpool’s Glen Johnson, but he very often flattered to deceive and has endured several struggles with injury recently. In Johnson’s absence young Chris Smalling has featured a couple of times at right back, and most recently Manchester United’s marauding centre back Phil Jones made a slightly uncomfortable debut there in the fixture against Montenegro.

However I find it slightly bizarre that Capello has declined to turn to Richards in such times of strife, who is at least an established right back. He has been included in recent England squads but does not appear to be in serious contention for a starting place which I find to be somewhat strange. Although appearing more often than not to be little more than a human battering ram, Richards for me is the pick of a rather limited set of options.

CB – John Terry

Although not nearly as popular as he once might have been due to his various off-field misdemeanours, re-appointed skipper Terry will lead the team at Euro 2012 and is therefore presumably assured of a starting role. I would certainly argue that he is not as consistent as he once was, but will begrudgingly admit that he is still the best we have in terms of leadership qualities and commitment in the heart of the defence.

CB – Gary Cahill

The second centre back position alongside Terry will be open to great debate. If Rio Ferdinand, who was left out of the recent squad for the clash with Montenegro, can regain fitness and form then there would certainly be a strong case for his return to the starting lineup but for now I feel Bolton defender Cahill deserves to maintain his place.

He has performed well in his handful of appearances thus far, and I see no reason currently why he should be displaced, particularly as I feel he is a superior option to the likes of Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka who are currently in reserve. There could perhaps also be a case for the inclusion of the aforementioned Phil Jones alongside Terry if his impressive club form continues, however as exciting as he is going forward, I’m not quite convinced the defensive side of his game is yet up to scratch.

LB- Ashley Cole

Like him or positively detest him, there are few who doubt Cole’s credentials as a top quality left-back. At 30 years of age he is still one of the finest in that particular position the world over, and as he approaches the magic 100 cap mark there remains little competition for his position in the side.

Leighton Baines continues to provide adequate cover but there is no doubt that the number three shirt remains Cole’s to lose.

CDM – Scott Parker

Having seemingly greatly improved with age, Parker has prospered in recent years in a defensive midfield capacity, particularly at West Ham United where he became a Hammers legend. Having consistently ignored the cries for an international call up for Parker for a significant period of time, Capello appears to have finally realised the error of his ways and Parker is slowly becoming a permanent fixture in the national setup.

Although they have been playing together for England of late, my choice of including Wilshere and Gerrard in the midfield means that there is only space for one of Parker or Gareth Barry. While there is certainly an argument to suggest Barry’s ball retention is better than Parker’s, I feel the Spurs man offers far more protection to the back four and such valuable defensive qualities are pivotal in an otherwise rather attacking setup.

CM – Jack Wilshere

The inclusion of Wilshere is of course dependent on him returning from his current injury on schedule and proving his fitness and form during the second half of Arsenal’s league campaign. If he can do this then I feel his selection in the England midfield is imperative.

Wilshere offers a certain uniqueness to the squad. He picks the ball up with good movement and looks to quickly and crisply move it on, not dwelling in possession and ensuring attacks are built with pace and energy. Providing his supporting cast are on a similar wavelength his inclusion could be key to England’s 2012 hopes.

RM – Theo Walcott

Walcott has always been a player who seems to divide supporters, and that remains the case today. When fit and firing on all cylinders his impact and pace can be devastating as England and Arsenal fans alike will know, however it is also true to say that he can often flatter to deceive with sub-par performances tarnished by indecision and a distinct lack of composure.

However continued good form this season will presumably see him start for England at Euro 2012, and he will expected, as ever, to use his rapid speed to good effect. Liverpool’s Stewart Downing appears to be the next in line for a starting berth on the England flank, with Adam Johnon, James Milner, Aaron Lennon and perhaps even Shaun Wright-Phillips also in contention and looking to impress for their respective clubs.

LM – Ashley Young

At the time of writing, it is difficult to name an Englishman more in form for both club and country than Ashley Young. Terrorising full backs in the red of Manchester United, he has already amassed a number of goals and assists this season and is also producing the good with the Three Lions, having produced an impressive first half showing in Montenegro and notching his fourth England goal.

Again providing he can keep up his great form and he continues to flourish in his new surroundings, I would assume Young as an automatic selection for one of the wing positions for England at Euro 2012.

CAM – Steven Gerrard

Following England’s rather shambolic showing in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup, the onus from Capello since then appears to be on giving youth a chance. This policy has led to one or two of the senior players being gradually phased out of the side and being forced to be content with lesser roles in the squad than they might have played under Capello and indeed England regimes previously.

However I believe it is too early for Gerrard to be given a similar role. Like many other of England’s important players he has battled with rather serious injury just recently and fitness will be a crucial factor in determining his status in the squad for 2012. I am certainly one of those who still believe Gerrard has an essential role to play for his country, and in the event of Rooney’s suspension believe he could well thrive in an advanced role behind a lone striker.

CF – Darren Bent

Upon his return from suspension, a certain Wayne Rooney will of course automatically assume the role as one of England’s frontmen. However in his absence, I do not feel there is a current partnership that demands playing two strikers at the expense of a more creative midfielder.

Although there remain questions over his ability to replicate his fearsome domestic strike rate against international defences, Darren Bent is an undeniably talented goalscorer and should thrive on the service from the likes of Walcott and Young on the flanks and Wilshere and Gerrard through the centre.

George Flood




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