The FA have chosen their England manager late, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t start picking your squad now!
Although the FA have left their choice of England manager continentally late, there’s no reason why – with the help of our guidelines – you shouldn’t start picking your 23 right now. Let the squabbling commence!
Who do you turn to if Joe Hart does a Rob Green?
Or a Seaman/Carson/James/Robinson? In spite of successfully elevating Joe Hart to England’s number one, Fabio Capello failed to deepen the goalkeeping pool.
History also suggests that bones like the metatarsal are more vulnerable in the six weeks prior to a tournament than the rest of the two-year build-up combined, and so England are underprepared for a Hart injury or loss of form at his first finals as a starter.
Current understudies Robert Green and Scott Carson have been shown no faith since their mistakes, Carson featuring twice in five years since his Croatia blunder and Green not once since his USA gaffe. They are probably the best options yet, if required, will step between the posts knowing that everyone is waiting for them to fail.
The standouts in a tiny field of alternatives – made smaller by Paul Robinson and Ben Foster’s snubs – are Norwich’s John Ruddy and Fulham reserve David Stockdale.
Terry, Rio, both or neither?
England’s long-standing central defensive partnership has been destroyed by the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand court case, which won’t be resolved in time for the finals.
Can they cooperate? With neither likely to voluntarily drop out, they don’t have much choice. If the new boss takes sides, selecting one and shunning the other, he risks splitting the squad. So the safest call is to include both – allowing either the opportunity to nobly bow out – or neither. As the pair remain among the country’s best defenders, the former is probably most likely. Given the combustibility of that combination, the prospect of boldly leading with Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka deserves serious consideration, especially following their shutout against Spain.
The main casualty of that approach would be Phil Jones. His adaptability is an asset, but he hasn’t made any one position his own, and is fourth choice centre back at best for United.
Are there any reliable full backs?
The general consensus is that England full backs are brilliant at bombing forward but, with the exception of Ashley Cole, are as patchy at the back as self-applied suncream. It’s a harsh assessment, especially as potential travellers Leighton Baines, Glen Johnson and Micah Richards have starred for three of the Premier League’s four most defensively solid teams.
Baines is the favourite to go at left back ahead of Kieran Gibbs, while it is two from four on the other side out of Johnson, Richards, Kyle Walker and Chris Smalling. The first two are the most experienced internationally and have produced at club level this season. Richards is also a decent centre back and so can cover two positions.
How many oldies do you need in midfield?
Two years on from what seemed the not-so-golden generation’s final humiliation, they still clog up the midfield, with Gerrard, Lampard and Barry all in contention.
None of them should be guaranteed a place, with Gerrard more suited to an advanced role behind Wayne Rooney and in theory the freshest due to his lengthy layoff.
The old guard’s main threat is a 30-something himself – Scott Parker – and there is talk, encouraged by Harry Redknapp, of recalling Paul Scholes.
With Jack Wilshere being held hostage by Arsenal’s medical team, Tom Cleverley’s progress stunted by Scholes’ return and Jordan Henderson struggling at Liverpool, it has been a nightmare season for the kids.
The one man providing a middle ground between the battle-weary and unschooled is James Milner, a versatile member of a title-chasing side who boasts tournament experience.
Should Scholes go?
It isn’t an outrageous idea, yet carries the whiff of desperation that also accompanied Ledley King and Jamie Carragher’s misguided World Cup call ups two years ago. If there is a gap, why not instead fill it with the assured presence alongside the 37-year-old at Old Trafford, the always overlooked Michael Carrick?
Do you take Rooney?
This is the easy one. Of course you do. Ambition demands that Euro 2012 is viewed as a six-match marathon, not a three-game sprint. So if someone coming off a 30-plus-goal campaign is available for potentially two-thirds of the games, chuck him on the plane. Rooney disappointed at the World Cup after a prolific 2009-10, but there were already signs that he was fading as summer approached – no goals in April and May – which isn’t true this time.
Which wingers are the least mediocre?
England are arguably most spoilt for choice out wide, but the majority are seven out of 10 performers. How do you differentiate between Theo Walcott, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Aaron Lennon, Adam Johnson and co?
Young was the most effective in qualifying, contributing three goals and an assist or two, and, as a ‘skilled penalty winner’, has earned his spot.
Theo Walcott is the most prolific, hitting double figures for Arsenal, and has sparkled for England so brightly before that his every outing since has been cast against the obscene expectation that provoked.
Adam Johnson has racked up seven goals and eight assists in ten Premier League starts and 16 substitute appearances and his value is enhanced further by being a leftie.
With the others hard to divide and Milner and Daniel Sturridge capable on the wing, the last slot can be used for a gamble on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
What blend is required up front?
With Rooney out for two games, there is a case for bringing five strikers at the expense of a winger, especially as Sturridge can operate as either.
However, with the Three Lions belatedly pondering a one-forward system and Walcott able to offer cover, four options should suffice.
Besides Rooney, a no-frills poacher is also required, and before his injury, Darren Bent was reproducing his club form for England. If he doesn’t recover or Redknapp arrives holding a grudge, Jermain Defoe can perform this job.
The target man vacancy has plenty of candidates. Peter Crouch has hit form, though it’s another slow-to-shine big-money purchase making a surprise late charge: Andy Carroll. The other pick can be a wildcard, with Danny Welbeck and Sturridge the chief contenders. Welbeck has enjoyed more opportunities, yet Sturridge is more prolific and versatile.