Part of The Stiles Council‘s remit is to cover England national football team news and add some supporter perspective; another part is to assess how the team is progressing and performing on the field.
Taking some inspiration from a feature of American sports analysis and stripping it down to a more basic version, I will be publishing a brief look at the status of the England squad at the end of each month. This monthly look at England’s squad depth will assess where I think the squad is – who’s in, who’s out and who might be in with a chance of breaking into the squad in the near future.
It is based on the following: recent squads, current form, short- and long-term prospects and any relevant media comment from the England manager. Please note that all of those factors are applied through the filter of my opinion; this is not a statistical or necessarily accurate representation, just an idea of where I believe Fabio Capello might be with his thinking. I welcome sensible debate as a result and I hope this rolling squad depth assessment will become a talking point each month.
Joe Hart, Scott Carson, David Stockdale
With a handful of possible second or third choice goalkeepers retired from international duty, the fact that England are seemingly now blessed with a cast-iron number one is offset by the fact that we have better goalkeepers unavailable than those at Capello’s disposal. Joe Hart’s role is immovable nowadays, and having a regular goalkeeper can only be a good thing for the team.
David Stockdale’s position in the England ranks should currently be stronger than ever, with his performances for Fulham living up to the standards he’s establishing for himself. I’m no fan of Scott Carson (I say that as an Aston Villa fan, and we’ve suffered Peter Enckelman) but he’s surely in Capello’s thinking. His Bursaspor side are in mid-table in Turkey, but Carson is an ever-present and has helped the team maintain the best goal difference of any team below seventh. Norwich City’s John Ruddy would be my choice for the third pair of gloves at present.
Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, John Terry, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones
Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand
Chris Smalling, Micah Richards
There’s not too much to change at the back for Capello, whose next squad will feature Ashley Cole, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Glen Johnson as his first choice foursome. Kyle Walker made a strong case in the private battle with Johnson in his last England outing, and is an easy inclusion in the next squad. Elsewhere, Phil Jagielka is a Capello favourite, a reliable England squad member with decent international experience if needed. Joleon Lescott’s form hasn’t dipped to any extent, and Leighton Baines is relatively unchallenged as Cole’s back-up on the left.
The two “Outsiders” might be surprising to many, but given Rio Ferdinand’s apparent international demise it’s difficult to see him recalled now. In spite of Tottenham Hotspur’s exemplary season so far, Michael Dawson features in few discussions about England’s defence, perhaps reflecting more on the rise of others than on his omission. Phil Jones will be included in the next squad with versatility in mind, but Chris Smalling and Micah Richards – both of whom would make my squad, Richards as first choice right back – remain under a question mark.
Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, James Milner, Gareth Barry, Aaron Lennon
Tom Cleverley, Paul Scholes
Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson, Stewart Downing, Michael Carrick, Jack Wilshere
You’ll have to forgive the extensive “Fringe” group here; I think it’s a fair assessment. Adam Johnson, Stewart Downing and Jack Rodwell have all had recent England recognition. Michael Carrick was a relatively late mover from Outsider to Fringe, thanks in large part to the tangible improvement in the public perception of his form of late.
The other late change in my thinking was the swapping round of Aaron Lennon and Downing. While the return to fitness of Wilshere will eventually pose a question for Capello, his midfield corps – given his reluctance to break up the Lampard/Gerrard Axis – essentially picks itself. But Downing’s faltering form with Liverpool (at least in terms of end product) could now have reached the point where it would be difficult to justify his continued inclusion. Lennon has capitalised by playing a big part in Tottenham Hotspur’s success so far this season, and has made a strong case for another call-up.
Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young are included here despite injury, and have been placed according to their respective chances of going to Euro 2012 (assuming they’re all fit). As for Paul Scholes, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Jermaine Defoe, Danny Welbeck
Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch
Daniel Sturridge, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Bobby Zamora
When I started this rolling list a couple of months ago, it was Daniel Sturridge and not Danny Welbeck who occupied the final striking spot, and Bobby Zamora and not Jermaine Defoe who held the third. Zamora is the type of player I believe Capello wants to include, but something is nagging at me that says if a squad were selected today, Defoe would get the nod. The other conundrum is easier to judge; Welbeck and Sturridge’s respective progress in the last six to eight weeks clearly reflects best on the Manchester United man, whose ability to hold up the ball – among his more delicate talents – might make way for Zamora’s exclusion.
Wayne Rooney is an obvious choice, and Darren Bent is still finding the occasional goal in a poor team, allowing Capello to retain a player in whom he clearly has a lot of faith.
Your thoughts are most welcome…