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My thoughts on England’s 5-1 win

England are at the 2010 World Cup. Whether it’s the fact that we’ve avenged the loss against Croatia which saw us fail to qualify for Euro 2008 or the fact that we have made a perfect competitive start under Fabio Capello, people are happy and hype is once again rapidly rising.

The 5-1 win against Croatia was definitely something special. Sure, there are areas which can be improved  and we are far from perfect, everyone knows that. However under Fabio Capello we are well on our way to becoming a good team and the win was certainly a statement of intent to some of the other big teams and many pundits now think England will go into the World Cup as one of the “few teams who can actually win it”. The win has inspired people, and I’ll look why here.

As happy as Barry

For years now, when an England game has come to it’s natural, slightly anti-climactic finish and people have ran out of conversation the same old predictable question has been raised: “So, do you think Gerrard and Lampard can play together then?” It’s a perfect example of the English attitude to football. Whilst other nations would be delighted to have two midfielders of such calibre, we just argue about which one to drop. But Capello may well have just found the conclusion. Play Gareth Barry. Whilst the midfielder wasn’t jaw-droppingly superb against Croatia, his solid defensive play allowed Lampard to attack more in his central midfield role, with Gerrard coming in from the left. Of course, who knows where Joe Cole will fit in when he returns but it’s a nice headache for Capello to have. My ideal midfield for 2010 would be Barry and Lampard in midfield with Gerrard on the left and either Joe Cole or Aaron Lennon on the right. Either that or Gerrard played up front with Rooney. As said it’s a headache for Capello, but out of all of those mentioned midfielders, Gareth Barry is in my opinion the most important to Englands chances of World Cup success.

Heskey or Defoe?

Before the Croatia game, everyone expected Defoe to partner Rooney, so Capello naturally selected Emile Heskey. As mentioned in my player ratings, I’ve never really rated Heskey and don’t see him as an international player. However Capello obviously sees him as a vital player and persists in starting the forward, even though he’s not getting regular first team action at Aston Villa. Meanwhile Jermain Defoe is on fire, the English Premier League’s top scorer and a goalscorer in England’s last two games. I’ve always thought Rooney is better with a more predatory striking partner (such as Defoe or Owen) and performs better when in a more creative role. When partnered with Heskey he’s forced to play more as a lone striker, with Heskey acting as a target man. Of course, who knows where this leaves Michael Owen, Rooney’s partner at Manchester United? Whilst England aren’t blessed with a number of good strikers, we have a few options, and Capello will need to evaluate all of the possible options before South Africa.

The Johnson gamble

What a conundrum Glen Johnson is turning out to be. I’m sure Capello is scratching his head over whether to make the player his permanent right back or experiment further. For while Jonhson is a superb attacker he is still vulnerable in defence, and remains a weak link in the English defence. Croatia’s goal came from a slack piece of defending from Johnson and other teams will surely look to exploit the right back. But if Capello does decide Johnson’s defending isn’t up to scratch, who’s there to replace him? Micah Richards looked as if he might have the quality to wear the England shirt a few months back, but the City player has struggled for form in the last year and has lost his place in the Manchester City starting eleven. Gary Neville will be 35 come the World Cup and has been struggling with injuries whilst Wes Brown has never made his mark in the England team. After being one of the few certain strong positions for England over the last 10 years, the right back spot has now gone from being one of the weakest.

Robert Green- England’s number one

It looks like Fabio Capello has found his first choice goalkeeper, and it’s West Ham stopper Robert Green. Despite sporting gloves with the words “England’s number six” back at the start of Capello’s reign, Green is now firmly in the Italians plans. He played well against Croatia and was unfortunate to lose his clean sheet and he has been in great form for West Ham over the last couple of seasons. He will surely be in goal come the 2010 World Cup, even though there are a few other keepers sniffing around for the position. Chris Kirkland could get a spot in the squad whilst both David James and Paul Robinson are hoping to regain the spot. However serious competition could come in the form of Manchester United’s Ben Foster, who is seemingly “England’s number two” at the minute. Joe Hart will also be hoping for a place in the squad.

Lennon earning his Spurs

Not content with scoring two late winners for Tottenham in their last two matches, Aaron Lennon has now staked a serious claim for the England number 7 shirt. The winger was in fantastic form against Croatia and terrorised their lethargic defence. His brilliant dribbling won England an early penalty and he then crossed wonderfully for Steven Gerrard to head in a second not long after. His participation in the second goal was particularly important in his bid to win a starting place for England as he is often criticised for his crossing ability; Lennon’s presence on the right also makes England very threatening on that flank with the equally attacking Glen Johnson at right back. The duo could come unstuck defensively, but the sheer pace of the two could see them both become first team regulars. However Lennon still faces some serious competition from a number of players- many fans want to see Theo Walcott start after he conjured up some heroics of his own against Croatia last season, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is also still in the hunt. David Beckham has been named in the majority of England’s squads and David Bentley could also steal a spot in the World Cup squad if he manages to pull his finger out. Nevertheless, Lennon seems to be the man in possession of the shirt at the moment and I hope it stays that way. After all who can forget his last contribution to England’s world cup effort?

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