Old And Knackered? Welcome To Engerland


So Fab’s named his final 23 and, while there is a small element of surprise, the overwhelming sense is one of tedious repetition. It seems that by and large we are using the same squad and game play as we were when we failed four years ago (four strikers, Gerrard and Lampard, 4-4-2). The real difference is that no one believes that Engerland are anything other than makeweights in this tournament.

Given the final selection, one thing is clear, no way did Fab have this 23 in mind when he started. I think if he wanted to drop Walcott there’s no way he would have bothered to play him in both matches. If he wanted to take Wright-Phillips, then surely he would have been given more match time. So SWP, like Joe Cole, may have played his way into the squad, just as Walcott has palpably played his way out, but I don’t believe that Fab had that squad in mind when he started.

Losers

Biggest loser is Walcott, but overall the loser is Engerland. I’m not seeing much imagination in the team aside from Cole and Rooney and they are both known elements. Engerland’s opponents know that it’s relatively easy to restrict the flow of balls to Rooney and therefore play him out of the game. I don’t see how Engerland are going to get the ball to Rooney (or the strikers) when faced by hard-working teams who defend well – and you can argue that the reason Walcott isn’t going is that in nearly two whole matches he never once got the ball to Rooney. You could also say that Adam Johnson, who in five minutes looked by far the best of the four wingers at Fab’s disposal, is another big loser, but he really suffered from only coming to Man City in January and even then being somewhat peripheral in their ever-changing lineups.

The other loser is the one relatively unknown player who breaks through during the competition – you think of Michael Owen against Argentina or Rooney in Euro 2004. I can’t see a player in the Engerland squad who is going to step up in that way. And I don’t see a team winning the World Cup without some kind of breakthrough player.

Oh and thinking of Walcott, if he had gone he would still have been Engerland’s youngest player.

Winners

No doubt the previously omitted SWP, who seems to have won the battle of the wingers (if only because of the failings of others; Gareth Barry, who still isn’t fit; and Joe Cole, who was probably the only player who actually played himself onto the plane. Oh and Upson, who is by some margin the slowest defender ever to get to the World Cup.

Overall, I’m somewhat discouraged by the squad, which looks like it really hasn’t evolved since 2006 and Sven’s day. It doesn’t look stronger defensively, the midfield is still a mess and there’s no real sign of attacking prowess. I’m seeing an exit in the first knock-out round.

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