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Right-back Walker provides competition for England

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 12:26 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

Amid the maelstrom at White Hart Lane on Sunday was a battle between what could be England's future in the full-back positions.

Arsenal's left-back Kieran Gibbs was pitted against Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker and both had an influence on the key moments in a game rich in entertainment.

The Spurs player has rightly grabbed all the headlines for his 25-yard strike to win the game and his inclusion in the England squad to face Montenegro on Friday shows that his development is currently more advanced than his Gunners opponent.

Gibbs, on the other hand, played his part in Arsenal conceding the first goal, according to Match of the Day 2 expert Lee Dixon, and is playing in a backline that showed yet more of the "schoolboy defending" the former Gunners defender believes could leave them struggling to make the Premier League's top eight come the end of the season.

The other difference between the pair is that, with Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson injured, Walker may benefit from a more open race to be included in England boss Fabio Capello's plans when it comes to the European Championship next summer.


Walker has the best pass completion in the final third of the pitch among his rivals for the England right-back spot

In England's last two fixtures against Bulgaria and Wales, Manchester United's Chris Smalling was preferred, while there is also team-mate Phil Jones and Manchester City's Micah Richards.

For left-back, in contrast, it is hard to see beyond Chelsea's Ashley Cole with Everton's Leighton Baines in reserve.

To begin with on Sunday in front of the watching Capello, Walker was among Tottenham's most prominent attackers.

And although he did have to keep a watchful eye on Gervinho, he was still confident enough to attack in the latter stages by latching onto the loose ball to score his first goal for the club.

"I've watched him develop and he seems like he's doing well game after game," says Dixon. "He certainly likes getting forward and his attacking prowess is there for all to see.

"He took Gibbs on in the first few minutes of the game and set the tone on the right-hand side. He looked a threat all day and capped it off with a great goal. He has all the attributes to be a really good full-back and deserves his place in the England squad."

It has taken some time for Walker to establish himself in the thoughts of Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.

Having signed the 21-year-old from his boyhood club Sheffield United in 2009, he then dispatched him back to the Blades for most of the 2009-10 season, and Walker spent last term on loan at QPR and Aston Villa, where he also impressed.

But now that competition for the right-back position is a little lighter without Alan Hutton, Walker is profiting from a consistent run in the side and it will be interesting to see whether he can seal a place in Capello's squad bound for Poland and Ukraine next summer.

Overall on Sunday, there was an argument to say that the game was won and lost in midfield.

With an extra man there, Arsenal had 62% of possession and once Aaron Ramsey equalised just after the interval, there was a period where they looked like they might go on to win the game.

But sensing where his team were falling short, Redknapp introduced Sandro to replace opening goalscorer Rafael van der Vaart, and almost immediately Spurs looked stronger.

It might have looked like clever tactics by the Spurs boss, with both Van der Vaart and Sandro having a hand in Tottenham's goals, but Dixon believes they were preventable and further proof of Arsenal's weakness at the back.

"It is getting embarrassing," Dixon laments. "Arsenal get themselves in position where they are the better team in midfield for big chunks of the game but defend like schoolboys by giving two goals away and numerous other chances that can be avoided by just concentrating and being a bit more professional.

"The second goal is a great strike by Walker, where the keeper was beaten by the swerve of the ball, but it came from a throw in where there was no danger whatsoever. They just let Sandro run into the box with nobody getting within five yards of him and it was his cross that led to the goal.

"The first goal all starts with a cross-field pass into Van der Vaart and, for whatever reason, Gibbs decides to follow him and comes right out of position from left-back. From then on, they are short down their left side so when Jermain Defoe drops into space Per Mertesacker is drawn over and that leaves massive room for Van der Vaart to run into the box to receive a fabulous ball from Emmanuel Adebayor.

"Bacary Sagna was too far wide as well and maybe there was a touch of handball about the goal, but if they stay as a back four unit it could have been avoided.

"There are lots of pluses and it's not all doom and gloom but ultimately it all falls back to the same thing: Arsenal are frail. They can concede goals from schoolboy errors and until they stop that they will carry on being frail and that's the worrying sign."

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Our defense is looking good for the future, and hopefully the days of shoe-ins because of lack of competition in the position are long gone. I personally hope Johnson doesn't get back in the side in the near future as we have RBs in form and playing regularly for their clubs.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think after the 8-2 jokes going on 4-3 weeks now Aresnal have just turned in 2-1 big joke after the spurs loss!

  • Comment number 3.

    Nineties and very early noughties - Dixon, Adams, Keown, Winterburn.

    Early to mid noughties - Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole.

    Now (when fit) - Sagna, Vermaelen, Metersacker, Gibbs.

    I know which defence I wouldn't want!

    As for England - like you said, can't awe past Cole and Baines for the next couple of years for left back.

    Right back is there for the taking.

    Smalling, Richards, Jones, Johnson.
    There's no reason why Walker can't throw himself in there.

  • Comment number 4.

    England wont win anything while we focus on attacking wing backs. Everyone remember when we were brutally mauled by Germany in the second round in the World Cup last year?

    It was because their 4 attacking players were facing two defenders because our two wing backs were too focused on staying forward. What happened to having defensive wing backs and bloody well rely on your wingers for crosses!

    Basic football is where England need to go but not 4 - 4 - 2. 4-4-2 leaves us without creativity or cutting edge so when we do go behind, we need wonder goals to get us back on our feet. Unacceptable.

    What England need is a cutting edge 4 - 3 - 3 formation. Forget Lampard, despite the hat-trick he scored against a hapless Bolton. Lampard is a hit and hope long shots player who scores every so often from them. Too unpredictable for international football.

    Let's see the passes being strung together. Meaningful triangular passes that progress forward. Now this is where England come apart because they still can't make their mind up on what they want...

    Option A: Bulky - low ball control players. Incredible physical presence.

    Players like Heskey. If you don't move out of the way, they'll bulldoze you out of the way. England have played like this for quite some years. Players like Gareth Barry are not very good passers of the ball but they command presence. It's a good tactic but only if you carry it through to completion. I want to see 11 bruisers on the field, not 4.

    Option B - Arsenal/Barcelona/Swansea approach. Possession is king.

    This is what wins world cups. Holland tried option A against Spain in the final of last year's world cup to very little penetration. Spain won because their midfield is classy. They maintain possession with ease and are not troubled by pressing techniques (unless they are 100% negative like Switzerland). If you don't have the quality passing available though, it's best just to fill your team with professional wrestlers and do a Holland of 2010.

    So option A or B? Both are viable. B is a world cup winner, A is a world cup runner up. If you try to do both like England did... Then you're a second round competitor.

  • Comment number 5.

    To me, the main point of a match at Spurs, with Adebayor playing against Arsenal, is not the excellent Walker but the miserable, thugish attitude of a big part of Arsenal fans, chanting for another time disgraceful "things" towards Adebayor.

    Having been unpunished at that match at City, where they even threw seats on the football pitch, they've learned nothing. As a club took no steps against those chants. Both club and fans hold responsibility for unacceptable behaviour in the 21st century.

    When will the F.A. take action?
    Are they deaf?

  • Comment number 6.

    Leckz why bother mate?

    So for the first time since god was a boy Tottenham look like the better team yet they only managed to beat a very poor Arsenal side, which even the pundits claim "they defended like schoolboys by giving two goals away". Arsenal had Song at CB and you should have won by more yet you didnt.

    Its hardly panic stations for Arsenal but i must admit it doesnt look good and that they will struggle for top 6 at this rate. Now I would say dont get ahead of your self yet you already seem to have done that.

    In context to the article though i thought Walker had a great game which was topped of with a goal (although with a little help from chesney) and that if he can produce displays like yesterday then he should be in the england squad.

  • Comment number 7.

    Smalling and Jones are CB's, played out of position in a team that faced no threat down the wings.. why they're included is anyone's guess

    Kelly's been better and more consitent as a FB than Walker, but I'm glad he's on no-ones radar as it means he'll miss out on the engerland circus and media frenzy and like Bruce/Pallister for years at Utd, 'better' players can be picked for the national team allowing him to remain fit and well for LFC for a decade or more

  • Comment number 8.

    Was very impressed by Jones, Smalling and Walker for England U21s and now they're performing in the Premier League too. It seems Jones can play centre back, right back or defensive midfield, but I'd like to see him and Smalling at the heart of England's future defence. I used to be a fan of Richards, but he's still a work in progress and I see him as back up for DR and DC.

    Walker is a natural right back with all the defensive and attacking skills needed, as well as blistering pace. Johnson is a great attacker, but his defensive lapses make him a risky option.

  • Comment number 9.

    Without Wojciech Szczęsny our season would be even worse than it is already. He has been outstanding. Good knows where we would be with Almunia!! We need Vermaelan back and Steve Bould teaching the defendaers how to play as a unit. The defenders aren't bad (they are all internationals!!) they simply don't communicate, which is vital for a decent back four. Also we need Wilshere back asap. The midfield simply could not keep the ball yesterday despite the posession stats. I haven't seen an Arsenal team give the ball away so easy since the eighties. So sloppy!! Sad to say that Ramsey and Arteta are not in the same bracket as Jack. They seem to have forgotten that there is nothing wrong with playing short balls into feet to take pressure out of a game. They were constantly looking for a killer ball that wasn't on! Simply wasn't good enough yesterday :(

  • Comment number 10.

    FOOTBALL_UK

    "To me, the main point of a match at Spurs, with Adebayor playing against Arsenal, is not the excellent Walker but the miserable, thugish attitude of a big part of Arsenal fans, chanting for another time disgraceful "things" towards Adebayor."

    I take it that this is some kind of twisted joke as i remember what the Spurs fans used to chant at Adebayor when he was at Arsenal and although they didnt throw chairs/seats at him, In a police investigation it would be classed as racism and verbal abuse but oh well this seems to be forgotten by those Tottenham fans now.

    At the end of the day this happens at all clubs accross the UK and if they punish one they will have to punish all. Look at the Everton vs Liverpool game they were throwing coins at Cahill at one point but i suppose thats ok as it wasnt verbal....

    Open you eyes Football_uk rather than just sticking in your boot when it suits you...

  • Comment number 11.

    In terms of squad places, you have to pick Smalling and Jones (it doesn't have to be only them from that list of right backs), because not only are they good players, they are versatile and that's massively important in a major tournament. They can both play centre and right back, and arguably could put a shift in at left back too. Jones could easily be adapted into being a holding midfielder too.

    Squad players like that are vital and free up space in the squad for more varied options in the attacking third.

  • Comment number 12.

    Shame Martin Kelly hasn't been recognised by Alistair. For periods of last season, before he got injured, Kelly was keeping Glen Johnson out of the Liverpool team. With another promising and competent performance against a fiesty Everton side at the weekend, this could quite easily happen again.

    Englands loss is certainly Liverpool's gain.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think the future is bright for England once the current crop step aside. We've waited a while for a good right back to come along and now we have some fantastic options where some will also be able to play cb as well. Defensively we look good for the next 5-10 years with only Hart needing some competition.

    Andy, I think England can only really play 4-4-2 as we lack ball playing midfielders that can cut defenses with one pass in the mould of Silva/Mata etc. With that England can use attacking full backs if they go with two defensively central midfielders that will cover the gaps. The problem England have had in recent years is that Lampard & Gerrard are only interested in scoring goals, we need tactically aware midfielders. Don't forget with the way Jones has been playing for Man Utd he can bomb forward in the middle to help start attacks as long as someone can cover him.

    Lastly, I can't believe Sturridge was left out for Zamora & Carroll.

  • Comment number 14.

    #6: Yes, Spurs weren't great, but as the pundits are so fond of saying, a prime characteristic of a great side is winning even when you're playing badly. Not that I'm saying Spurs are a great side at the moment (we've got a way to go yet before we can even consider throwing that around), just saying that there are two sides to that point.

    #4 & #11: I'd love to see England use Phil Jones as a holding player, especially in the absence of Wilshere. Put him alongside Parker as two holding players in a 4-3-3 with attacking full backs (Cole/Baines and Walker/Richards) and someone like Gerrard ahead of them. And just plain forget about bulky players. It's not like the fans enjoy seeing Heskey lumbering around wallowing into defenders like a two-legged hippopotamus.

  • Comment number 15.

    Football UK, I was at the match and the chants were despicable, I agree. However as a Spurs fan I was equally embarrassed by the chants of our fans.

  • Comment number 16.

    #13 The_Chief_Architect

    Lastly, I can't believe Sturridge was left out for Zamora & Carroll.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I had a similar thought when I saw the squad. I have rationalised it (though don't necessarily agree with it) on the basis that they are centre forwards and Sturridge, for now at least, is not playing at centre forward. Looking at comments from AVB some time over the weekend, it seems he won't for a while yet either. Which might be a shame.

    Still, I wonder what the odds are for Sturridge to score and setup more goals this season that Carroll and Zamora together?

    Lastly, would Wellbeck, Rooney and Sturridge make a good front 3?

  • Comment number 17.

    Won't it be nice to see the new generation of England players come to the fore?! I am so sick of Lampard, Terry, Gerrard and co under-performing (not Ashley Cole to be fair, for all his disagreeable nature of the pitch he's a fine left back that could play in any side in the world).

    No reason why Chris Smalling can't play right-back for England - I see people on here saying he's a CB playing out of position. Really? I'm a Man Utd fan and I remember all the sarcasm when we signed him before last season - at that point most people didn't even consider him a professional footballer - just a useless Fulham reserve. Well, he's been immaculate ever since signing, has a PL winners medal (not many English right-backs around with one of those!), so perhaps people should stop under-rating him. Phil Jones is (obviously) an enormous talent, frankly only injury can stop him reaching rarified heights. Wilshere is in the same category, and Rooney is still young enough to be regarded as part of that generation.

    Therefore basically England needs to build a team around a spine of Hart-Jones-Wilshere-Rooney. Get that spine settled and anything is possible (and yes, anything before all the doom-mongers go on about lack of English technique or strength in depth etc. Greece 2004, Denmark 1992 is the response to that. If they can succeed, then England with the spine outlined above easily can!)

  • Comment number 18.

    England are starting to get competion for places, something that hasn't happened for a while. Just look at right back options, Johnson, Walker, Kelly, Richards, Smalling and even Jones.
    The new man for 2012 has got some great talent to work with as long as the big clubs continue to play the English talent.

  • Comment number 19.

    For years England have played players out of position and they have looked awkward. Jones and Smalling may have done well while playing there, but Walker is a naturalised right back so I would play him there over the other two. Having said that my preferences are Richards, and Kelly, and well, they can also play at CB.

    Throwing another young left back into the mix who has impressed me every time I have seen him play unlike Gibbs is Ryan Bertrand, Cole's ready made Chelsea replacement. Cole won't be around forever either.

    In short, things are incredibly promising for England in the future. Capello has had a howler in not picking Sturridge mind.

  • Comment number 20.

    1 Half decent game and now should be an England regular ??

  • Comment number 21.

    Walker is good, if like most players with the potential in their correct positions are allowed to play their natural game.For me fabio just stifles most english players.His more focused on closing down, then actually using the ball.To play that kind of game and be found successful, you have to push your defenders up to close the gaps the midfielders leave.All teams trying to take on the Barca way forget that, so annoying to watch.If your worried about being caught out at the back, then play a different system which will save energy towards a more telling system.

    Let's get Harry in and get the best out of these boys...... can't wait.

  • Comment number 22.

    Walker for me would be in the squad for the Euros just behind Richards! For Sure!

    Back 4 of Richards..........Terry..........Smalling.........Cole

  • Comment number 23.

    As an England fan I was disappointed to see Walker make the squad ahead of Martin Kelly. As A Liverpool supporter, on the other hand, I was delighted. Capello is under a delusion that Walker is the way forward. I don't deny he is a good left back, but Martin Kelly is just ahead of him in every aspect. How he continues to miss out on the England squad bemuses me. It would help if Capello's youth policy and bringing through the next generation actually brought through the better players.

  • Comment number 24.

    mduchezeau - I agree about Sturridge - not just in this squad but for over a year now. How can we live in a world where Jay Bothroyd, Bobby Zamora and Kevin Davies get England caps ahead of Sturridge??!

    The most important fresh face for England after Euro 2012 will be the new manager. Not Redknapp (please god no - imagine the immaturity and latent racism - 'what, we have to go to Azerbaijan on a Friday night? But we're England, we're too good for that') hopefully someone canny and attuned to international football, nationality irrelevant as long as they speak English properly!

    World Cup 2014...
    Hart; Richards; Smalling; Jones; Gibbs; Wilshere; Oxlade; Cleverley; Rooney; Sturridge; Young

    Back-up: Kelly; Walker; Bertrand; Rodwell; Barkley; McEachran; Walcott; A Johnson; Welbeck; Carroll

    Find another decent young keeper and the future looks pretty promising!

  • Comment number 25.

    Right back I meant. Of course.

  • Comment number 26.

    #20 Stay on your feet

    1 Half decent game and now should be an England regular ??
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Don't know about 'regular' but it seems a fair topic for discussion. I gather he has played well for the under 21's. He is doing above average, apparently, for Spurs who are a good side and the right back spot is open.

  • Comment number 27.

    It's ridiculous that Martin Kelly has been left out of the England squad, never mind this article. I personally believe he's performed better than Glen Johnson, so how he's not good enough to be in the squad regardless of whether Johnson is fit or not is baffling to me. At least it means he'll stay fit for Liverpool though.

  • Comment number 28.

    @24: You'd pick Kieran Gibbs over Leighton Baines? Gibbs has never looked anything close to a top-class full back in any game I've seen, whereas Baines regularly looks like he could be in a Champions' League side. And no Gary Cahill either? I hope Oxlade-Chamberlain lives up to his potential too, but so far I haven't really seen any of it. Really, I think that might be more appropriate as the side for the Euros in 2016. You've basically named a youth team but with Rooney, Young and Hart. My preferred XI:

    Hart
    Richards - Smalling - Cahill - Baines
    Jones - Gerrard - Parker
    Rooney - Sturridge - Young

  • Comment number 29.

    "I am so sick of Lampard, Terry, Gerrard and co under-performing"

    Personally I am sick of everyone lumping Gerrard into this category. He's one of those unique players who always plays objectively well. There's certainly been a gulf throughout his career between his (at times) patchy international form and his consistently outstanding club form, but if you actually look at his performances for England, he's never had more than one or two bad games. He has of course made mistakes here and there but 90% of the time he makes up for mistakes or missed chances with a great performance overall. A bad patch for Gerrard just means some great performances with a few mistakes.
    He has long been cited as one of the most complete midfielders ever to have played the game. Therefore, even if he is losing his pace, he's still got loads more to offer as a player, and this will be the case for the next 5 years at least. I'm sure within 2 years he'll have lost his starting berth in the England team, but I very much doubt he'll have lost his place in the squad, especially with his experience, and as for the Euros next year? First name on the team sheet if you ask me. He contributes so much to the team, and never seems to suffer from the pressure of tournament football.

    Of course with my username none of my opinions will be taken seriously...

  • Comment number 30.

    Hart

    Richards.....Terry.........Smalling.....Cole

    Parker.......Wilshere

    Young..............Gerrard..............Rooney

    Sturridge/Welbeck

  • Comment number 31.

    The back four is a debate in itself but further forward in a year or two:

    Wilshire Cleverly
    Lennon Rooney Young
    Sturridge or Welbeck

    I like the 4-2-3-1 formation. A pacy striker who sits on the shoulder and chases everything to stop the opposition pushing too far up, allowing the 3 behind him to wreak havok in the space between midfield and defense.
    The other two midfielders need to both be able to pick a pass and cover the defense.

  • Comment number 32.

    #29 STILL_GOT_GERRARD_AND_TORRES

    The 'problem' with Gerrard in my opinion, is that he often seems to be where he wants to be on the pitch, and not where is best for the team.

  • Comment number 33.

    @32

    Nail, head, hit.

    Liverpool fans love him for it, everyone else looks and groans when he pops up elsewhere on the pitch leaving the position he was supposed to occupy empty.

  • Comment number 34.

    When all fully fit, this would be my strongest England team.

    .........................Hart
    Richards...Ferdinand...Terry...Cole
    ........................Jones
    .........Wilshire....Gerrard....Young
    ...............Rooney...Sturridge

  • Comment number 35.

    Afternoon. Pleased to hear that many of regard Martin Kelly as another viable candidate for England right-back. I have to admit I've not seen too much of him this season, but since he has not made it into the England squad as yet, it looks unlikely that he will do so before Euro 2012, so that's why I've stuck with the four above.

    Assuming that Glen Johnson is back from injury, Smalling and Jones may be favoured for their versatility. Richards is playing well for City and I think he will only get better by playing in Champions League and he would have learnt a huge amount against Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery last week. I'm not saying Walker will make the squad, but he really does look like a player who can attack and defend, while also being sensible in defence when he needs to be.

  • Comment number 36.

    @32 @33

    If that's the case, then why have all the pundits been complaining about Gerrard not being given enough freedom when he plays for England? The man is perfectly capable of being disciplined and sitting back, and this is what he has done, very well I might add, in his most recent games for England.

    Of course he's an adventurous player, but I don't think I've ever seen venture around the pitch irresponsibly, leaving big gaps in defense or midfield (a la JT against Germany it might be said). Do you have any specific examples?

    Regardless of what happens when he does play badly, the fact remains he almost never plays badly, and he's an extremely versatile player. It would be an enormous waste not to select him.

  • Comment number 37.

    @36

    Yes i agree Gerrard was/is a fantastic player but do you not think his time is over and he has had his chance. Him and the others (Terry, Lamps et al) have failed for the last 8 years minimum. It is time to move on from the Gerrard/Lampard debate and drop both entirely from the England set up.

    Not to mention the fact Gerrard is now very injury prone (like Ferdinand) and therefore would be incredibly disruptive to the flow of the team.

    Don't compare England to Liverpool as England do not rely soley on Gerrard to win us games. Liverpool have built there entire team around him (and Torress while he was there) so it can't be compared. As other posters have said we can't afford him to be miles out of position as the players wont be used to it.

  • Comment number 38.

    #36 STILL_GOT_GERRARD_AND_TORRES

    If that's the case, then why have all the pundits been complaining about Gerrard not being given enough freedom when he plays for England? The man is perfectly capable of being disciplined and sitting back, and this is what he has done, very well I might add, in his most recent games for England.

    Of course he's an adventurous player, but I don't think I've ever seen venture around the pitch irresponsibly, leaving big gaps in defense or midfield (a la JT against Germany it might be said). Do you have any specific examples?
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    Gerrard is a very talented player. (And I mean that as no back handed compliment.) However, I think he is one that thrives on instinct rather than though.

    I honestly don't know pundits don't pick this up. I could mention such conspiracy theories such as too much ex-Liverpool influence in the media or too many people that like gung-ho and all action hero stuff rather than a more cerebral approach to the game. (On that note, seeing Gullitt effortlessly taking strips off of such luminaries as Hansen [someone who I enjoy watching] is a cerebral joy to behold.

    We could sit here and argue all day about this bit of play or that bit of play that does or does not support a point of view, and I'm not ducking that it's just that I don't think one will convince the other. All world cup in 2010 Gerrard's inability to stay left either of his own volition as captain or allowed to by Capello (one of the black marks against Capello last summer that probably should have cost him his job) disrupted the midfield and attacking third and exposed Cole time and again, is an example I would give.

    It would perhaps be seen as a waste of a talented player to not pick him but, if it's for the greater good of the team, then so be it.

  • Comment number 39.

    Walker's a great young player, but whether or not he should be starting for England is another matter.

    Out of nowhere we seem to have an abundance of promising young defenders who can all play that position. I personally will always favour a natural right back (Richards/Walker) over a make-shift centre back (Smalling), but i think the selection should be made more on an ad hoc basis. We seem to have depth now, so why not use it? Against teams where we're favourites, use the attacking fullbacks, and against teams who will really threaten us, use one of the more defensively sound players..

    Either way i'd rule out Phil Jones for the right back slot, simply because i see him being a regular in centre back very soon. He'll partner Terry (He's already superior to Cahill) before taking over from him in 2-3 years time. I'd also agree with the blog/comments on here that Gibbs hasn't progressed at all in the time he's been sat on the bench/injured (duh) and so Baines should definitely be in ahead of him as backup to Cole.

    As for the argument about Sturridge not being in the team, i find it astonishing. I mean it's not like he has alot of competition to get in the starting line-up? Just listing off some of the names in recent that have won caps ahead of him tells the story - Davies, Bothroyd, Heskey, Zamora... does he really not deserve a call-up after his form over the last 12 months?

    He has it all and is one of the first names on the team sheet at Chelsea at the moment; i think he'd make a great partnership with Welbeck and Rooney up top in a 4-3-3 formation. He's a fantastic athlete - he's tall, lightning quick, agile, balanced, strong, while also being technically gifted, skillful, direct, clever and with an awesome shot to boot. His time will come soon though and once in the team i don't see him being shifted from it.


    Sturridge--Rooney--Young/Welbeck

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    ...........................Hart

    ...............Jones - Terry - Cahill

    .....Johnson -.......Parker - ........A. Cole

    ............Lampard - ....... Gerrard

    Sturridge - ......................................Young

    ........................Rooney

  • Comment number 42.

    @35

    It's true that Kelly hasn't played for England yet, but let's not forget that Capello has a bit of a habit of suddenly omitting established, talented players (Walcott) for tournaments in favour of others who seemingly are on better form.
    It's difficult to see Jones and Smalling not both getting selected, as both are reliable, talented and versatile. It must be said however that although both have shown great confidence and ability going forward at times, neither is as adept at doing so as the likes of Walker and Glen Johnson. Glen Johnson has proven himself to be extremely useful going forward and has a proven record of assists at club and international level. Capello may see it as too much work to try and develop Jones's and Smalling's credentials as attacking fullbacks when he's got a fully formed one in Glen Johnson.
    Yes, Johnson can be prone to defensive lapses, but I think Capello has tried to get round this by employing the likes of Barry and Parker - holding midfielders who contribute enormously in defence. For this reason, it wouldn't surprise me if Johnson was selected for the Euros, and perhaps Smalling missed out behind Walker and Jones.
    It has to be said also that Smalling and/or Jones may be about to fade from the limelight slightly with the return of Vidic, Ferdinand and possibly the Da Silvas. It's very possible that one of them (Jones or Smalling) might find himself only being selected for midweek games, and then on the back of a bad performance or two, replaced by someone like Rafael. Then all of a sudden they'll have gone from being a first team regular to playing only a couple of matches a month, which could lead to Capello looking elsewhere. I for one hope SAF continues to play them both regularly, and they're both so good that they'll probably never play badly enough to get replaced, but it's certainly possible with MUFC's squad that they will.

  • Comment number 43.

    All the Liverpool fans on here seem to be forgetting 1 thing when talking about Martin Kelly deserving to be in England side ahead of Kyle Walker which is Walker has been an everpresent in the spurs team so far this season I seem to recall Kelly only just returning from injury as didn't Skrtel have to face the marauding Bale in the Mauling you clowns took at the Lane. Surely its time that the England side is picked on players that are in form not just cos they play for a 'big' club so on that note Kelly can wait his turn and carry on performing for LFC and maybe then get a chance.

  • Comment number 44.

    @41
    FIFA probably won't allow Engerland to play with 12 players.

  • Comment number 45.

    @38 I really don't think our bad performance at WC2010 reflects badly on Gerrard. For starters he was probably our best player there, defending as well as going forward. Anyway most of Germany's attacks were down the left as I recall, and USA/Algeria/Slovenia didn't have any attacks...

    You may well have a valid point about Gerrard leaving Cole exposed, but all of this is irrelevant in the context of Gerrard's more recent performances for England. I agree that without a doubt, the way to get the most out of Gerrard is to build the team around him (as Liverpool have done) and this is simply not a feasible/justifiable thing to do for England, given that Gerrard is losing his pace and has been injury prone of late (though the man himself is confident that his recent surgery has put an end to that). However, the point I'm trying to make is that Gerrard is an extremely versatile player who can slot into almost any team into almost any midfield or attacking position without needing time to settle in. He can play central midfield extremely well, and can provide just as much creativity as Wilshere and Parker. What we need in our midfield is someone creative and attacking (Wilshere), someone strong and defensive (Barry) and someone between the two - Gerrard. Some of you may think Parker is more deserving of this position (he certainly is on current form) and in my opinion he should definitely be in the squad, but I think Gerrard has the edge in terms of experience, pace and finishing, and he provides an extra threat from set pieces. Gerrard's versatility is too easily understimated. He's not a defender or a winger, but he can be everything else. Except a Goalkeeper...

  • Comment number 46.

    @41 That 3-3-2-3 formation is a revelation, I bet it would allow England to pass it so well in triangles around the opposition midfield it's like they have an extra man,.

  • Comment number 47.

    #7

    Jones has had a cracking start to the season, he's been included on merit, if you watch him play you will see that he is a natural on the ball and IMO a perfect replacement for the ageing Rio Ferdinand. He has the look of a future England skipper.

    Kelly's been more consistant? Don't make me laugh, he played 10ish games at the end of last season and now he's a better player? Admittedly he shows promise but to claim that he is a better player than Walker has a stench of bias about it....I am a spurs fan but watching Walker maraud up and down the flank for QPR, Villa and now Spurs shows that he is an exciting prospect for future England sides.

    My money's on Richards for RB though, strength, pace and he can play a bit too.

  • Comment number 48.

    England has one major problem and it isn't the full backs.
    It's the lack of a midfield player who is tactically astute and has the vision and technique to play the central midfield role properly. How can any team utilise their fullbacks without a player in the middle who knows how and when to release the ball to them.
    Take Brazil for example. They have an abundance of ultra attacking full backs but have no one in the middle with any real guile.

  • Comment number 49.

    All the people who want Gerrard in central midfield are deluded. It didn't work for Liverpool and hasn't worked for England either. His best position by far is supporting the main striker and I believe there is a chap called Rooney who is fairly handy in that position.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ 10.At 14:26 3rd Oct 2011, HansMoleo ,

    Only twisted minds would not mind with that fraction of Arsenal fans antics yesterday.
    Where is the limit?
    What's the next step to that? Pure hooliganism?
    Wake up and stop talking nonsense.

  • Comment number 51.

    @ 15.At 14:43 3rd Oct 2011, enabarts,

    I wasn't in the match, I neither support either of the clubs.
    I'd add exactly the same for the Spurs fans who were as bad, as I would for the Everton fans who were throwing coins, bottles and whatever on the pitch, too.

    Actions like these should be stopped emphatically, in the beginning of the season, to avoid worse in the rest of the season.

    It's a pity journalists fail to identify the details that matter in a match-day of football.

  • Comment number 52.

    What really makes me mad is the ease with which we, Arsenal, give the ball away. Time after time after time. Lots of possession, usually going nowhere, culminating in a pass to an opponent.

    There was one instance in the first half, can't remember who it was, when we were in the TH penalty area and instead of the player unleashing a shot, he opted to pass ... to a white shirt. There wasn't a red shirt anywhere near. It was appalling judgement.

    I would like to know exactly how many goals we have conceded from long range speculative strikes, as we seem to have this inability to take shots unless we are in the 6 yard box.

  • Comment number 53.

    @49 I think you're the one who's deluded my friend. There's simply no denying that Gerrard is a world class midfielder. I'm struggling to think of anything a midfielder has to do that Gerrard can't do brilliantly. Long passes? check. Short intricate passing in triangles? check. Amazing slide tackles? check. Set pieces? check. The list goes on.
    There's a reason Zidane said he might be the best player in the world. It's not because he's faster or more skillful than Messi and Ronaldo - he blatantly isn't. It's because he's "the most complete midfielder in the world". In my opinion he may well no longer be the most complete midfielder in the world, but he's still got enough pace to complement his other qualities, and he's still a world class passer, finisher and tackler. This idea (which I mistakenly advocated earlier...) that the Liverpool team is somehow "built around" him or "tailored" to his abilities is simply an illusion - a product of the fact that he contributes so much to the team. People have talked of Liverpool buying Downing to feed Carroll, Chelsea buying Mata to set up Torres etc, but no one has ever remarked on a Liverpool signing as being for the purpose of playing with Gerrard. No one says "Gerrard needs this kind of player feeding/around him", because it's a simple truth that Gerrard can play in any team.

    "It didn't work for Liverpool and hasn't worked for England either" - what on earth are you talking about?

  • Comment number 54.

    All goals are "preventable". Arsenals goal came from some poor, lazy defending as well. VDV not bothering to close down the corner, Song had all the time in the world to run into the box and pick his cross. Walker should either have closed down the ball or covered the near post more, but he just stood there in no-mans land. Overall neither team played well, but Spurs definitely edged it. The fact is Spurs have started the season off well, looked great against Liverpool, but Arsenal have had a shocking start.

  • Comment number 55.

    @53
    Gerrard's best form for Liverpool was when he played off Torres. Let's face it he always goes AWOL and is too undisciplined to play centre midfield effectively. Look at Liverpool's new signing Adam he is very similar. Has a great long range shot and occasionally plays a great long range pass but he spends too much time thinking of the headline and photo on the back page of the Sun he wants. Gerrard plays too many "Hollywood" passes for my liking.
    Although to be fair to Gerrard he always tries hard and he is a far better option than Lampard or Barry. Lampard is possibly the most over rated player of all time. He's lazy, a mediocre passer of the ball and is only ever interested in playing the ball wide so he can canter into the box and look like a hero when he side foots it into the net. How he has 88 caps is beyond me.

  • Comment number 56.

    Spurs, Arsenal and most of all United have embarressed football over the last few weeks.

    Spurs and Arsenal fans for their sick chanting towards Adebayor and Sol Campbel over the years. But worse the sick and pathetic plastic United fans that sing about two dead fans to another club.

    Utterly pathetic and I wonder how those sick fans would feel about people laughing and singing about a death in their family.

    Utterly pathetic by plastic non footballing fans. I wonder how many of those United fans even know about Munich? None I bet. Great fans.

  • Comment number 57.

    Great article by Lee Dixon - a member of Arsenal's impressive defence under George Graham (the other members being Adams, Bould, Keown and Winterburn). For the past 5 seasons I have consistently lamented the poor quality of Arsenal's defence (which includes the goalkeeper) - a defence which has, in my opinion, been getting progressively worse and ineffective during the past 5 years. In this, the manager Wenger is responsible, since all players in the Arsenal setup have been sought and accepted by him and as such, the buck lies with him, the manager. He, Wenger, has been a great manager and ambassador for the club but I believe he has lost his way, and so would be keen to see another being given the opportunity of making this great club successful once more. Lee Dixon's suggestion that Arsenal will likely struggle to make the top 8 in the league at the end of year is likely to be quite accurate.

  • Comment number 58.

    England certainly has a surplus of promising defenders who can play on the right side. I would say Jones, Kelly, Richards, Smalling, and Walker will make up three of the back four consistently for the next decade. Unfortunately, there are five great talents for three places. In addition, all of these players (excluding Walker, in my opinion) would excel at CB.

    For that reason, I predict that Richards and Walker will occupy the RB spot while Jones, Kelly, and Smalling will rotate at CB. With Flanagan coming up the ranks at Liverpool, Kelly will most likely move to CB for club as well. Having these three at CB will be immense for England because they are top defenders, and it would be nice to have quality cover at CB if anyone gets injured. It is a shame that Kelly has had injury problems recently because it is the only thing preventing him from getting called up.

    Richards and Walker both look like quality RBs. Right now I would opt for Richards over Walker just because of his experience for City. Walker has performed well at different clubs, but I just think it is too soon to be throwing him into the England setup now (he might be ready by Euro 2012 though).

    Hopefully, all of the defenders stay fit for the rest of the season and Capello calls all five of them up for Euro 2012. They are the future of England, and it would be immense for them to get experience at a big tournament.

  • Comment number 59.

    @55
    Gerrard's best form was playing of Torres? I think you'll find it's the other way round mate, look at the difference in Torres's form with and without Gerrard. Where were you before Torres came to Liverpool?

    Your views on Gerrard have very little basis as well. He "has a great long range shot", and he can also do curlers, chips, and he can head the ball. He "occasionally
    plays a great long range pass" and also plays countless great through balls, crosses and corners. We've all seen players go for the spectacular and fail at the expense of the team (or a team mate waiting for a tap-in), but Gerrard virtually never does this, and I have no idea what your opinion is based on.

    Tactically speaking, Gerrard in midfield for England does work and has worked. This is why Capello selects him and starts him, but doesn't do the same for Lampard.

  • Comment number 60.

    6. At 14:15 3rd Oct 2011, HansMoleo wrote:

    Its hardly panic stations for Arsenal but i must admit it doesnt look good and that they will struggle for top 6 at this rate.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    So of that isn't panic stations for Arsenal, what is? Struggling to make the top 6 after 15 continuous years in the top 4 would definitely be a disaster.

  • Comment number 61.

    Not entirely sure how this blog about right-backs ended up being an argument about Gerrard but I fail to see how anyone can consider leaving him out when he's fit, he's an outstanding player.

    One thing that's on topic that I don't understand is why no one seems to mention Liverpool's Martin Kelly in these sort of discussions. A significant number of Liverpool fans actually prefer him to Johnson at right-back because of how solid and reliable a player he is in that position. Capello would be foolish not to consider him for his Euro 2012 squad.

  • Comment number 62.

    As everyone else has said - "Where's Sturridge?".

  • Comment number 63.

    Oh how the power of the two north london clubs have changed.

    Arsenal in bits, and spurs getting better and better! Ive waited along time for this and I must say it makes very sweet reading ha ha!

    Yiiiiiiiiddddddddd Arrrmmmmmyyyyyyy!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    Interesting no one mentioning Bolton's Cahill. A couple of weeks ago he was supposed to be on Spurs and Arsenals wish-list and a shooo-in for England. He didnt look any better than Koscienelcy (sp?) vs ManU, and is the center piece of the leagues leakiest defence.
    My point; things change weekly so there is little point in stressing the obvious, Lee, i.e. that Arsenal dont look good enough right now.

  • Comment number 65.

    re England, problem is not which players are good enough but which players will Capello agree on. After years in charge now he doesnt seem to have a grip on his best team.

    Only sure things for me are Cashley, Jack and Rooney. the rest must be HUNGRY team players with spirit who get stuck in ( Rules out Lampard, Barry Theo, GJohnson to name a few) and makes a case for Parker Jones Sturridge Terry and Gerrard.

  • Comment number 66.

    @44 - That probably the most important point on this thread...and ocmpletely justifies why I ain't managing a football team!!

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'd have my reservations about Walker in an England shirt, at this stage of his career anyway. He hasn't played an entire season of Premiership football yet, until he does and plays on a regular basis in said season then i think it's hard to justify his inclusion. For all of attacking prowess, (as a converted striker/winger he should be fairly adept going forwards) i would have reservations about his defensive ability/experience in an International squad.

    There are players that may not be as flashy on the eye but have shown more consistency, at a higher level and for longer than Walker.

    Micah Richards has stalled in his development somewhat, or at the very least has reached a plateau, but he has played regularly for City over the past 4/5 years and continues to be a big part of Mancini's team. His defensive game appears to be improving steadily and his raw pace and power would be a huge asset down the wing and in set play situations.

    It would be hypocritical of me to mention Jones or Smalling as possible candidates for the RB role now after what i've said above, neither have had sufficient playing time in that role to merit inclusion. What i would say however in favour of the two utd lads is that they look as though they could be regular England internationals in the making.

    Phil Jones announced himself to English football by marking Drogba out of a game. He continued to excell week after week at Blackburn and has since demonstrated what he is capable of at Utd. He will be an exceptional player and the natural successor to John Terry as defensive stalwart and captain. Smalling progression, for me, is even more impressive than that of Jones. 18months/2yrs ago this lad was playing non-league football and got a dream move to them Premiership with Fulham. He looked a good prospect but not too many people got overly excited as a few mistakes started to take the gloss of his rising star. However since his move to Old Trafford he has shown why SAF considers him as such a good prospect. He looks assured going forwards and at the back, he doesn't seem fazed in big matches and seems to be relishing the freedom afforded from playing at right back. Whether he ends up as a centre back or a right back (or both) only time will tell but the prospect of Smalling and Jones playing for Utd and England together should be something we all get rightly excited about.

    Glen Johnson is arguably the forgotten man when in it comes to England. A non-stop carousel of injury after injury has prevented him from playing regularly for a year or so now. Due primarily to a lack of other options he was made into a regular starter under Capello after years spent in the international wilderness, this despite the wealth of evidence suggesting he's about as assured defensively as a sand castle. His lack of technique, positional sense and his amazing ability to get injured in almost any conceivable manner should ensure he never again pulls the three lions over his chest.

    As of right now the back four i'd go with is:

    Cole, Cahill, Terry, Richards

    I think this offers a good mix of youth with experience but all are consistent performers. I would be tempted with Rio instead of Cahill if, and this is a big if, he can overcome this run of muscle related injuries.

    For the future though i'd like to see

    Gibbs/Bertrand/Robinson, Smalling, Jones, Walker/Kelly

    Maybe Euro 2012 is too close for some of the youngsters to break through but the qualifying round of WC 2014 is going to be interesting. If the old guard haven't been replaced by some of the outstanding young english players at our disposal then there is something even more fundamentally wrong with English football than we thought.

  • Comment number 69.

    Chelsea fan here.

    Not revelling in joy about Arsenal's misery, not really. It's pity to see such a great club in decline. People might say it's down to money and inability of Arsenal to compete with ManCity or Chelsea in terms of wages. However, Cesc left Arsenal for 35M to Barca (when Spurs turned down 40M for Modric), Clichy & Nasri also went not after money. They were gone because of lack of silverware.

    And that comes down to Wenger's stubborness in both pretending Arsenal has no defensive problems and unwillingness to buy leaders. If it wasn't for Wenger's stubborness, Cesc & Co. will still be playing for Arsenal, no matter how much money other clubs would throw at them.

    For me, Wenger must be out. There comes times when good leaders, even visionaries, lose touch with reality and become lunatics. That's a prime example. Don't use their past glories to excuse their current failures.

  • Comment number 70.

    ~ some of the posts above....Chants, Arsenal defence, Arsene Wenger not the topic.....Its about the English football team.
    To me, the problem in the English defense is the left, not the right. Sure Cole is one of the best in the business, but there is no adequate cover for him. I suppose Baines might step up, but talking of someone like Gibbs as the future of that position would be a joke. And Bertrand has Cole ahead of him, so he won't be getting much game time in the future.
    What I wanna see, from England in the friendly, or at least from SAF in one of the gimme games is Jones playing further up the field as a defensive midfielder. He defends well, but has the temerity to go on a dribbling run. And he would be given more freedom to go ahead in the midfield. I hope SAF gives him that opportunity at least when nemanja and smalling are fully fit.
    As far as Stevie G goes, he brings experience. Even if he were not to warrant a first team place, i would still put him on the bench rather than discarding him altogether. He has the ability to help groom players like wilshere and cleverly on the international stage. Speaking of which, what do you guys think about cleverly? I know he has had only a few matches before he got injured, but would he make it to the Euros, if he performs like what he has?
    The most serious dread that capello must be facing is a long time injury to Hart. Why are good English keepers in short supply? Thats the weak link in the team for me.
    Finally, absolute disgrace that Sturridge wasn't picked ahead of someone like Zamora. Simply put, he is better in every aspect. A trio of Rooney, Welbeck and Sturridge at their best would be quite devastating. Was Capello influenced by Sturridge's performance against Utd, where he didn't do that well? Did he think that he won't be able to step up to a bigger challenge?

  • Comment number 71.

    I have to agree that Walker is doing well for Spurs although for England Richards would get my shout. Also with no Rio it will be interesting to see how well Jones and Smalling do, I imagine Jones will play with Terry.
    As for Sturridge being left out I am as amazed as everyone else, he has been playing exceptionally.

  • Comment number 72.

    #70 gameboyabhi

    Finally, absolute disgrace that Sturridge wasn't picked ahead of someone like Zamora. Simply put, he is better in every aspect. A trio of Rooney, Welbeck and Sturridge at their best would be quite devastating. Was Capello influenced by Sturridge's performance against Utd, where he didn't do that well? Did he think that he won't be able to step up to a bigger challenge?
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    See post #16.

  • Comment number 73.

    Sure, Arsenal are going through tough times, but a couple of 2-1 wins v Arsenal is hardly anything to crow about, Spurs fans. Any talk about a powershift in North London is laughable!

    Let's wait until the end of the season, shall we?

    However, it is laughable that Mertesacker is a fan of Tony Adams. He's got a long way to go before he can think of emulating him!

  • Comment number 74.

    #70 Good points

    I think the traditional left back problems of England in the 90's will come about again once Cole is past his peak. Back then we had a number of square pegs playing in that position, and Phil Neville of course. If Cole were to suddenly hang up his boots tomorrow we would be left with Baines and Gibbs. Gibbs is too injury prone at this stage of his career to be considered a viable alternative and Baines hasn't yet made the step up (granted primarily because Cole is so consistent) so would be relatively inexperienced in comparison. Bertrand will have the same problem in displacing Cole as Clichy did with him at Arsenal so will he be ready when needed for club and country? Only time will tell i suppose.

    Jones would be a good fit in centre mid but for me his positional sense, physique and all round defensive capabilities (some superb last ditch tackles have been in evidence already this year) should mean he cements a place in defence. After all there is nothing wrong with a ball playing defender if he can be taught to use this attacking dimension of his game in the right situations. By having someone so assured in central defence (along maybe another in Cahill or Smalling) we would finally be able to see England building from the back in a more continental style.

    Gerrard is still capable (and probably will be as of WC2014) to influence a game, maybe he will drop back and look to support rather than attack in the future but his experience, drive and leadership abilities; alligned to his superb technical ability, should warrant an inclusion in any tournament squad.

    Cleverly will also be a good player if the evidence so far is anything to go by. I like the simplicity to his game, you rarely see him try anything too audacious but he does everything well. He has a good turn of pace, likes the ball at his feet and seems to have a very good appreciation as to where his teammates are. He could be the perfect foil alongside Wilshere and one other defensive minded player (Rodwell perhaps if his promise is seen through to fruition?) in keeping the team ticking over and maintaining possession of the ball.

    GK would be a worry, althought Joe Hart seems very solid and consistent at this stage of his career and hasn't missed too many matches through injury that i can remember. Hopefully Stockdale will become the Fulham No1 so to build more top flight experience and someone like Carson or Green will still be knocking around come the next tournament so all in all i think we do have some cover, even if it isn't truly outstanding.

    Maybe not for the Euros but i would definitely expect to see Mr's Wellbeck and Sturridge playing regularly in an England shirt soon. Wellbeck has come on leaps and bounds since his return from Sunderland. I hope this progression continues as his partnerhsip with Wayne Rooney looks as though it could be very lucrative for oth club and country in the future. Sturridge is also a very talented young player, if he is able to carve out a regular role for Chelsea (either on the flanks or as a genuine number 9) then he too could make the jump into international football.

    All in all i think the next manager of England will have a chance to shed the squad of dead weight, remove some of the elder statesmen who have tried and failed before and move England forward as a united team with a new footballing philosophy. The youngsters coming through now are being honed in the right way, they are all being encouraged to trust in their abilities and to play the game in a more patient and technical manner. Alligned to the right managerial philosophy this new team could go far.

  • Comment number 75.

    Please please no more Centre halfs at Full back. It never works long term and we'd get murdered by top 10 teams.

    Smalling looked awkward and out of position. There's plenty of options available to the manager to avoid shoe ins.

    I like Kyle Walker, but Martin Kelly for me looks like one of those solid no nonsense types that every team needs. I'm sure he'll start to feature more pending form and fitness.

    All these nutters insisting on not seeing past the tried and tested should instead be selecting back fours from this lot:

    Walker, Richards, Kelly, Jagielka, Cahill, Smalling, Jones, Baines, Cole.

    Another player doing well at right back and worth keeping an eye on is Danny Simpson.

    Time to look past players who have only delivered non qualification for Euro 08 and our worst World Cup Finals ever.

  • Comment number 76.

    #74 What's that coming over the hill?Is it Nemanja? It is Nemanja!!

    After all there is nothing wrong with a ball playing defender if he can be taught to use this attacking dimension of his game in the right situations. By having someone so assured in central defence (along maybe another in Cahill or Smalling) we would finally be able to see England building from the back in a more continental style.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I have never really understood this point, which I believe exists more in perception rather than reality.

    There might be a case for giving defenders more freedom and responsibility with the ball but I'm of the opinion that England have been well served by Ferdinand and Terry for some years now, both with and without the ball. Any defensive problems have been as a result of one or both of them not being available and the issues that arise from an unsettled defence. (e.g. England's four games at last years World Cup saw them use three different centre back pairings. Throw in two different keepers as well and it's no wonder we appeared to be at sixes and sevens at times.)

    In a settled defence with the confidence and knowledge of relative abilities that comes from that, I think whoever is there will 'play' the ball more rather than just seek to offload it to someone in midfield.

    Overall, I think that any idea that we don't have defenders who can play 'continental style' is as a result of circumstance rather than as a consequence of lack of ability.

  • Comment number 77.

    *73... Not quiet sure why a powershift is laughable at this stage??? its been gradually happening for the last couple of seasons. But i admire your never dying hope that this is just a bad nightmare and it will be all ok soon. Facts are we have the better players now,the better squad.Im sure your argue this to your dying breath but when your ex-players are saying the same thing we all can,t be wrong.Wake up to reality this nightmare is about to scare u big style.

  • Comment number 78.

    ~72
    I don't think playing Sturridge in a wider position by AVB is that bad for England. I see an ideal attack involving Welbeck in the centre with Rooney and Sturridge wide. Lets be honest, the major problem with the English attack has been how they use Rooney. He likes to drop deep, go wide, pretty much play all over the pitch. When he is the lone striker, he somehow( i dont know why, this is just my observation) feels obligated to stay up the pitch. He gets more goals this way (the 2009-10 season), but the team as a whole might suffer. If Capello is looking for the 4-4-2 with Rooney and Welbeck up front, he has to find good wingers, which I don't think the English have.Right now, only Young and Johnson look a good choice for the flanks and even then, both haven't exactly done well on the international stage.The 4-3-3 might solve the problem of ineffective wingers.
    I think the new manager has too look at WR-DW-DS for the attack, with young and Johnson as the substitutes. Stack the central midfield with players like Parker, Wilshere, Cleverly, Gerrard, Rodwell, et all. and the team looks a decent prospect on paper. Then again, don't we all know about the goo on paper golden generation team??

  • Comment number 79.

    76.
    At 12:12 4th Oct 2011, MrBlueBurns wrote:

    #74 What's that coming over the hill?Is it Nemanja? It is Nemanja!!

    After all there is nothing wrong with a ball playing defender if he can be taught to use this attacking dimension of his game in the right situations. By having someone so assured in central defence (along maybe another in Cahill or Smalling) we would finally be able to see England building from the back in a more continental style.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I have never really understood this point, which I believe exists more in perception rather than reality.

    There might be a case for giving defenders more freedom and responsibility with the ball but I'm of the opinion that England have been well served by Ferdinand and Terry for some years now, both with and without the ball. Any defensive problems have been as a result of one or both of them not being available and the issues that arise from an unsettled defence. (e.g. England's four games at last years World Cup saw them use three different centre back pairings. Throw in two different keepers as well and it's no wonder we appeared to be at sixes and sevens at times.)

    In a settled defence with the confidence and knowledge of relative abilities that comes from that, I think whoever is there will 'play' the ball more rather than just seek to offload it to someone in midfield.

    Overall, I think that any idea that we don't have defenders who can play 'continental style' is as a result of circumstance rather than as a consequence of lack of ability.

    -------------------------

    I wouldn't suggest there is a lack of ability in the Rio-Terry partnership either, far from it. However there is, to my mind anyway, a clear difference in approach to their defensive roles between the two.

    Rio is far more comfortable on the ball than terry imho, he will regurlarly take the ball out of defense when given enough space to do so. Whilst Terry is certainly not lacking in "on the ball" ability i don't think his mindset is such that this is first thought when recieving the ball.

    There have been umpteen times whilst watching England that Terry has recieved the ball from the goalie and he's struggled to pick out the right pass, he doesn't seem to trust his ability to pick out the right man unless they are immediately to his left, right or infront of him. Instead preferring to play it back to the keeper or hoof it. Often this puts more pressure on the keeper/defence, leading to the loss of possession. A more confident player on the ball would often in these circumstances play the trickier ball and help the team to keep possession going.

    In Jones, Smalling and Cahill we have three relatively young and inexperienced players that are more in the Rio Ferdinand mould than Terry. They are capable of doing the dirty side of the game but when on the ball they look to do more than simply give it to a more creative player.

    England teams have always been too structured in my mind, with the defence defending, the attack attacking and the midfield knitting the two together. A more cohesive approach is needed if you really want to challenge at the sharp end of International football. Until we have central defenders in place that are equally as capable on the ball as they are of it i think we will struggle to break teams down effectively.

  • Comment number 80.

    England's problem isn't their defence, although I definitely agree we have been hampered by never having our back four together for a consistent string of games. If you look at our record from when we had Neville Rio Terry and Cole all playing together I could bet it was pretty damn good. Anyway, it's surely time for us to start from scratch and get these youngsters playing together from an early age? Like Germany did for example? The kids are fresh and aren't haunted by past failures and the pressures that the nation brings. We need to sacrifice the next 4/5 years in order to create a truly cohesive team. Smalling and Jones have done nothing wrong so far. Smalling was a star last year, god knows how he came in and replaced Rio/Vidic so easily. This is United after all. And Jones looks equally good if not better?

    I would be looking at a new England team altogether. Young and healthy which means that they shouldn't be getting injured so often and should play together consistently for a number of years. We would have one or two old heads still knocking about for obvious reasons but we need to get rid of this old generation that we seem to be clinging to.

    Hart
    Walker Smalling Jones Gibbs
    Lennon Wilshere Lampard Young
    Rooney Wellbeck

    Foster
    Rio Terry Richards Johnson
    Carrick Parker Walcott Cole
    Carroll Owen

    That's a good mix of players with different talents, energy levels and experience. As a squad they would learn a lot.

    And I don't care what anyone says, if we have ten minutes to go and all hope looks lost... Micheal Owen. He can score in any game regardless of size and in any team regardless of how poor they're playing!

  • Comment number 81.

    wouldn,t the inclussion of micheal owen in the squad be then restricting the development of a younger forward. As you say should be looking at young blood.As for zamora being included infront of sturridge beggers belief,we just don,t seem to learn. Problem managers have in this country the F.A won,t allow them to sacrifice 4/5 years to develop these young guys there is far too much money involved.On top of that the press wouldn,t wear it,they would rip any manager apart who tried that,they still think we have this devine right to wallop any1 who plays our game.

  • Comment number 82.

    #79 What's that coming over the hill?Is it Nemanja? It is Nemanja!!

    I don't agree with all that you say, though I agree with the essence of what you're getting at. However, your well put arguments are enjoyable to read.

    #80 mockingbird

    I'm not sure as I'm not an expert on German football, however, I understand that is wasn't a conscious decision to pick youth last summer, I believe it was a case of the younger players were the best players at the time. Anyway, they still had the likes of Klose and would have taken Ballack as captain, but for him being injured in the FA Cup final just weeks before.

  • Comment number 83.

    to an extent I think the inclusion of owen in the squad would enhance the development of the younger players. Who better for players like Welbeck to learn about movement and composure from? I know they don't get much time there but I think Owen could definitely contribute with his experience, even if it was just advice. He's been our best goal scorer since I can remember. I would never start Owen in an England game but I do believe he would be our best chance at grabbing a late goal as a substitute.

    About the FA, you're sadly absolutely right. A very sad state of affairs!

  • Comment number 84.

    #83 mockingbird

    If Wellbeck can learn from Owen, surely he can do that at Man U rather than with England?

  • Comment number 85.

    Oh maybe you're right, but I'm pretty sure I heard a commentator at the time saying these young players had been playing together for some time. There are just so many things wrong with the England team it just seems like the best solution would be to start from scratch.

    I do think it would've been a lot easier for us in the last WC had Rio not got injured. His partnership with Terry would've made such a difference at the back. Seeing Johnson Terry Upson Cole made me cringe!

  • Comment number 86.

    #85 mockingbird

    I wrote this at #76:-

    England have been well served by Ferdinand and Terry for some years now, both with and without the ball. Any defensive problems have been as a result of one or both of them not being available and the issues that arise from an unsettled defence. (e.g. England's four games at last years World Cup saw them use three different centre back pairings. Throw in two different keepers as well and it's no wonder we appeared to be at sixes and sevens at times.)

  • Comment number 87.

    I was thinking that when writing it but it was just an example! Anyway it kind of seems like he's learning from him already...

    I could've said Carroll but he isn't the same kind of striker, and I can't really see him successfully pairing up with Rooney. I want another Owen is basically what I'm trying to say!

  • Comment number 88.

    Exactly, but they are never going to play together through a whole tournament. Rio is too injury prone/not allowed to play by Ferguson on way too many occasions!

    Wouldn't mind seeing Ledley play a bit more though. They don't really train for England anyway...

  • Comment number 89.

    I think the training camps for International matches/tournaments is utterly different from that of club teams. I don't expect there is too much "learning" going on. By definition the players picked by their respective countries should be the best available, therefore the essence of training sessions should be more about team shape and style of play than honing individual skills as such.

    As a consequence of the above i'd be hesitant to include players simply for others to learn from, Wellbeck from Owen using the prior example.

    I've been championing the idea of a return to basics in English football, similar to what France did pre-1998 and Germany before the last world cup. Both countries took the objective view, removing any sentiment or emotion from the equation, that their respective national teams were going in the wrong direction and that drastic action was called for.

    France had struggled to impose themselves on the national stage for decades and really wanted to make an impression at home in 1998. So they began to move behind the scenes towards a central development program whereby players would be "groomed" for want of a better word by expert youth development coaches in state of the art footballing academies (Claire-Fontaine I believe is one such case). With a national focus of "this is where we want and need to be" they were able to blend a team combining the the exceptional older statesmen of the likes Blanc and Deschamps in with a new breed. Said team went on to dominate, much like the Spanish recently, for another 6 years.

    Germany went through similar changes except they went one stage further. They imposed laws upon their club game, ensuring youth development and sustainable business models would be at the forefront of club owner's minds at all times. This simple but radical move has gone some way towards safeguarding competitive German football for the future.

    Similarly to France, Germany also created a team ethos, a style of play. They broke from the traditional German style of football and brought themselves up to date with the modern techinical game. Throughout history the words most closely associated with German football would have been grit, determination and winning at all costs, now most would use pace, technique and creativity. One should never bet against a German team in tournament football, this new team will only get better and better, and unlike the current Spanish team their most influential players still have easily over a decade left at the top level.

    England are slowly but surely coming around to this way of thinking. Whereas 8yrs ago there was only Rooney to talk of as the future of England we now have Wilshere, Rodwell, Jones, Smalling, Cahill, Gibbs, Richards, Caroll, Henderson along with many many more. English football is changing, who knows what the future team of 2014 will look like. I just hope that with this new team comes a fresh style of play, fresh ideas, fresh management and my biggest hope is that we, the fans, don't prejudge this new breed by the mistakes that previous sides have made before them.

  • Comment number 90.

    No 83.....Maybe your right OWEN would be a good influence on the young guys, and i agree Owen still has it in the locker to grab the odd goal when needed. If we can pick Zamora then why not Owen at least Owen has pedigree and history to go with his undoubted respect from fellow pro,s. The zamora thing just makes my blood boil,can some1 calm me down with some logic behind his inclussion.

  • Comment number 91.

    #77 Spurs fans have been talking about a power shift for a long time now.
    I thought they had a better squad than Arsenal last season but still didn't finish above them. Spurs were fortunate to hold onto their top players this summer but will the same happen next year? One of the reasons Spurs have a decent transfer budget is because their wage bill is a lot lower than the other top clubs. In some ways it was a blessing for Spurs failing to qualify for the champions league again as I'm sure some of the players would seek improved contracts. If this new stadium ever gets built, this may also affect the transer budget too so I wouldnt get too carried away with this power shift. Spurs might finish above Arsenal this season but I doubt they'll dominate them for 20 years like Arsenal have done to Spurs.

  • Comment number 92.

    Let's hope you're right Nemanja, a bit of optimism never hurts anyone :)

    You're right about Owen, I wouldn't have thought the younger players would learn too much to affect their style of play. But even just for advice. I'm of the opinion that having Beckham in the camp would help too. Even for the younger player to have them around would surely give them some kind of boost and backing. And the obvious bonus is these two players have goals in them when it's most needed... If we're 1-0 down against Germany in the Quarters with 10 mins to go and we've looked poor for the last 35 mins, why not stick those two on?

    Surely better than Zamora and pretty much any of our other players?

  • Comment number 93.

    # 90 - I think Zamora is actually a valid inclusion. When you consider the sorts of strikers Capello (and indeed his predecessors) has included previously in Heskey, Bothroyd and Crouch as prime examples. He offers the physicality of the aforementioned but is also a very technically gifted goal scorer too. If England need a "plan b" against more physically dominating team then he'd be a good fit imho.

  • Comment number 94.

    #92 mockingbird

    Right, so the consensus is that Zamora should not be in there instead of Sturridge and now you think another player should be sacrificed to include Owen? Then you go on to mention Beckham? Have you been on the sauce this lunchtime my friend?

  • Comment number 95.

    @90

    Zamora's been on fantastic form this season. And last season. And the one before that... I agree with those that say he's a bit too old, or too injury prone for us to waste our time with him when a young player like Sturridge is playing so well, but you can't deny that his form for Fulham hasn't really dipped at all in about 2 years. He scores great goals and sets up great goals, he holds the ball up well and brings other players into the game, and his passing and movement are excellent. He looked composed and comfortable in the one game he played for England (and every other match he's played in the last 2 years), and I think Capello probably selected him for his maturity, given that so many of his other selections are quite young players. I disagree with it myself but I hope you can see that it's not a totally ridiculous decision.

  • Comment number 96.

    No 93....So Zamora is a valid inclusion, i do love a laugh. Do u really see him as a England regular to come.??? Yep he offers Physicality and scores a few goals. But come on he lacks the quality of international football. Thought we were trying to move forward here, bringing up the likes of heskey and bothroyd in your blog only fuels my argument. those are the sort of players who we turn to time and time again and where has it got us NOWHERE. As for your plan B well thats just moving back to the stoneage days, lets lump it up the field lads because they are a bit rough for us. Cant recall SPAIN resorting to those tatics when they play as u say a PHYSICALLY DOMINATING TEAM. i DO BELIEVE THEY ARE EURO AND WORLD CHAMPS and thye didn,t get that way by picking the likes of Zamora. When will we learn quality is needed to win things not run of the mill prem players.

  • Comment number 97.

    Got to agree with Nemanja. Lets aim for 2014, take a gamble next year at the Euros with a young squad, will allow a young squad to gel and get used to playing with each other at every international event (friendlies, the Euros, WC qualifying) all in the build up to 2014.

    Hart obvious for goal.
    Richards gets the nod over walker and kelly at the moment for experience and champs league will only mean he gets better.
    I'd play terry till after the Euros with Jones. Cahill Smalling in reserve. Cole at LB as no-one else around yet and no sign anyone will be by 2014. (Cole will be 33 in 2014 so unless no else proves they have the potential to step up, keep him)
    Mids is tough, Wiltshire obvious. I'd like another holding to free Jack up a bit (Rodwell, Jones (Smalling or Cahill to step up at CB)) then cleverly, maybe parker, gerrard to in the squad too for experience and help.
    Top 3- I like rooney, young and sturridge for now. Welbeck can slot in for any of the three (just move wayne out wide and danny through the middle).

    Carroll and downing could provide a plan b. Walcott can come in for any of the top 3. Other talent too for the future to slot in where needed. But keep the spine steady for the next 3 years please!

  • Comment number 98.

    No..91.. Spot on about dominating Spurs for 20 years or so,can,t argue with that and wouldn,t even try. But it would be nice just for once for the gooners out there to concede we do have the better team at this present time instead or coming out with the excuses of why this aint true and why that aint true. Yep you have the history of being on top, but the game is about today and whats happening now.History is what it is something to look back on and cobwebs to form on.

  • Comment number 99.

    The future does look bright for England suddenly. I think they may even surprise at the Euros (if they get there--it's not certain yet), and if they do it will most likely be because of Young, who I think has been the best player in England for at least a year. (And I'm a Spurs fan.)

    Walker's been great this year for us, and he might be the future for right back at England, but it is a little early to say. I'd just as well everyone take their time playing him...

    While it's tempting to gloat about Arsenal's poor run lately, I don't get much out of it and things can change quickly. Both teams are in a very delicate boat, the one where there's a certain amount of money to spend but not nearly as much as Man U, Man City and Chelsea (and for that matter Liverpool). The team of Levy and Redknapp have been absolutely brilliant about managing Spurs delicate boat over the last couple of years, and Wenger, for all his earlier success, has been pretty dire with Arsenal lately.

    Neither situation is all that likely to last. Spurs may well lose Redknapp, Wenger will probably either greatly improve or go. Arsenal has twice as big a stadium. And Arsenal are still one of three teams, along with Spurs and Liverpool, who are going to get fourth. As of right now Spurs have the best team of the three, I think, and look like the favorites, but it's a very long season and all sorts of things will happen.

    For Spurs, a lot depends on how many games King will play, and on keeping Parker, Sandro and Ade healthy (those are the players Spurs have the hardest time replacing.)

  • Comment number 100.

    ~93
    I'll have to disagree with you here, my friend. The English squad already has a striker who can out-physical the opponent - Wayne Rooney. Having two of the same type of strikers shows a very narrow-minded, no plan b approach. If we assume WR as the first name on the sheet, then his strike partner has to complement him. Look back over the years to his best ones - Ronaldo, Hernandez, even Defoe was good alongside him. All lithe, speedy players, whose main concern is getting the ball in the net rather than worry about the defence. Choosing Zamora over sturridge was in no way a good move, particularly when the proposition of blooding young players is gonna come in friendlies against Spain. But team selected and only a draw needed, so complaints would be held back until after the a bad result

    And regarding the Out with the old, bring in the young approach suggested by jstan for the Euros, I highly doubt Capello is gonna try that. The competition is gonna be his swansong with the English team, so he would go for tried (and possibly found wanting) players, rather than fresh blood. What the FA needs to do is hire someone who puts emphasis on team building after Capello. Some one who would utilise the resources well. Hiddink anyone?

    Regarding the issue of team spirit, i think Scholes is right. There is too much bad blood between the players. The league is very competitive. And even if the players are mature about it, they are bound to make subconscious mistakes. Gerrard might take a shot from a wide angle rather than lay it for rooney, and that too not purposefully. If you look at the successful International teams, they have their players either spread across leagues (Netherlands, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, etc.) or playing for the same team (Spain). look back over the last decade and its only been Owen, Woodgate, Joe Cole and Hargreaves who were recognised in-contention english players and have played abroad. Not that it is wrong, but it undermines team spirit. Probably a winter break, with a training camp for the national pool players might just improve matters. These players play together for what 6 times a year?? And then dive straight into Major competitions? How can we expect anything, but an implosion?

    Lastly, the issue of young players in the league. Right now, what happens is that the top clubs sign the youngsters early, and keep them as backup. Good for them, but the players end up not getting enough game time. For example, how much do you think Jones is gonna play when vidic and ferdinand are fully fit? With the way he is going, he might be able to save kean's job quite easily. Could the FA look at relaxing the rules regarding loan deals, i.e. they could be done on a monthly basis for under-21 players? That way, the clubs foundering can look to youngsters to help them as required, the owner clubs would have their not required players exposed to game time, and the FA would get some more youth players in the system. This would mean that players like Bertrand who are on the bench, or not in the squad at all, would be able to get 4-5 matches for a team like, say sunderland, which could be quite valuable in him getting to the chelsea staring lineup for the succeeding month's matches.

 

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