Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Forty for England

With all the talk about whether Darren Bent will make the 23-man England squad for the World Cup in Germany, I thought I'd see what the problem is, and why the question of taking four or five strikers seems to be playing on the minds of journalists and pundits so much currently.

I wrote down the names of the players who I think are the best in the country (we'll come to them in a minute), and I had 22 players I'd be happy to take to Germany. Then I looked at the peripheral players, and this is where the problem arises - there are quite a few candidates for the initial squad of 40 (from which the 23 are chosen), and the balance between goalkeepers, defence, midfield, and attack is quite tricky.

Of course, if Alan Curbishley was England manager this wouldn't be a problem, because he likes players who can play in more than one position of course...

But what will Sven do?

All of this is of course based on the Sven system of playing 4-1-3-1-1, although with the players available, a switch to 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 3-5-2, or for the Brazil game 6-3-1, is always an option.

Let's start with the make up of the forty and twenty-three man squads -

Presumably, we need five goalkeepers in the initial 40; this should be enough from which to pick three for the 23-man squad (which is what you need for a Championship). Running total 5 of 40/3 of 23.

In defence, we can split the full-backs into left and right, and centre backs; two full backs for each side, plus four centre backs are needed in the 23, so we need to have coverage here of an extra two full and centre backs. Running total 17/11.

In midfield, you cannot really break things down too much between attacking and defensive players, or even wide and central, so let's just suppose we need seven midfielders in our final squad, and an extra nine for the forty. Running total 33/18.

This allows us five forwards for the final 23-man squad, and an extra couple in the forty as back up for injuries. Running total 40/23.

OK, that's the easy for the names. I don't think I've missed anyone, and I'll also list the players who didn't make my final forty. Those in bold are the ones I'd put in the 23 man squad:

Goalkeepers - Robinson, James, Kirkland, Green, Wright.

Defenders - Ferdinand, Neville, Young, Carragher, Terry, Campbell, Cole (A), Bridge, Johnson (G), Brown, Dawson, Konchesky.

Midfielders - Lampard, Beckham, Gerrard, Wright-Phillips, Cole (J), King, Nolan, Hargreaves, Richardson, Downing, Pennant, Carrick, Jenas, Parker, Dyer, Barry.

Attackers - Owen, Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Bent, Beattie, Heskey.

Left on stand-by - Walker, Neville (P), Southgate, Knight, Upson, Butt, Etherington, Milner, Johnson (A).

So there you have it - 49 players who may make the England squad of 40, and also the final 23. I doubt it will meet everyone's approval, especially Danny Murphy's wife!

The only problem I had was picking a last midfielder - I went for Nolan (who I think is a tremendous player) as he is far better than Hargreaves, Richardson, Downing, Carrick, or Jenas, though others, you and Sven for instance, may disagree. It would be great if Parker could travel, but I doubt it somehow...

The benefits of my squad are that you have coverage in most areas - we all know that Carragher can play at full back if necessary; King can play centre back (he isn't proven in midfield anyway...); Wright-Phillips can play central midfield if required and Joe Cole up front; Darren Bent can even play wide if wanted.

Of course, all of this is academic because injuries will undoubtedly come into play. We already have doubts over Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, and Michael Owen, and none could be fit for World Cup duty, and there will be others who are yet to be injured and miss out - there always is at least one heartbreak story.

If Cole doesn't get games soon then Konchesky could make the final 23, or maybe Sven will recall Phil Neville as back-up to Bridge. If Campbell cannot shake off his problems, then a host of centre backs will be hoping for a chance - Wes Brown, Michael Dawson, and Matt Upson among them. As for Owen, the whole country will weep if he isn't fit for Germany - even Sven said today that he would take a less than 100% fit Owen in his squad. In Darren Bent though, he has a confident and able deputy who makes similar quick runs and can be just as deadly in the six-yard box.

I cannot really see any other players breaking in to the initial 40-man squad, or the final 23 that actually travel.

The whole Bent and Luke Young thing seems to me to be media clap-trap brought about just because they both play for "little" Charlton. When you look at the numbers, both should make the final 23 man squad on merit. It would be great if ex-Addicks Parker and Konchesky (plus Defoe) made the final squad too, although that is less likely. Wouldn't we be proud to see five current or former Charlton players representing our country at the World Cup finals? You bet!

Let me know if I've missed anyone out or if you think the balance should be different?

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