Following an un-aggravated assault in Montenegro, Wayne Rooney will miss England’s first three games of Euro 2012 next summer, leaving Fabio Capello with eight months to ponder who can replace the United hit-man and lead his side through the group stages in Poland and Ukraine.
With a clear lack of creativity at his disposal, Capello will surely be tempted to take his banned front man in reserve, should England qualify from the group stage. But the Italian will know Rooney’s record, 0 goals in his last two major tournaments and 3 goals in his last sixteen international games. Whilst he may provide a spark that few other English players are capable of, a top goal-scorer he has not proven to be.
This is perhaps due to the style of play under Fabio Capello. At United Rooney is able to play a centre-forward role safe in the knowledge that his team mates will afford him the opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net. When on England duty we continually see him becoming frustrated at the lack of goal scoring opportunities, dropping deeper and deeper to become involved in the play. This often creates a 4-6-0 formation, and whilst Roma have shown that such a formation is not untenable, unlike Spain or Germany, England do not have the players to conquer such a free flowing formation. Should Rooney be playing the deep lying attacking role of the 4-6-0 surrounded by Villa, Silva, and Xavi or Muller, Khedira, and Ozil, I suspect he would score goals, but he isn’t.
So like David Beckham ruling himself out of last year’s World Cup through injury, Rooney being unavailable may be a blessing in disguise for the manager, at least in terms of providing a shape to the side capable of scoring goals. England scored three in South Africa.
|The next best thing?|
To compete next summer, England need a partnership, and for the last example of that, we need to look back a whole decade to the time surrounding the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Michael Owen and Emile Heskey were the last successful English striking partnership; the big man-little man combination that provided relative success in an England team including the likes of Danny Mills, Trevor Sinclair and Nicky Butt. There’s no question that playing consistently on both the domestic and international front together aided the pairing, but with several international friendlies between now and next summer, including Spain next month, Capello has an opportunity to piece together something that would outlast him with England.
So who’s in the running?
Darren Bent is without question a goal scorer. His 36 goals in 63 appearances for Sunderland and 11 in 23 at current club Aston Villa is testament to that. His 4 goals in 11 for England show that when given a chance, he scores goals.
Bent’s Villa teammate, Gabriel Agbonlahor has made a flying start to the season scoring 4 in 7 for his club so far this season. His international career has largely been halted in the years surpassing his under-21 call ups, with only 3 full caps to his name. However, his direct power, pace, and versatility is something offered by no other English centre forward. Should his excellent form continue, he will surely be in with a chance of making the trip next summer.
Had an achilles injury not prevented his selection, Bobby Zamora was a favourite to be included in Capello’s World Cup squad last year. However, only two senior squad call ups have been afforded to the Fulham striker, and if he is to stake a claim for his inclusion, he’ll need to hope for a chance in the upcoming friendlies.
Jermain Defoe was the only centre forward to score for England in South Africa last summer, and in the 46 appearances for his country he’s netted 15 times. His longevity, arguably the reason he’s had the nod on Darren Bent in recent years.
Like Defoe, Peter Crouch has made over 40 appearances for England, however his goal per game ratio stands at better than a goal every other game, one of the best in the modern era. However, after being dropped from the squad to face Switzerland in June after initially being included, rumours surfaced that the robot dancing goal machine would not play for the manager again. Should he forgive Capello and find the form worthy of a recall at new club Stoke, Capello will know that Crouch’s form; both physical and goal scoring will have the potential to pose a threat to any defence in the Ukraine and Poland.
|The new Alan Shearer?|
And then there’s the new boys; Andy Carroll is the most expensive British player in history, with a total of only 3 caps for his country. There’s no doubt the Geordie hit man has a potentially bright international future ahead of him, but injury has plagued the start of his Liverpool career and subsequently lead to a lack of international involvement. Carroll will need to continue in the vein of goal scoring kicked off last weekend at Goodison Park if he is to lead the English line next year.
Danny Welbeck is another young player whom Capello has high hopes for. Persuaded to turn his back on his parent’s native Ghana, the twenty year old is thought to be the young player the England manager is pinning his highest hopes on. So far this season Welbeck has outshone Rooney, Hernandez and Berbatov in United’s forward line bagging 5 goals in 8 appearances, earning him his first competitive appearance away in Montenegro earlier this month, his second senior cap.
Finally, Daniel Sturridge, the centre forward who came to prominence during a loan spell at Bolton last season, scoring 8 goals in 12 appearances for the Trotters. This season has been no different for the Birmingham born forward, like Welbeck, upstaging his fellow centre forwards Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba with 3 goals in 3 appearances. Sturridge is the only player listed to have not made a full England appearance, something that will surely change in the coming months.
Capello clearly has options. The classic big man-little man combination personified by the Owen and Heskey partnership of a decade ago has the potential to be reignited. Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch both have the physical attributes to provide the battering ram needed for a smaller nippier player to succeed. Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe offer proven goal scoring ability, whilst Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge provide a rawer, untamed talent.
Should the England manager opt for a striker-centre forward pair, Bobby Zamora and Gabriel Agbonlahor will feel their chances have increased, both players preferring to play off an advanced striker; Darren Bent’s ideal role.
Whatever Capello decides, one thing is for certain, for the first three games at least, it won’t involve Wayne Rooney.