Fabio Capello has announced his England squad for this week's Euro 2012 qualifiers. With a host of players unavailable due to injury, Capello's side has an... interesting look about it.
Goalkeepers: Scott Carson, Ben Foster, Joe Hart.
Hart is clearly the favourite to start, the Manchester City goalie on unbelievable form so far this season. Ben Foster has also been very good, but Scott Carson seems to be in the squad simply to fill out the numbers, his performance to date not exactly inspiring confidence - and the less said about his last appearance for England the better.
Defenders: Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Kieran Gibbs, Phil Jagielka, Glen Johnson, Joleon Lescott, Matthew Upson
With Frank Lampard and John Terry both out injured, Ashley Cole is the only Chelsea player to feature on the England roster. He should be starting at left-back, with Gibbs as his understudy. Glen Johnson has a solid hold on right-back, leaving Dawson, Cahill, Jagielka, and Upson to fight it out for the two central positions. England look decidedly vulnerable in the middle with Terry and captain Rio Ferdinand out, and Hart will need to be at his best to cover up for his centre backs.
With Walcott, Johnson, and Young on the form of their lives Capello is almost obligated to include them all, an impossible task. A 4-2-3-1 would accommodate two out of three while also maintaining a solid midfield base of Milner, Carrick, and Gerrard, but the manager might not be willing to experiment in an competitive game. Whichever of the Walcott/Johnson/Young trio that gets left on the bench will have to consider themselves unfortunate; their performances so far in league play have certainly merited a spot in the starting lineups. I'd favour Young and Walcott over Johnson; they've both slightly more versatile than the City winger.
Crouch and Defoe are both included despite being injured (Crouch) or preparing to undergo surgery (Defoe). If Defoe cannot play, neither Bent nor Cole are ideal partners for Wayne Rooney, another argument for the switch to a single striker and a 4-2-3-1. Striker depth is especially thin with injuries to Gabby Agbonlahor and Bobby Zamora, both of whom are (or should be) significantly higher on the depth chart than the likes of Darren Bent and Carlton Cole. Rooney's form is also a major concern as he's looked frankly awful since March. He's so important to the squad that Capello has to play him and hope he reverts to form, but as Rooney goes, so to do the Three Lions, which is unhappy news for England fans.
Ideal Starting XI: Hart-Cole/Dawson/Jagielka/Johnson-Milner/Carrick-Young/Gerrard/Walcott-Rooney (4-2-3-1)
Expected Starting XI: Hart-Cole/Dawson/Jagielka/Johnson-Johnson/Barry/Gerrard/Walcott-Bent/Rooney (4-4-2)