The fact that England have qualified for the European Championship 2012 has been completely overshadowed by Wayne Rooney’s ill-discipline. The 25 year old got himself sent off against Montenegro on Friday and now faces a ban which will impact massively on England’s chances.
However you wish to put it England now face an uphill struggle without easily their most talented player. The national manager Fabio Capello has already confirmed that he will not feature in the coming friendly against Spain as he now has to find a suitable replacement, and fast. This however, is the real dilemma – who is good enough to lead the line successfully? Darren Bent, Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck or Bobby Zamora, none of whom would strike fear into a top side in Europe at present.
In all fairness Crouch and Defoe have had enough chances at this level and have failed almost every time. And yes, although Crouch boasts an impressive scoring rate at International level (22 goals in 42 appearances) he has scored almost all of them against second rate opposition. Meanwhile Defoe has 15 goals in 46 appearances but lacks the ability to test the best defences. He has been a good Premier League player but has always seemed out of his depth at the highest level.
The other important factor is that Rooney contributes so much more to the side than simply holding the line and scoring goals. His work rate and teamwork is fantastic when he is on form and in modern day football it is essential to defend from the front. With Manchester United re-affirming their status as the best club side in the country his confidence and experience will also be missed.
This surely then leaves a straight shootout between Bent, Carroll, Sturridge, Welbeck and Zamora. It is thought that Capello is a big fan of Zamora but he would need to be integrated quickly and although he has definitely improved in recent years he remains a decent player, but nothing special. Darren Bent would certainly fit some of the requirements; he is probably the best natural finisher of all the options available and has the pace to worry International defenders. However, he has only scored four times in 11 appearances in a career that began five years ago. He appears to be one of those players that struggles to make the step up, although if he got more minutes his confidence may increase.
It comes down now to the remaining three, all of whom are relatively inexperienced at this level; although this can be beneficial in major tournaments on occasions. All would need to have impressive seasons to force their way into the team and in Carroll’s case he would need to improve his overall game for Capello to trust him. I certainly feel that Sturridge looked impressive in the Under 21s and if he can get more games for Chelsea he could certainly do a job. However, in the recent trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United he looked a little out of his depth, but more exposure would help to eradicate that.
It certainly seems at the moment that Capello’s best option could be Danny Welbeck. Although I am not entirely convinced by the United forward he certainly seems to have the self-belief and confidence to fill Rooney’s shoes. He has been spoken about very highly by Sir Alex Ferguson for years and there aren’t many players he has been wrong about over the years. He is good in the air and has good technique; but the most important thing is that he is playing at Manchester United. Here he will have been exposed to big games, difficult atmospheres and will have a winning mentality which are pre-requisites in my opinion to succeed at the highest level.
Much will depend on how this season pans out for Welbeck but at the moment he would be my tip for the Euros. A good, and successful season for United maybe exactly what England need.