After the game vs Spain in midweek a lot of people understandably who i know at school, neighbourhood etc have been blasting England's performance, calling for Mclaren to be sacked & even questioning whether England will qualify for Euro 2008. But one debate that seems the come up regularly is whether Lampard/Gerrard can stay in the same team if not who should go?.
I personally don't know what to think, majority want Lampard out, but one thing people seem to be forgetting that post World Cup between Euro 2004 to then Lampard was brilliant for England complementing the good work he had showed @ Chelsea & since the WC i don't know he has absolutely look a different man for England but with Chelsea he still is superb in whatever position he plays. A perfect example was in the Champions League game vs Barcelona @ the Nou Camp late last year where he showed great versatility by playing on the left & having a superb night. Add that to very solid performances for Chelsea every week its extremely weird that since the World Cup their seems to be two different Lampard's which is though to take because i for one don't want to believe for a second that players in England aren't commited to playing for their country, for me its just tactically in the national side they seem out of place. Looking at how he plays at Chelsea in that attacking mid-field role mainly with Makele as cover, i don't see why with England he can't adapt that same successfull combination with Hargreaves.
Having a mid-field or Gerrard/Hargreaves/Lampard/Cole is potenially one of the best in the world once they can work well together, playing free flowing football similarly to what we saw vs Argentina in late 2005 & vs Sweden in the WC & not that stagnant crap that they are showing way too often which definately is frustrating supporters.
But even if Lamps is to be dropped & Gerrard goes into the centre with Hargreaves, a bloke the other day was talking about how England need to utilize their options wide which seems a fair idea, i would send Joe Cole on the right instead of Lennon since he is more natually suited on that wing not to say i don't rate Lennon but i like him as an impact player at this stage, but then who goes on the left?. As much as i would go for Barry i wouldn't look too far past Matthew Taylor, i've been very impressed with him this season.
Looking at the progress to Euro 2008, i'll go out on a limb and say England will qualify despite all the hiccups to date. Based on recent performances i'd be foolish to say England should take Israel for granted, Russia who has Hiddink with them nor Croatia. Its a crucial year for the national side come the end of the year when we tackle Russia at home & Croatia at Wembly England just can't afford to mess up, deep down once key players are available (most importantly the return of Michael Owen) i feel England will make it.
So just over a year away from the tournament this is what i think the best 23 could look like:
1. Paul Robinson - Going a through a bad period for Club & country since the WC, hopefully between now & the Euro he'll get his act together.
2. Ben Foster - Great talent, great future in the game, could tip Robbo as # 1 unless he lifts his game quickly i reckon.
3. David James - He may be getting on but he's been superbly for Pompey & has been the best keeper in the premiership this season, if he can repeat that next year Mclaren would be mad to leave him out of the squad.
4. Gary Neville - No explation needed although he may not be # 1 right back come Euro.
5. Michah Richards
6. John Terry
7. Rio Ferdinand
8. Ashley Cole
9. Wayne Bridge - Lack of first team oppurtunites could hurt him, especially if Baines keeps doing well or goes to a bigger club in the next year. But overall i'm would take Bridge regardless
10. Ledley King
11. Jonathan Woodgate/Jamie Carragher - Both top defenders, Woodgate slightly better in my book, but who goes will depend on performances.
12. Steven Gerrard
13. Frank Lampard
14. Owen Hargreaves
15. Joe Cole
16. Keiron Dyer - sort of ruled him out of contention, but performances for Newcastle & England since his return from injury reminded me of what a good player he really is. A definte pick for me once fit.
17. Aaron Lennon
18. Gareth Barry/Matthew Taylor - won't mind which is picked TBH
19. Michael Carrick/Scott Parker - performances for both club & country in the next year will decide who gets the final pick.
20. Wayne Rooney
21. Michael Owen - for England sake lets hope the man comes back with a bang, since he is needed & missed.
22. Peter Crouch - I'm picking him because i think he offers something different with is height. He definately won't be a easy man to defend to late on or if one of Rooney/Owen if injured, he can form a decent combination with either one similarly to what he has done at liverpool with Dirk Kuyt.
23. Jermaine Defore/Dean Ashton/Andy Johnson/ - This is a though selection, Defoe at times has looked out of depth at international level but for the spurs of late he has looked superb. Johnson is good as well but i guess he's a bit over-rated while i really like the look of Ashton & would go for him personally. But performances will decide.
Its strong, has potential, just needs to be guided in the right direction & international glory should not be far away.