Watch out nose, face needs some spite

Poor old Roy Hodgson.  The team have barely touched down in Poland (even though most of their matches are in Ukraine) for Euro2012 and already the brickbats are flying.

His latest crime is overlooking Rio Ferdinand — again.  Not content with having done it once he’s done it again following the injury to Gary Cahill.

Comic hero Desperate Dan

Desperately bad luck: Cahill’s jaw looks a touch swollen

A quick note on Cahill: it’s a real shame for him and desperately unlucky.  Yes, the crude shove by Dries Mertens in the friendly against Belgium was unnecessary but even in a competitive game would have drawn a yellow card, at most.  However, from the minute he crashed into the rather robust Joe Hart it didn’t look good.  When his jaw swelled to Desperate Dan proportions it was clear he would not be playing much part in the European Championships.

Lots of people (notably ‘the media’) expected Hodgson to go calling for Rio, asking for forgiveness and for the experienced Manchester United defender to step into the breach.

However, Roy, good as his word, went to his reserve/stand-by list and called up Liverpool’s Martin Kelly.  Thoughsport feels a fair bit of sympathy for the young Reds defender too.  Called up to a big tournament he’s already been written off as he doesn’t have 81 caps (he has one); hasn’t won the Premier League (though three of Hodgson’s defenders have) and isn’t called “Rio”.

Second best

Much has been made of Kelly’s utility.  Ostensibly he’s now back-up right-back to team-mate Glen Johnson and, supposedly, offers cover across the defence too.  Sorry Roy but if that’s the reason you’ve called him up it’s balderdash.  Even Liverpool fans would struggle to call Kelly’s a centre-half.  Yes, he has played at left-back too — in desperate times at Liverpool — and it’d have to be similar for England to deploy him there.

Realistically Kelly won’t play at all (so where’s the harm in taking a 23-year-old to gain tournament experience?) and it’d take injuries to three of John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones for Kelly to get a look-in there.

Yet Thoughtsport are still uncomfortable with his inclusion.  (Incidentally, we’re also fans of the growing school of thought that says England’s first choice centre-back pairing should be Lescott and Jagielka.)

Why?  Because it’s starting with a compromise.  Call us traditionalists but we say “Use the best tool for the job.”  If you had a hammer and a screwdriver, you wouldn’t use a Swiss Army knife to bang in a nail and screw up some shelves would you?

Tournament squads are made-up of 23 players.  Basic maths tells you that’s two players for everyone position plus one spare.  Most teams opt for a third goalie to make up the 23.  So why take a player who isn’t even first choice right-back for his club side?

Similarly with Phil Jones — yes, his adaptability is great.  If we had to pick a 15-man squad there’d be some sound arguments for taking him.  But we don’t.  It’s a 23-man squad.  We can take two right-backs — full-time, professional, do nothing else but be a right-back right-backs… we don’t need to take utility players!

Mind your nose

Fit of pique: Carrick & Richards opted not to be on ‘stand-by’ list

We risk over using the “Where is Micah Richards?” drum – especially as we know the answer.  Word is both he and Michael Carrick (more on him later) refused to be on the stand-by list.  Again, we risk exposing ourselves as the staunch traditionalists we are but… if your country needs you, even if it’s a “we might…” you stand by your bed, ready for the call.

It’s the David Beckham school of thought.  ‘Becks’ had his weaknesses but lack of patriotism was never something that could be leveled at him.  He’s always stuck to the line (we paraphrase) “I’ll never retire — it’s not for me to decide if/when my country doesn’t need me.”

Richards and Carrick would do well to take a leaf out of Beckham’s book.  With Lampard and Barry on the injured list Carrick would, surely, have been a shoe-in for the squad.  One would hope too that Richards would have been ahead of Kelly on the stand-by list too.

Still, both chose not to be on said list for whatever reasons they saw fit.  We can almost understand it from Carrick.  He’ll be nigh-on 31 by the time the tournament ends.  We’re family men at Thoughtsport and could possibly, maybe, just about see that, for Carrick, dragging yourself out to Poland/Ukraine to sit on several substitute benches, away from your family and kids for 2-3 weeks may not sound that appealing.

But Richards?  He’s 23.  It may be a little early for international-career-suicide moves like his fit of pique.  Yes, it’s disappointing not to be first choice but we’ve seen 4-year-olds ‘lose’ with more grace than the Richards/Carrick “I’m taking my ball home then…” hissy fit.

If I were either man’s nose I’d be watchful around shaving time… they might be out to cut you off.

Why Wio Woy?

So, Roy Hodgson has made his first big call as England boss.  Despite Thoughtsport‘s suggestion he hasn’t dropped John Terry.  Instead, he’s opted to leave out Rio Ferdinand.

Once we got over the shock, surprise and dismay that Roy either disagrees with our advice, or perhaps (gasp!) he doesn’t even read it… we going to say ‘fair play’ to Roy.  At least he’s made a call.

Ferdinand’s fitness may not be up to tournament football and it’s one way of resolving the Terry v Ferdinands argument — if not the one we’d have favoured.

Let’s analyse, Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad against our picks.  Where we’ve differed we’ve highlighted the players in red:

Roy’s Goalies: Joe Hart; Rob Green; John Ruddy.

TS’s goalies: Joe Hart; Ben Foster; Paul Robinson.

Roy’s defenders: Leighton Baines; Gary Cahill; Ashley Cole; Glenn Johnson; Phil Jones; Joleon Lescott; John Terry.

TS’s defenders: Rio Ferdinand; Phil Jagielka; Joleon Lescott; Gary Cahill; Micah Richards; Kyle Walker; Ashley Cole; Glenn Johnson.

Roy’s midfielders: Gareth Barry; Stewart Downing; Steven Gerrard; Frank Lampard; James Milner; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Scott Parker, Theo Walcott; Ashley Young.

TS’s midfielders: Steven Gerrard; Gareth Barry; Scott Parker; Frank Lampard; Michael Carrick; Ashley Young; Theo Walcott; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Roy’s forwards: Wayne Rooney; Andy Carroll; Jermain Defoe; Danny Welbeck.

TS’s forwards: Wayne Rooney; Daniel Sturridge; Danny Welbeck; Andy Carroll.

Roy’s standby list: Jack Butland; Adam Johnson; Daniel Sturridge; Phil Jagielka; Jordan Henderson.

Squad analysis

So there you have it.  Rio Ferdinand’s England career is, apparently, over.

Jermain Defoe on the bench for Spurs

Comfy seat: Defoe’s most utilised muscle of late has been his gluteus maximus

Looking at it in order, there are (as you might expect) pros and cons — but also some glaring inconsistencies.  Stewart Downing is, seemingly, in the squad on the basis that he’s left-footed.  Surely his (terrible) form for Liverpool cannot be the reason?  Yet the left-footed Daniel Sturridge is left out in favour of Jermain Defoe — the same Defoe who started just two of the last 12 Tottenham matches — and was an unused sub in four of them.

From the back: Our predictions were woeful.  We only got Joe Hart’s name right.  To be fair we wrote it before Ben Foster rejected Hodgson’s plea to end his international ‘retirement’.  Let’s face it, we’re hardly awash with quality between the sticks anymore.  If Joe Hart gets injured/suspended we’re in a heap of trouble.

In that scenario we’d still have preferred the experienced, Premier League (just about) goalie, Paul Robinson to come in — rather than Championship West Ham stopper Rob Green.  Fair enough, John Ruddy can gain experience coming along for the ride we won’t quibble on that one.

At the back Hodgson has made the headline grabbing call — dropping Ferdinand and picking Terry.  That comes as no great shock.  Of more concern is the right-back situation.  Again, we picked our 23-man squad before Kyle Walker was ruled out with a toe injury.

However, Hodgson’s squad leaves him with Phil Jones as a back-up right-back?  The squad seems to be crying out for Micah Richards — the blockbuster Manchester City full-back… the same City side that just won the Premier League title.

Micah Richards

Micah Mystery: Richards must have offended someone somewhere, surely?

Yes, Jones has the advantage of age on his side — giving a 20-year-old with a bright future some tournament experience makes sense.  But aged 23 Richards is hardly at pensionable age.

The midfield picks of Downing and Milner are just perplexing.  Downing, as any stat-fan will tell you, has scored 0 goals and has 0 assists for Liverpool this season — a staggering statistic for a winger.

Milner has started just one of City’s last 12 games.  His last noted goal or assist was back in January!  Yes his utility is useful in that he can play in a number of positions but then, so could Paul Warhurst.  It didn’t make him an international player.

Amidst all this Michael Carrick who has, arguably, had one of his best ever seasons for Manchester United (and has also played in nigh-on all of United’s big matches this season) is left out?

The much hyped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is in.  Thoughtsport quite likes that.  He’s got a big future ahead of him.  Comparisons with Theo Walcott’s call-up by Sven Goran Ericsson will be made but it’s hardly the same.  Walcott hadn’t even played for Arsenal when his call came — Oxlade-Chamberlain has played, scored and impressed for the Gunners already.

Up front, we can’t argue much with Rooney, Carroll and Welbeck — especially as we picked them too.  But the selection of Jermain Defoe has left us scratching our heads again.

Let’s look at those stats again.  He’s started two of Spurs’ last 12 games.  A Spurs side pushing for a Champions League place.  Stats often don’t tell the whole story but for a ‘fox-in-the-box’ type striker of Defoe’s ilk they can be more telling than for other players.  He’s in the side to score goals not much else.

Defoe has scored 6 goals in his last 20 matches.  That’s not bad, right?  Not great, but ok.  However, two of those were against League One side Stevenage in the FA Cup replay.  Yes, a replay after Spurs, featuring Defoe (in one of his rare 90-minute outings), failed to score in the first match.

He was kept quiet on that February afternoon at Broadhall Way by Messrs Darius Charles and Jon Ashton.  Two years ago both were playing non-league football.  Fancy his chances against the likes of AC Milan’s Phillipe Mexés?  No, nor us.

Don’t get us wrong.  Thoughtsport love England and we’d love for us to do really well at the Euros.  We’re just not convinced that we will — not that this, seemingly haphazard, squad is best equipped to do so.

John Terry: An accident waiting to happen?

Slippery slope: Terry’s on the way down

John Terry shouldn’t go to the European Championships with England.  There, we’ve said it.

A lot has already been written about whether the Chelsea captain should be representing his country anyway with a charge of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand hanging over him.

But it’s not for this reason that Thoughtsport think Terry should be left kicking his heels when Roy Hodgson takes his squad to Poland and Ukraine.  No.

We contest that Terry has lost it.  He’s just not the player he once was and, at 31, England should be looking elsewhere.

The case for the defence

Terry’s decline has been slow, steady but he’s definitelydeclining.  Chelsea have been leaking goals lately.  This season they’ve conceded 41 goals in the Premier League (with two games yet to come).  In his, and Chelsea’s, pomp they were a much tighter ship.

As the graphic below shows, Chelsea have been getting progressively ‘leakier’.  Now that may not be entirely Terry’s fault — selling Ricardo Carvalho; the doomed tactics of Andre Villas Boas; the rocky start made by David Luiz; the dip in form of Petr Cech etc. are all factors.  However, Terry himself is also a factor — a large one.

Year Finished Goals conceded
2005-6 1st 22
2006-7 2nd 24
2007-8 2nd 26
2008-9 3rd 24
2009-10 1st 32
2010-11 2nd 33
2011-12 3rd-6th 41+

Speaking of ‘large’, Terry has always relied on one key asset of his game.  The line between good players and top players is usually excelling in one (or more) aspects of the game (think: Michael Owen, exceptional pace; Paul Gascoigne, exceptional dribbling).

Terry’s exceptional talent was his size and strength — which made him good in the air and solid in the tackle, ideal for a centre-half.  He was never the quickest, but he had enough pace to get himself out of trouble if needed.  Paired with a ‘playmaking’ centre half, like Rio Ferdinand, Terry was the perfect foil.  The grit to Ferdinand’s craft.

“He’s behind you!”

Carroll playing the tune: Terry’s left floundering at Wembley

Recent events have shown some gaping (and growing) flaws in Terry’s game.

Take the two matches against Liverpool.  The first, the FA Cup Final.  The second the Premier League clash.  Both were big games for Chelsea, one for a trophy the other for a coveted Champions League place.

Admittedly Chelsea won one and lost one, picking up a trophy along the way.  Not bad.

If you watched the game(s) you may already know what’s coming.  Terry’s errors.  In reverse chronological order:

  • He slips to gift the ball to Jordan Henderson, who scores Liverpool’s second goal at Anfield
  • Andy Carroll easily beats Terry on the turn at Anfield.  Result, a clumsy, cynical challenge to bring Carroll down earns Terry a yellow card
  • He’s nutmegged by Luis Suarez at Anfield.  Result, Suarez shoots wide
  • He’s tricked by Carroll again at Anfield
  • He’s tricked by Carroll again (Andy Carroll!) on the edge of his own six yard box at Wembley.  Result: Carroll smashes it into the roof of the net.  Goal.

Toss in the torrid time Terry and co. had from, an admittedly resurgent Carroll, for half an hour at Wembley and it’s not looking good for ‘JT’.

Being nutmegged by Luis Suarez is no shame, better players than Terry will suffer that fate.  It was the tangle Terry got himself in chasing Carroll, not the most nimble of players at the best of times, that have sealed his fate in Thoughtsport’s eyes.

If Carroll can do that to Terry, what will the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery do at the Euros?  It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.

The solution?

Thoughtsport don’t like doing down players without positive alternatives.  Any hack can say”So and so is crap.” it takes a little more invention to say who should replace them.

Whilst England toiled over and dragged out the decision of whom should replace Fabio Capello, we were advocates of the school of thought that said: “Write of the Euros, we won’t win it.  Let Stuart Pearce take a few kids and give them some experience — it worked wonders for Germany.”

With Roy Hodgson in charge that won’t be the case.  It is extremely likely Terry will be on the plane to eastern Europe.  However, we’d advocate another route.  Take four centre-backs (plenty for a tournament).  On form the top four Englishmen would be:

  • Joleon Lescott (an under-rated season, in the formidable shadow of Vincent Kompany, at a City side that could be champions)
  • Phil Jagielka (already in the England shake-up and ‘rested’ after coming back from injury)
  • Gary Cahill (already out performing Terry at Stamford Bridge)
  • Rio Ferdinand (older than Terry but his time off injured has enabled him to adapt his game around his ever decreasing pace)

Throw in Micah Richards who can play right back or centre back and Chris Smalling (as a nod to his future/potential) and England don’t need Terry as much as some might think.

No room for extra baggage

That’s the footballing reason we think Terry should be omitted from Euro 2012.  Sprinkle in the pending court case; the captaincy debacle; the simmering tension with Rio Ferdinand; the needless red-card against Barcelona and countless other off-field distractions Terry brings and the argument becomes rather compelling.

Bear in mind as well as Ibrahimovic et al, all England’s opponents will have been watching Terry’s toils (both on and off the field).  As that red card against Barcelona showed the one time England skipper is liable to ‘lose it’ in key matches.  Terry will be targetted in the same way Wayne Rooney is.  Opponents will know he’s a walking red card waiting to happen, especially with the more fussy big tournament refereeing.

Drop Terry.  Will it happen?  We doubt it.  For argument’s sake we’ll name our 23-man squad now:

Goalkeepers x 3

Joe Hart; Ben Foster; Paul Robinson

Defenders x 8

Rio Ferdinand; Phil Jagielka; Joleon Lescott; Gary Cahill; Micah Richards; Kyle Walker; Ashley Cole; Glenn Johnson.

Midfielders x 8

Steven Gerrard; Gareth Barry; Scott Parker; Frank Lampard; Michael Carrick; Ashley Young; Theo Walcott; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Forwards x4

Wayne Rooney; Daniel Sturridge; Danny Welbeck; Andy Carroll.

Swap Richards for Terry and we suspect this may not be far off what ‘Woy’ picks.