England: Picking a Starting XI for Euro 2012
We are exactly three months away from Euro 2012, and much is up in the air for the England national team.
They don't have a manager, and the starting 11 is almost just as much up in the air. Here is an attempt to solve the selection problem.
It wouldn't be the buildup to an international tournament for England without some controversy.
It came in the form of John Terry's alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand. The saga cost Terry the captaincy and led coach Fabio Capello to quit.
Scott Parker is the temporary captain and Stuart Pearce has taken over as national team coach. The FA is going to wait until after the season is over to select a more permanent replacement.
In order to possibly help the next coach, here is a what the England starting 11 could look like in a 4-3-3 formation.
GK: Rob Green
GK: Joe Hart
It's quite a change from recent tournaments that Joe Hart is one of the first names on the team sheet.
Over the past couple of tournaments, guys like Rob Green, David James and Paul Robinson have been inconsistent at best.
Some are arguing that Hart would make a suitable captain, but at 24-years-old, he's still a little too young.
It's more of a testament to his quality right now than anything else. Hart has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League this season.
He hasn't really had the same kind of opportunities to shine with the Three Lions, but the Euros could provide just that chance.
LB: Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole has been one of the most consistent performers to wear an England shirt over the last couple of years.
It's been a bit of a rough year for him in 2011-12, but the same could be said for almost every Chelsea player. With the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, maybe club and player will turn their form around.
There was a time a few years ago when some considered Cole to be the best left back in the world.
Now he'll probably never reach that level again, but even if he performs slightly below that, England should consider themselves lucky to have a left back so skilled.
Injuries could derail any chances of him making the squad. Should he be unable to play, then Leighton Baines would make a suitable replacement.
CB: Gary Cahill
Much like his Chelsea counterpart, this season has not been a banner year for Gary Cahill.
Lest we forget that back in September, Cahill was being linked to Barcelona. That was before Bolton really took a nosedive to the bottom of the table.
The Trotters are no longer his problem, though, as he moved to Stamford Bridge in January.
He's struggled a little since the move, but it didn't help that he was playing in Andre Villas-Boas defensive high-line system. Plus, he and John Terry are much the same player so they don't play very well off of each other.
However, Cahill no doubt has talent. It is doubtful that Terry will be in the England starting 11, or even in the squad, come the Euros.
CB: Phil Jones
Although he is only 20 years old, Phil Jones would be perfect for the England squad.
It doesn't make any sense that he would be too young for the national team, but not too young to play for the possible Premier League champions.
Plus, he would play a perfect partner for Gary Cahill.
Jones would allow Cahill to do what he does best, which is stay close to the 18-yard box and dispose of any attacks from there.
Much like John Terry, Cahill really struggles when he has to run back to track down an opposing striker.
That job could be left to Jones, who has shown in his play as a defensive midfielder that he can really move up and down the pitch.
RB: Micah Richards
There are a couple of good options here with Richards, Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson.
In the end, Richards is the man to choose because he looks to be a better distributor in the attacking third. In the Premier League this year, he has five assists to Walker's one and Johnson's zero.
Richards' selection is more of a testament to his improvement than it is an indictment of either Walker or Johnson.
Granted he scored the winner late, Richards did a very good job of corralling Arjen Robben in England's latest friendly against the Netherlands.
CDM: Scott Parker (C)
Although he won the Football Writers' "Footballer of the Year" last year, there was some debate as to the skill level of Scott Parker.
He's only gone and proven himself to be quite possibly the most important central midfielder at Tottenham, which is an accomplishment considering that unit includes Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.
Parker's good form has gotten him a look with the national team and he's performed very well. He was even named captain in the friendly against the Netherlands.
When going up against the stacked midfields of the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, it's vital that England has someone who can sit in front of the back four and break up any movements in the center of the pitch.
Parker can be that player.
LCM: Steven Gerrard
This may be the last opportunity for Steven Gerrard to really perform at an international tournament.
Should England qualify for World Cup 2014, he'll be 33-years-old and competing with the likes of Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley.
2011-12 has not been his best season as he has picked up a few injuries, but it's hard to leave Gerrard out of any potential England starting 11.
He has always been a consistent performer with England and there are few players that can really inspire a squad like Gerrard can, as he has shown so many times at Liverpool.
Although he has never seemed to partner well with Frank Lampard, that shouldn't cause a problem this year because Lampard doesn't really appear to be a real option for the potential England manager.
RCM: James Milner
This came down to a debate between Milner and his Manchester City teammate, Gareth Barry.
In the end, Milner is a more suitable option to play next to Gerrard because he can sit back while Gerrard moves forward in the attack, as he is wont to do.
That was part of the problem with Lampard and Gerrard; they are so similar and would want to make the same kind of runs.
Milner can get forward if need be, but he has much more versatility and is happy to sit in a more central midfield position.
He can also play as a defensive midfielder should the manager choose to move him back.
LW: Ashley Young
Much like the other Ashley in the squad, the only thing that could stop Ashley Young from making this list is injury.
He's missed quite a bit of time this year, only playing in 16 of Manchester United's 27 league matches so far this year.
However, when he's played, Young has really made in impact, picking up four goals and seven assists.
The nice thing about putting Young on the left is that he can still provide good crosses into the box, but more importantly he can cut in and get the ball on his right foot.
He has scored some absolutely spectacular goals this season.
Everyone knew he was a good player before he went to United, but he has really been able to lift his game this year.
RW: Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott is one of those players who makes you pull your hair out because he looks to have all of the physical and technical abilities, but for some reason, he can't consistently put it together.
It's tempting to go with Adam Johnson here, but Walcott is just a more intriguing option. Walcott offers a much higher reward but at a much greater risk.
His pace is no doubt world-class, but that can sometimes be a problem because he'll look to run right at defenders down the flank, which leads to the defender getting the better of Walcott and ending the attack.
You watch a performance like he had against Tottenham and wonder why he can't do that on a more consistent basis.
If he could play to that level in the Euros, few defenders would be able to stop him, and that's why he is in this squad.
Plus, Walcott has a lot of experience playing in a 4-3-3.
ST: Danny Welbeck
Even more so than Joe Hart, Wayne Rooney is an absolute lock in the squad normally.
With Rooney carrying a two-match suspension, England is going to have to select someone else for at least the first two games of the group stage.
Darren Bent might have been a good option, but he looks to be out for the tournament following an ankle injury.
That leaves really just Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge as the only viable options, and this time, Welbeck wins out.
Sturridge has scored more goals this year, but I think Welbeck operates better as a lone striker.
It's almost a toss up, and you can't go wrong with either guy.
As some people have brought up, the Rooney suspension could be a blessing in disguise because it forces England to look for another striker, thus possibly solving the problem of being so reliant on Rooney.
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