Seven Tottenham Hotspur Players Fabio Capello Could Select This Summer
With five matches to play, Tottenham Hotspur is one point behind Manchester City in an exciting race for the last Champions League qualifying place.
Despite last weekend's disappointing F.A. Cup semifinal defeat at Wembley to Portsmouth, Tottenham fans have seen plenty of encouraging signs this season that show manager Harry Redknapp has the team moving in the right direction.
The defense has performed with much greater resilience; only two clubs have conceded fewer goals in the league. More players are contributing goals; NINETEEN players have scored in the league this season.
The team has traveled much better this season than in previous years, having secured a respectable 23 points from 16 matches. Disappointing home matches against Hull, Wolves and Stoke have been compensated for by impressive victories at Stoke, Burnley, and Blackburn.
Much of this improvement can be attributed to the stability which Redknapp and his coaching staff has brought to the club—the manager has shown commendable faith in previous outcasts such as Gareth Bale, David Bentley and Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Another reason for Tottenham's success has been the improvement of their English players.
In this slideshow, I will select six of these players, comment on their performances and rate their chances of going to South Africa with England.
No. 1: Michael Dawson, Captain Marvelous
After Wednesday night's 2-1 home defeat of Arsenal, stand-in Tottenham captain Michael Dawson embraced Heurelho Gomes after yet another outstanding defensive performance from the duo ruined neighbours Arsenal's title aspirations.
Together with the Brazilian goalkeeper, Dawson has ensured that Tottenham has conceded fewer than one goal per game this year, a remarkable achievement in light of the defensive problems which have hounded Spurs since the inauguration of the league 17 years ago.
The home match against Chelsea this evening will be Dawson's 200th club appearance since he joined Tottenham from Nottingham Forest in January 2005 as a raw 21-year-old talent.
Despite showing in the past that he has a tendency to commit rash fouls and costly mistakes—he has received four red cards since his move to Spurs—he has arguably been Tottenham's best player this year.
Yesterday, he received glowing praise from former England and Tottenham boss Glenn Hoddle: He's good on the ball and a strong crossfield passer which opens play up. Most of all he's been solid at the back.
However, Tottenham fans will point out more than anything his strong physical attributes and courage and commitment in defence. Time after time, he throws himself in the way of shots, he has become an expert tackler, and he has shown real passion for the club. In short, he has become a fan-favorite.
Internationally, he has 13 caps for England Under-21 and two for England B. However, Capello has seen the Yorkshireman perform heroically on numerous occassions and may see Dawson as the sort of player who can make the step up and provide excellent defensive cover in the case of injuries to John Terry or Rio Ferdinand.
World Cup Inclusion Rating: 6 (May still convince Capello to select him)
No. 2: Ledley King, Risen from the Ashes
There are so many reasons to include Ledley King in the World Cup squad; there are so many not to!
King is undoubtedly one of the top five defenders in the Premier League, on his day a world-class performer who oozes style and is assured to the point of arrogance.
Former manager Martin Jol said of King: "He is the best central defender I have seen in my career."
Current manager Redknapp is equally effusive in his praise, calling the defender "a freak" for being able to perform at such a high level despite his injury. In fact, when interviewed about Premier League defenders, superstar Thierry Henry named King as the best technically.
King is quick, skillful, composed and experienced. He can also score goals from set-pieces and, until recently, has scored the fastest ever goal in the Premier League.
Unfortunately for Tottenham and England, he has been severely hampered by a knee injury which means he is never likely to be able to play more than one game every fortnight.
The 29-year-old centre back barely trains with his teammates and spends more time receiving treatment for the rare injury which makes his right knee swell up after every match.
This season, the Bow-born player has started in approximately half of his club's league matches, and has been an influential performer alongside teammates Heurelho Gomes and Michael Dawson in the Spurs defense.
Internationally, he has 19 caps and one goal. Capello has described him as "one of the best centre-backs," but is also worried about the player's injury: "I don't know (King's) future."
World Cup Inclusion Rating: 4 (Capello may not gamble on King's fitness)
No. 3: Jamie O'Hara, The Dark Horse
Jamie O'Hara—on loan from Tottenham to Portsmouth this season—got himself into trouble recently with Spurs boss Harry Redknapp for suggesting that he hoped that Spurs lose their F.A. Cup quarterfinal replay against Fulham so that he could lineup at Wembley in the semifinal.
O'Hara need not have worries. As it was, his employers Spurs eased past Fulham, but came unstuck against his current club Portsmouth in the semifinal, meaning that O'Hara will get his dream day at Wembley against Chelsea in the final.
There will be no bigger stage on which he can show off his skills to Fabio Capello.
The left-footed midfielder has been a revelation for Portsmouth this season, and is line to receive the Player of the Year award from appreciative fans.
Despite all of the troubles both on and off the pitch at Fratton Park this season—which have culminated in Portsmouth's relegation to the Championship and which brought the club's very existence into question—O'Hara has kept his head up and performed admirably.
Such as been his quality that Redknapp suggested he had perhaps made a mistake letting the Dartford lad out on loan. With Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, and Wilson Palacios injured or suspended for much of this year, O'Hara's industry and passing skills have been missed.
Pompey boss Avram Grant has made the most of O'Hara's versatility, employing him in central midfield, wide on the left flank and just off a sole striker. O'Hara has never disappointed. His recent free-kick during Portsmouth's dramatic 3-2 victory against Hull showed neutral observers exactly what the 23-year-old is capable of.
If Capello were to ask aide Stuart Pearce for his advice, Pearce would be able to call on O'Hara impressive performances for England U21s. This season, he has proven that he can maintain a high level of performance even for a side which has consistently struggled to match its opponents; he has shown hunger, a great work-rate, skill, and passion.
Although there are many options for Capello in midfield, O'Hara could be relied upon to go above and beyond the call of duty for his country, and his versatility could be a very useful asset.
World Cup Inclusion Rating: 2 (despite his excellent performances and versatility, O'Hara's lack of big-match experience will prove costly)
No. 4: Tom Huddlestone, The THUD factor
Tom Huddlestone is a player who polarizes opinion.
For some, he is overweight, immobile and overrated. For other, he is an excellent passer of the ball, a strong athlete and has a lethal shot.
This season, he has shown improvement, but also inconsistency. Against Arsenal on Wednesday, he was assured but overshadowed by Luka Modric's impeccable display. Huddlestone has yet to figure out how to run games.
This season, he has three goals in all competitions, and has started most of Tottenham's matches. He has formed a solid partnership with Croat Modric, in a deeper position from where he can orchestrate proceedings. He has displayed his impressive range of passing and also shown his versatility as a makeshift center back.
However, he has let himself down against the top teams, and was nowhere to be seen during pathetic early-season defeats to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man United. He has the chance to rectify that, starting today against Chelsea.
Capello has in the past shown his appreciation of Huddlestone's talents, and has chosen him in several squads, with the former Derby player coming off the bench during England's winter defeat to Brazil.
If Huddlestone manages to stay fit and impresses over the next month, he will a serious contender.
World Cup Inclusion Rating: 6 (Capello appreciates his passing ability anf versatility but may be concerned about his ability to perform at the highest level)
No. 5: Peter Crouch, Will the Robot Resurface?
Despite his recent Premier League goal drought, Peter Crouch has shown this season that he can play the support role very well.
His partnership with Jermain Defoe upfront for Spurs has flourished and he has scored twelve goals in all competitions. He also leads the way for Tottenham in terms of assists.
Crocuh's international record speaks for itself, even if he has scored many of his goals against lesser opponents. At better than a goal every other game, he has shown more form for his country than for his club, it may be argued.
What is indisputable is his ability to find the net in an England shirt, and the X factor which his height and aerial ability give Capello.
With Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe struggling for form, he has emerged as the favorite to start alongside Wayne Rooney, were Capello to go with a 4-4-2 formation. Darren Bent has also made a strong case, but is likely to be hindered by his lack of international experience.
World Cup Inclusion Rating: 9 (Capello would cause an uproar if he left Crouch out of the squad)
No. 6: Jermain Defoe, Lethal Weapon
Earlier this season, many thought Jermain Defoe had caught fire, such was his form in front of goal.
In August, he scored a blistering hat-trick during Tottenham's 5-1 demolition of Hull City. This was the first of three hat-tricks, with Defoe also scoring three against Leeds and FIVE against Wigan during Spurs' biggest ever Premier League victory.
Since those heady days, Defoe has been much quieter, particularly since picking up an injury in recent weeks.
Nevertheless, with 17 goals in the league and 23 in all competitions, he has been one of the Premier League's top strikers and has shown that he is a lethal finisher most of the time.
Defoe has also matured both physically and mentally. A lot of hours in the gym have proven important, as he is now able to hold up the ball and hold off defenders much better. And his wonderful pass to set up Gareth Balee's winning goal against Arsenal on Wednesday proved that it is not just about his goals.
While Darren Bent has won many of the plaudits—in a poll I ran previously, 93 percent thought that he was the better striker of the two—Capello is still thought to favor Defoe, especially as the former West Ham and Portsmouth player has 11 goals for England.
World Cup Inclusion Rating: 9 (Defoe has too much to offer Capello, and provides much-needed pace, a crucial factor towards the end of matches).
No. 7: Aaron Lennon, The Speedster
Six months ago, Aaron Lennon was England's hottest player. The 23 year-old had just tormented Croatia, and was named Man of the Match for his contribution to England's important 5-1 win.
He followed this performance up with more great displays, notably during Tottenham's 3-1 home victory over Manchester City in December.
However, the diminutive winger suffered a groin injury later that month, which has kept him sidelined for the best part of four months, a devastating blow to his World Cup aspirations.
Despite this injury, he looks set to make a long-awaited comeback this afternoon at home to Chelsea, where he will keen to make an impression on Capello, as the Italian looks on from the stands.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has stated on more than one occasion that it is Lennon who the team have most missed this term, for his pace and trickery opens up every defense. Lennon provides an important outlet to any team when it is under pressure.
Moreover, Lennon has improved his output this season. He has scored three league goals, created many more and his crossing has improved immeasurably.
He will face stiff competition to be included, as England is blessed with an abundance of right wingers, but Capello would be foolish to overlook Lennon's skill and pace.
World Cup Inclusion Rating: 8 (if he can stay fit, he is a shoo-in)