Preparations for England's Euro 2012 campaign has taken a massive blow, several months before the tournament has begun, with the dreaded but half expected news that Wayne Rooney has received a three match ban for his "Kick" in the game against Montenegro. The news perhaps not surprising, given the petulant nature of the incident and his previous track record.
So Fabio Capello has some decisions to make. How do you solve a international size problem like Wayne Rooney, and what are his alternatives?
The first issue Capello has, is of his place in the team. As many keen observers of the Euro's are aware, the three match ban will rule him out of the group stages of the Tournament.
Herein lies the problem; assuming England make it to the knock-out stages (The Quarter Finals). Can we afford to take a player especially one who occupies the striking position? Especially one who may only play one game. Dependent largely on the opponent that England may encounter.
Of course England took Theo Walcott to the World Cup
However, this is not Theo Walcott we are talking about, this is Wayne Rooney. Rooney, love him or hate him. Rooney is the most gifted player Capello has at England's disposal.
The Manchester United striker has been in sparkling form since the start of the season, and should he continue this form, I think England simply have to take him. He could be that vital difference between England playing one game after the group stages, or playing two or maybe even three.
Unlike, the likes of Germany and especially Spain, England does not have a plethora of world class talent to take his place. However, here are England's options to take his place in the starting lineup when the Euro 2012 kicks off.
Andy Carroll - Assuming Capello sticks with the either of the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-5-1 formation. The Liverpool striker would be the perfect target man.
With his powerfully built frame and height. The likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing should provide him with more then enough ammunition to both his head and feet. Much more imposing then the likes of Peter Crouch, if he can gain a regular run of games in his Liverpool side and score goals. He will cause many problems.
Of course the disadvantage of having him in the starting line up, is that it would make the playing style of England slower and one dimensional against world-class defences or ones that possess equally big defenders, the "Hit it to the big man approach will not work."
Jermain Defoe - Very much the polar opposite of Carroll, the Tottenham striker is beginning to find some of the form that largely deserted him last season.
At his best, his pace will trouble even the best players and provided he keeps his shooting boots on, is a deadly finisher.
The disadvantage is that he is ill-suited to a lone striker role, and works best with a forward playing just behind him. Much like Rafael van der Vaart does at his club, but can Capello afford to leave a midfielder that far forward, if so a fit Steven Gerrard would be useful, but a change to a 4-4-2 would leave England too open. Also, Defoe is yet to prove himself internationally.
Darren Bent - Much like Defoe in terms of play, but a little bit more physical and arguably more clinical.
The Villa striker after many years of trying seems to have finally convinced an England Manager he is international class. Although many fans would beg to differ. For me, you don't score 15-20 goals in the Premier League every season unless your good.
His abilities have yet to be tested against truly world class teams in either the Champions League or International level. This step up in class is unlikely to occur until the return of Rooney in the latter stages.
Danny Welbeck - In comparison to the previous mentioned names, he has little experience in the Premier league. This season being his second season of regular football, and first with a club of the stature of Manchester United.
For me, he gives England something different. As well as possessing decent pace, his skill and technical ability is reminiscent of a more cultured European forward, the likes of Antonio Cassano would be a good comparison.
Whichever option Capello chooses. There is simply no replacing the man himself, and he cannot be left out.
Lastly, I leave you all with this thought. The three match ban given to Rooney has been described has being harsh.
The red card itself, the majority were in agreement that it was deserved, and to a point given Rooney's much publicised but hardly frequent indiscretions and generally feisty nature, we should not be surprised.
The conspiracy theorist in me says different.
Taking my own allegiance to Manchester United into account, and as a reader your own clubs that you support. We all know England's standing in the international community is non-existent. The world cup bid proved that. I think that had it been another player from another country, would that person have received the same treatment?
If you don't believe me, ask yourself: Why did Thierry Henry not receive a ban for handball/cheating, and if such an incident of violent conduct by Rooney was instead carried out by the likes of Andreas Iniesta or Sergio Busquets, would the consequence be quite as severe.
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