Wayne Rooney: 5 Star Forwards Who Could Replace Him for England at Euro 2012
As we all know by now, Wayne Rooney's moment of madness in Montenegro has resulted in a three-match ban from UEFA for the striker, meaning that England will most likely be without their best player for the group stages of Euro 2012 next summer.
Although the appeals and the cries about how irreplaceable Wayne Rooney is will continue for some time, eventually Fabio Capello and company must sit down and decide who they will select to start up front for England in the absence of Wayne Rooney.
Here are the top five candidates to replace him until at least the knockout rounds of Euro 2012.
After his worst season in an Aston Villa shirt last season under Gerard Houllier, Gabriel Agbonlahor is back to his best.
Prior to the Manchester City game this weekend, Agbonlahor had scored four goals and assisted three goals in six games, and looks to be relishing the additional responsibilities placed on his shoulders following the sale of Ashley Young.
Gabriel Agbonlahor has only ever played for the England national team on three occasions, and found himself well out of the squad last season due to his poor goal-scoring form and his relocation by Houllier to the winger position.
Now that he's back in his favored position, and in excellent form, he'd be an excellent candidate to replace Wayne Rooney, especially if he keeps up his red-hot form throughout the season.
This season, Jermaine Defoe has looked renewed and rejuvenated alongside Emmanuel Adebayor for Tottenham. Since Adebayor's arrival and first game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Defoe has scored five goals and assisted four others in seven games.
Unlike Agbonlahor, Jermaine Defoe has been a semi-consistent England international for many years now, and has a solid scoring record at the international level, having found the net on 15 occasions in 46 caps.
He however, like Agonbonlahor, suffered from a poor 2010-11 season, earning only three caps with the England national team last season.
If he can continue to perform well and be selected regularly by Harry Redknapp, Jermaine Defoe should be a very good candidate to be selected for England's Euro 2012 squad.
I would have loved to put Andy Carroll here in place of Darren Bent. Unfortunately, Carroll's form still shows no signs of improving, and England need to take at least one big, strong target man to Euro 2012 to be successful, so Darren Bent is my pick to be that man.
Bobby Zamora could've also been selected here, but he is still injury-prone and Fulham's form in the EPL has looked very erratic this season, so I doubt he'll be able to continue to deliver goals at the rate which he has at the start of this season.
Darren Bent, like so many England strikers before him, is regarded as a very frustrating striker to watch while playing for England. Whereas he is a fairly consistent, prolific striker for Aston Villa, and has been one throughout his career, his England form has always left fans questioning his selection to the team.
However, with three goals in four England caps in 2011, Darren Bent looks like he's finally ready to answer his critics. Ironically, it's his club form now that will need to improve significantly if he is going to be selected for Euro 2012, but after goals against Wales, Denmark and Montenegro this season, Darren Bent looks like a good candidate to travel with England to Euro 2012.
Danny Welbeck is one of the most promising England strikers in football today. In fact, there is probably only one striker at the moment who can challenge Welbeck for that title, as we'll see in the next slide.
Danny Welbeck has made an excellent start to life as a Manchester United striker since returning from his loan with Sunderland. He has scored five goals in nine matches, and has picked up two assists as well, the second one coming off of Chicharito's equalizing goal against Liverpool this weekend.
At only the age of 20, Welbeck obviously is not a seasoned England international. However, he has already picked up two caps, and it looks like Fabio Capello has every intention of further integrating Welbeck into the international setup as the season continues.
At Manchester United, Danny Welbeck will likely continue to face stiff competition for his place in the team from Chicharito, who is sure to have pleased Sir Alex Ferguson with his substitute goal against Liverpool this weekend.
If he can earn regular playing time and continue his good form though, he definitely has to be one of the top candidates to not only be selected for England's Euro 2012 squad, but to start for the team as well.
Last, but surely not least, we have Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea's new goal-scoring sensation.
Sturridge's story ironically very much mirrors that of Danny Welbeck. After a loan spell with Bolton last season, Sturridge has now returned to his club, and is scoring goals in bunches. Furthermore, as indicated earlier, Sturridge, along with Welbeck, is England's brightest hope for a truly world-class striker alongside Wayne Rooney.
But there are a few complications for Daniel Sturridge.
First, he is still being played at right wing at Chelsea, as Andre Villas-Boas does not want to relegate Didier Drogba to a regular spot on the bench just yet, and is still hopeful that his patience with Fernando Torres will pay off.
In turn, this positional change has negatively impacted Daniel Sturridge's international prospects, as England are currently loaded at the right wing position with Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson all competing for playing time.
Despite these complications though, it would be ridiculous for Fabio Capello not to call up Daniel Sturridge in the future, especially if he keeps up his current goal-scoring form. The Chelsea striker has now scored four goals in four league appearances for Chelsea, and has assisted a goal to boot.
Many players play different positions for club and country. If Fabio Capello truly wants to go to Euro 2012 with the strongest England squad possible, he must call up Daniel Sturridge and try him at striker at least a couple of times before deciding whether or not to take him to Euro 2012.
(As a side note, Daniel Sturridge will probably be better than at least two out of three of those right wingers by the end of the season anyway, and thus would deserve a call-up to the England NT for Euro 2012 regardless of his position.)
Before I am hit with an outpouring of outrage over the idea that Wayne Rooney can simply by "replaced" by one of the strikers on this list, let me be clear—I don't think Wayne Rooney is replaceable for England, at least not in the way that I think any of strikers on this list can do what he does for the national team.
But I do very much believe that the strikers on this list can perform well in his absence, and I would be very supportive of the idea of two of these strikers starting for England in the Euro 2012 group stage.
In fact, I think it would be absolutely amazing if Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge were the England national team's starting strikers for the group stages of the competition, and I believe that if both of them are able to get regular game time this season for their respective clubs, they should be more than ready for the pressure of the competition come summer 2012.
After the group stage, I think it would only be right for Wayne Rooney to be reinstated into the starting lineup, but once again I think he would flourish alongside one of these strikers, especially if that striker is Danny Welbeck, who he regularly plays with at the club level as well.
In conclusion, the takeaway from this article should be that the future isn't actually as grim as people make it seem: Wayne Rooney's suspension is no doubt a big blow to the England national team's quality, but it also is a great opportunity to explore the other talents available to England at the striker position.
Contrary to common perception, there are actually a number of strikers who have not been adequately tried and tested internationally, and now is the time to do that. Welbeck, Sturridge or even Agbonlahor could really turn out to be a revelation for England between now and summer 2012.
Are there any strikers you think should be taken to Euro 2012 that haven't been mentioned here? Make sure to mention them and provide feedback on the article and the strikers selected in the comments section below.