Tag Archives: capello

Uh Oh…

Two massive injury stories have come out in the last hour: Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast has broken his elbow in a friendly with Japan, while England’s Rio Ferdinand sustained a knee injury in training this morning.

Drogba’s absence puts a serious dent in The Elephants’ chances, although Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou is ready to step into the brink, as is former Portsmouth player Aruna Dindane.

Ferdinand’s injury may provide an opportunity for Jamie Carragher to move from right back to centre, and Capello still has Ledley King or Matthew Upson available. Tottenham Hotspur’s Michael Dawson has been recalled, after being cut from the England squad on Tuesday.

The pair join a growing list of players considered important to their countries’ drive for the Jules Rimet, including Ghana’s Michael Essien and Germany’s Michael Ballack. The fact that Essien, Ballack and Drogba are all teammates has given rise to talk of a Chelsea curse.  But it’s more likely to do with the Londoners’ long season, that included a down-to-the-wire Premier League title run, an FA Cup final, as well as a quarter-final exit in the Champions League. 

Brent Lanthier

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Best of the Prem: Burnley to Hull City

Brent Lanthier

Don’t get yer knickers in a bunch, we’ve got more World Cup coverage coming! But you should probably keep the Premier League in the back of your mind, since the backroom machinations are still ongoing. Several clubs can’t wait for the tournament to end to start their wheeling and dealing.

Burnley: Wade Elliott (ENG)
Burnley’s Player of the Year, At The Rails has already sung the praises of Wade Elliott. He created width down the right while adding some grit to the Clarets: he led the team in both fouls and yellow cards. A team leader on last season’s version of Blackpool.

Future: While Burnley descends back into the Championship, Elliott will likely remain behind with one of the Prem’s lesser lights. Reports say his former boss Owen Coyle will offer Burnley 750,000 pounds to bring the winger to Bolton.

World Cup-bound? No, but at least it would have been nice to see him get a taste. Alas, playing on a relegation-bound club shut him out of Don Fabio’s plans immediately.

Chelsea: Frank Lampard (ENG)
This is going to bring the wrath of my fellow ATR writers: Fat Frank should have been the league’s Player of the Year.  After a shaky start, he was the real leader of Chelsea when Captain Schtupping was busy…. um, getting busy. The axis around which the entire team rotates, Lampard had 22 goals (as a central midfielder!) and led the league with 14 assists. Rooney had a stunning season but Frank was the complete player.

Future: Stamford Bridge, Fulham Road, London, SW6 1HS.

World Cup-bound? Yes but where to play him? And who with? Barry or Gerrard?

Everton: Leighton Baines (ENG)
Last Monday’s performance notwithstanding, Baines was a model of consistency this season.  He started more games than any other Everton player and proved to be a force on the left side, defending and attacking with equal measure.  He also led in time of possession for the Toffees.

Future: A Scouser who grew up in Wigan’s system, he seems to finally be home.  Let’s hope his England experience will leave him with something to prove next season.

 World Cup-bound? No.  Apparently Baines is painfully shy… and now the whole world knows. Ugh.

Fulham: Mark Schwarzer (AUS)
The Cottagers allowed one more goal than Manchester City this season, and Schwarzer was a big part of that. The big Aussie faced a barrage of shots this season in the League, not to mention the club’s improbable run to the Europa Cup final. In fact, the last two seasons have been improbable for tiny Fulham. Guess when Schwarzer showed up?

Future: Schwarzer has one more year on his contract. But there are rumours Arsene Wenger wants to bring him to the Emirates… because Almunia is sh!te.

World Cup-bound? Yes. Pim Verbeek has built his team around Schwarzer and a strong back-four.  Many a punter has picked the Socceroos as their dark horse this tournament.

Hull City: Stephen Hunt (IRE)
Is he a bad luck charm or is he just unlucky? Hunt has been relegated from the Premier League twice… but it’s not been his fault.  The Irishman led the Tigers in scoring, even though he was injured for the last two months of the season. An intense midfielder, he was voted Player of the Year by the Hull faithful.

Future: Hull will be selling and he doesn’t appear to want to go back anyway.

World Cup-bound? Ask Thierry Henry.

Up Next: Liverpool to Stoke City

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Theo is a no-go

So, Theo Walcott, who languished on the bench four years ago, will be languishing back in Blighty this summer as the rest of his England mates jet off to South Africa for the World Cup. He’ll have Darren Bent and Adam Johnson for company, too. And, assuming they can find a course close enough to Leighton Baines’ house to keep him from feeling homesick, maybe they can go golfing, which is apparently what Walcott was doing when he got the bad news call from Fabio Capello. Like Geoff Hurst, I’d have preferred Johnson to Shaun Wright-Phillips and Bent to Emile Heskey. Of course, with Johnson you probably don’t want or can’t find room for Walcott  too, even if it’s just as a pacey substitute late in a game or in extra time. As much as I like Johnson I’m happy to see Joe Cole in the squad, even if Chelsea don’t think enough of him to keep him at Stamford Bridge. He can come to Tottenham anytime.

On the subject of Spurs, as a supporter I was pulling for England nods for Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone who, despite any mobility concerns, has shown flashes of being a top-class passer. Gareth Barry had better be healthy, and Michael Carrick had better not be crap. Matthew Upson and James Milner are safe choices, which is fine, no matter what ‘Arry thinks. And all of Johnson, Walcott, Huddlestone and Dawson wil have another shot in 2014.

Here’s how the final 23 looks:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.

Defenders: Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.

Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Forwards: Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney

On a non-World Cup note, I’m relieved to see Crystal Palace dodge the axe today. Liquidation would have been a cruel fate for a team with such a long history, even if recent years have been full of failure and financial woes.

Ian Harrison

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Injury-riddled England look unconvincing

Ian Harrison

There are still plenty of questions to answer about what sort of team England will have when it opens its World Cup against the United State on June 12, with injury questions attached to key players all over the field and no clear-cut candidate to start in goal.

Tottenham Hotspur’s policy to ‘Buy British’ has resulted in six players being named in manager Fabio Capello’s preliminary squad, more than any other of the 11 English Premier League sides represented on the team. Spurs had two more long-shot possibilities, winger David Bentley and midfielder Jermaine Jenas, but neither was included.

Premier League champions Chelsea and Manchester City, who Spurs beat out for fourth place, each have four players in the preliminary squad, while Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester United and, somewhat surprisingly, West Ham, each have three.

Four teams, Arsenal, Everton, Portsmouth and Sunderland, each have a single player on the roster.

Of the six Tottenham players, Aaron Lennon is arguably the best bet for the starting XI, although Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe will surely see time up front alongside Wayne Rooney, one of several in the squad who has battled injuries in recent weeks.

Rio Ferdinand’s form and fitness will be the deciding factors when it comes to Michael Dawson and Ledley King’s inclusion at centre back, with neither the best choice to provide cover at right back, where England’s depth is least. Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher has agreed to come out of international retirement and could back up Anfield teammate Glen Johnson at that position.

Should he make the final squad, Tom Huddlestone provides an attractive option in midfield, and could be deployed as holding midfielder, or possibly as sweeper if Capello chooses to play Rooney alone up front.

United might have had a fourth player in the squad, but midfielder Paul Scholes turned down Capello’s request to end his international retirement. Canadian-born midfielder Owen Hargeaves, whose career has been derailed by knee injuries, was not ruled fit enough for inclusion.

For a team that breezed through qualifying and has a relatively easy draw in the group stages, there’s no huge swell of confidence around England right now, with the hobbling Rooney the most reliable front man among an unconvincing group of strikers and Garth Barry’s ankle a major concern for the midfield.

There are issues of inexperience, too. Neither Dawson nor Manchester City winger Adam Johnson have been capped before while ’keeper Joe Hart and left backs Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock have just one cap each.

With Barry likely out of action until shortly before the World Cup opener, it will be interesting to see how Capello lines up his team for pre-tournaments friendlies against Mexico at Wembley on May 24 and Japan in Austria on May 30. Those matches will provide clues as to the team we can expect to see against the Americans in Rustenburg.

Team-by-team breakdown:

Tottenham (6): Dawson, King, Huddlestone, Lennon, Defoe, Crouch
Chelsea (4): Ashley Cole, Terry, Joe Cole, Lampard
Man. City (4): Hart, Wright-Phillips, Johnson, Barry
Man. Utd (3): Ferdinand, Carrick, Rooney
Liverpool (3): Carragher, Johnson, Gerrard
Aston Villa (3): Warnock, Milner, Heskey
West Ham (3): Green, Upson, Parker
Arsenal (1): Walcott
Everton (1): Baines
Portsmouth (1): James
Sunderland (1): Bent

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