Wayne Rooney's suspension for the opening two games of Euro 2012 when coupled with a serious injury sustained by Darren Bent this week leaves England seriously short of striking options for Poland and Ukraine. With no clear front-runner to deputise we look at the candidates to step in.
Last Updated: 28/02/12 5:28pm
Of all Chelsea's players it is Sturridge that stands to lose the most should Andre Villas-Boas pay the price for being the only manager in the club's recent history under Roman Abramovich to oversee a win rate below 50 per cent. For all of Fernando Torres' profligacy since swapping red for blue and Didier Drogba's more organic decline it is still a measure of Sturridge's development, and Villas-Boas' faith in him, that few would argue he is now Chelsea's most potent attacking weapon. Sturridge has often said he sees his long-term position as down the middle but a lack of football in a central position for Chelsea goes against him heading into the Euros. For the most part this season, to devastating affect at times, he has been employed wide right in a three-pronged attack. England may well utilise a similar formation themselves, with two defensive midfielders holding behind, but it is unlikely Sturridge would be asked to deputise as the focal point in Rooney's absence unless he accrues greater experience of the role between now and the campaign's close. Nine goals from 20 appearances gives him a minutes-per-goal ratio (171) bettered only by an out of favour Jermain Defoe (115) and Grant Holt (152).
Like Sturridge, Welbeck benefitted greatly from learning his craft at a Premier League club slightly lower down the football ladder last season. While Sturridge was catching the eye at Bolton, Welbeck was doing likewise on-loan at Sunderland. Few would have been surprised had Sir Alex Ferguson sent him out again but after a sparkling pre-season campaign, the Scot decided to give him his head at Old Trafford. Deputising for the injured Javier Hernandez, spring heeled Welbeck developed an immediate understanding with Wayne Rooney. Neither Hernandez nor Dimitar Berbatov have been able to dislodge him since and any future England chief will surely appreciate the benefits of pairing together players who have an appreciation of each other's games. Welbeck can look a little leggy at times but has proven an effective link-man when charged with ploughing a lonely furrow for Manchester United.
Fraizer CambellFew would begrudge Sunderland striker Campbell a pick-me-up after a miserable 18 months out with serious injury, but the jury is still out with regards whether he is even close to international class. His long-awaited return to first team action saw him net against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup before doing likewise, with a stunning volley, a week later against Norwich. Less impressive were the blanks he drew in the next four; figures more in keeping with a record that reads six league goals in the previous four years. Stuart Pearce is a major fan of Campbell having worked with the player at Under 21 level but the likelihood is anything less than an impressive debut display against Holland will leave him with a free summer schedule.
Respective international records:
|Player||Peter Crouch||Jermain Defoe||Danny Welbeck||Daniel Sturridge||Bobby Zamora||Andy Carroll|
|Minutes On Pitch||2,186||1,861||49||32||115||132|
|Shots On Target||39||33||0||0||2||3|
|Shots Off Target||36||31||0||0||2||1|
|Pass Completion %||73%||80%||57%||88%||77%||80%|
|Cross Completion %||17%||12%||0%||0%||0%||0%|
|Dribbles & Runs||48||67||1||4||0||2|
|Dribble Completion %||42%||42%||100%||0%||0%||50%|
While it's fair to say Carroll has hardly set Anfield alight since his £35million switch last January, there are those who remain convinced he will come good on Merseyside. There's no doubt his performances have picked up over the last month but unless he can improve on a dismal strike rate (three goals in 23 appearances) it's difficult to see how any England manager could justify his inclusion. A national obsession with having a target man in the locker could well see Carroll on the plane to Poland and Ukraine, but much will depend on the form of rivals Bobby Zamora and Peter Crouch (see also, at a push, Danny Graham and Grant Holt) in the rest of the season. That said, such is the scarcity of options at England's disposal, even a hint of his Newcastle form could be enough to make the final 23.
Despite having made concerned noises in January about his England place as he plucked another splinter out of his behind, Tottenham striker Defoe was still a Spur when the window slammed shut. Earlier this week Defoe, the most experienced international striker (with the exception of the injured Michael Owen) currently available for selection with 46 caps, spoke of how his 'brilliant' international record could be enough to get him the nod. A strike rate of roughly one-in-three on the international arena is not to be sniffed but if the new incumbent insists on looking forward, Defoe could be in trouble. There's no doubt Defoe knows where the goal is, he's bagged eight from just 20 PL games this term, but having left him on the bench for the second half of the season, even Harry Redknapp may struggle to hand him a plane ticket in the summer.
The big men
If England opt to include a quintessential 'big man' as part of their travelling party it looks as though either Peter Crouch or Bobby Zamora could get the nod. Crouch has the worst minutes-per-goal ratio of any centre forward in contention (271) for a place but, like Defoe, can point to 22 international goals as testimony to his quality. The Stoke man has often been accused of being a flat-track bully on the international stage, but a record of 22 goals from 42 caps takes some beating. For the purists his mere presence invariably leads to England opting for the long and often aimless ball forward. Redknapp may have sold him in the past but he's also bought him a couple of times so if he gets the top job, he may just decide it's a case of 'better the devil you know' and plump for a player who is always a popular member of any squad he's involved in. The alternative is another player seen as somewhat of a joke figure by many. Zamora has not overly impressed since moving across the capital from Fulham to QPR and with just six goals this season he has it all to do if he is to get the nod. What Zamora is good at is bringing others into play, having created 38 chances for team-mates this season. On paper he is the most effective (English) link man in the top flight. Although he's a smarter player than many give him credit for, such a paltry goals return goes firmly against him.
Grant Holt has not been shy to voice his displeasure at the overlooking of Norwich talent this week. The Canaries' skipper took his tally for the season to 10 with a smart finish against Manchester United and as the top scoring Englishman this season felt he deserved a call-up to an 'experimental' squad that would struggle to stand up were it to be looked into by the trade descriptions act. Having spent much of his career plying his trade in the lower divisions Holt's rise to the top flight is a victory for perseverance but an international call-up for a player knocking on the door of his 31st year may be a bridge too far. Holt has demonstrated he can be an uncomfortable opponent for any Premier League defence but whether he can cut it at the very top level is a question unlikely to be answered any time soon. Like Holt, it's fair to say Danny Graham has made his way up to the top flight the hard way. After being released by Middlesbrough he dropped down to League One with Carlisle United, where 29 goals in 89 appearances earned him a move to Watford. At Vicarage Road he proved he was more than capable of doing in the Championship what he did in the League One, as 24 league goals last season earned him his big chance as Swansea came in with a £3.5million bid. Another seamless step-up to the next level has put Graham into the international reckoning with his 10 league goals to date seeing him on par with Holt. Of the two many would argue Graham is the better all-round player and at 26 has a greater chance of improving further. Again though, it would take a brave manager to give him his international bow with just months to go until it all kicks-off proper.
|Player||Andy Carroll||Daniel Sturridge||Danny Welbeck||Jermain Defoe||Bobby Zamora||Peter Crouch||Fraizer Campbell||Danny Graham||Grant Holt|
|Team||Liverpool||Chelsea||Manchester United||Tottenham Hotspur||QPR/Fulham||Tottenham/Stoke||Sunderland||Swansea City||Norwich City|
|Minutes On Pitch||1,345||1,536||1,335||923||1,442||1,896||206||1,912||1,519|
|Mins per goal||448||171||222||115||240||271||206||191||152|
|Shots On Target||18||26||23||20||15||16||2||26||24|
|Shots Off Target||28||26||13||15||13||17||0||19||19|
|Chances created (inc. Assists)||22||20||16||12||38||19||2||12||28|
|Mins per chance created||61||77||83||77||38||100||103||159||54|
|Pass Completion %||66%||83%||84%||84%||76%||58%||73%||76%||66%|
|Dribbles & Runs||8||45||33||20||11||12||7||11||14|
|Dribble Completion %||62%||44%||48%||60%||55%||25%||14%||64%||21%|
Who should England start with at the Euros? Have we enough striking talent in depth to compete with the top nations? Have your say by filling in the feedback form below...