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Monday, May 08, 2006

Sven adopts Madrid mentality by selecting Walcott for World Cup 2006

Today, the England squad for World Cup 2006 was announced by manager Sven Goran Eriksson. And I think it is fair to say that nobody in England would have predicted the full 23 that have made the cut, which includes a little-seen Arsenal teenager.

The squad is:

Provisional squad:Robinson (Tottenham), James (Manchester City), Green (Norwich); G Neville (Manchester United), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), Cole (Arsenal), Campbell (Arsenal), Carragher (Liverpool), Bridge (Chelsea), Beckham (Real Madrid), Carrick (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Jenas (Tottenham), Downing (Middlesbrough), J Cole (Chelsea), Lennon (Tottenham), Rooney (Manchester United), Owen (Newcastle), Crouch (Liverpool), Walcott (Arsenal).

Standby:Carson (Liverpool), Young (Charlton), Reo-Coker (West Ham), Defoe (Tottenham), Johnson (Crystal Palace).

The stand-out selection is Arsenal's star-in-the-making youngster, Theo Walcott. Bought from Southampton in January for a world record fee for a 16 year old - £12m - Walcott is yet to make even a first-team substitute appearance for the Gunners. Despite this lack of top club level experience, Sven is willing to gamble that he has the superstar potential to make an impact on the World Cup stage.

When Rooney picked up THAT injury, Arsene Wenger publicly suggested that Walcott be selected in his place. And today, Sven has commented that he spoke to Wenger at length about Walcott before making his squad selection.

So it looks like Sven has followed the Real Madrid philosophy which I remember reading about last summer. After purchasing Wenger targets, Baptista and Robinho, one of Perez/Butragueno/Valdano reputedly said that part of their transfer policy was simply to find out who Wenger wanted for Arsenal- and bring them to Madrid instead. By selecting a player who has just turned 17 and has not played one Premiership game, it is clear that Sven is another person who is willing to place great faith in Wenger's opinion.

Personally, I support Sven's decision to gamble on Walcott. He is an immensely exciting prospect- I remember when I first saw Walcott play for Southampton at the start of the season I asked my brother for the name of this new player who instantly impressed me with amazing pace, dribbling control, and attacking drive- and I like to think, as Sven also presumably does, that he has the capability to make an Owen-esque WC1998 impact.

Walcott's inclsuion has come at the expense of Tottenham's Jermaine Defoe and Charlton's Darren Bent. I feel sorry for both players, especially Defoe who has been an England squad regular for a few seasons. That said, I can understand and accept both omissions. I think it is fair to say that Defoe has had a disappointing season for Spurs - who have relied upon the fantastic Robbie Keane for goals - and he has paid the price for this. And I think the reason for Bent's exclusion is that although he has a good all-round game - that is still developing - he does not have any areas of his game that are exceptional.

Last week I wrote on EFT that I would have Downing and the Overmars-like Aaron Lennon in my squad - and leave out Chelsea's £21m purchase Shaun Wright-Phillips. Today, Sven also reached this conclusion, who could not even find a place for SWP on the standby list. I feel bad for SWP. He is a player I wanted to see sign for Arsenal last summer- but instead he went to Stamford Bridge where he has become a bit-part player and suffered the unnecessary ignominy of being subbed after just twenty five minutes against Fulham in March. If he has another season of sporadic appearances, I would advise him to put in a transfer request because his talent is deserving of better treament.

Overall, this is an England squad that I really like. There is strength, variety, and world class talent in all departments. Plus, in Lennon and Walcott we have two wild-cards with exceptional pace, attacking drive and fresh minds who offer England something which has been lacking in recent past major tournaments- players with the raw talent to hurt the opposition off the bench. Its an exciting selection- and I hope it also turns out to be a winning one!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

spot on, absolutely spot on. ifor one am so excited by the prospect of lennon and walcott in the squad.

i would go so far as to have them in the starting lineup as left and right wide forwards, with a central striker (now that rooney is out). their pace and skill would be frightning.

5/08/2006 9:40 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really is a terrible shame about SWP. If you believe Myles Palmer, the irony is that SGE told SWP to move to a bigger club to improve his chances of getting in the squad. I have some concerns about Walcott being introduced so early - look at what has happened with some of Ajax players introduced too early to the Holland squad - Babel and Heitinga didn't "deserve" to be there and struggled mightily this season instead of improving. That said, their temperament might be different from Walcott.

I'll be interested to see who SGE picks as his centrebacks. On paper, it looks solid, and Terry and Carragher have clearly been the best this season. Sol is not physically what he was two years ago, if not outright fat. Ferdinand has been shaky all season, with the ManU defense only solidified with the signing of Vidic, proving again that Ferdinand requires a more dominant partner to flourish. Without a fit Campbell by his side, is he as effective? Yet, Terry was not quite as good as he was last season, highlighted by several handballs that should have been called for penalties; he will not get away with this in Germany. Carragher faded a little toward the end, though you can hardly blame him with the number of matches he was forced to play. Will he be too fatigued for Germany? I'm betting he'll go with Ferdinand and Terry.

Although some are saying this is the most talented England squad ever, Rooney, Walcott, Lennon, Anton Ferdinand, Curtis Davies, Micah Richards, and Dawson all look exciting for the future.

5/08/2006 10:41 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Neville Terry Ferdinand Cole

Lennon Gerrard Carrick Lampard J.Cole


4 5 1 anyone?

5/09/2006 12:56 am

Blogger T said...

Thanks guys for your comments.

Second anon- you make an interesting point about whether Walcott can handle the pressure of selection. He is said to have an impressive mindset and is well guided after by his father so I believe he has a good chance of not being phased by his selection.

I also hope the somewhat negative media/public response to his selection that I have heard/seen does not affect his confidence.

I agree that it should be Terry and Ferdinand as the first choice selection- the former being a right side CB with good positioning and strength; the latter a specialist left-sided CB with good reach and experience. I must say that I have not been as impressed with Terry in international matches as when I watch him for Chelsea- and I wonder why this is? Is is because he doesn't have Makalele as cover? Or is the more technical nature of international football still something he needs to get used too? Hopefully we'll see the best of Terry at the World Cup.

I also like your pick of Micah Richards as one to watch- he has the potential to be a phenomenal player... and is one I would love to see Wenger go after.

Third anon- I like your team... and I think it will be the first-choice apart from Beckham for Lennon... with the Spurs winger being an excellent super-sub option.

5/09/2006 5:58 pm

Blogger T said...

Just to add to first anon.. I like and share your confidence in Walcott and Lennon... but I think they should - at least initially - start the WC as super-sub options.

5/09/2006 6:14 pm

Blogger SKG said...

when i saw the squad i thought sven has really done it this time. but then i looked at it again and thought what a fantastic ensemble of players it is. we have experience, youth, talent, power, pace and with walcott - the unknown. lets face it nobody outside of england would have heard of this kid and he could make a devasting impact for us as a result.

someone said to me today that walcott can run 100m in 11 secs in his football boots. is this true?

5/09/2006 6:33 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

The squad looks solid enough to remain so come next Monday. As such I do not agree on Walcott's inclusion, I even had hesitation on Lennon's inclusion yet felt justified in doing so particularly where Rooney's recovery is another pending setback. But Eriksson isn't being risky, he is being influenced. There has been mention of other young players who have progressed at Walcott's age going into the World Cup. Pele, Rooney and Owen.

Pele signed up for Brazilian side Santos aged 15. Aged 16 he made his international debut for Brazil against Argentina. Recruited for the 1958 World Cup tournament, he was on the bench until the QF, where he scored the winner against Wales, a hat-trick in the semis against France that was completed with a volley to finish 5-2, and in the finals against Sweden he scored twice in another 5-2 win. One Swedish player stated he wanted to applaud the Brazilian after the fifth goal.

Rooney made his debut for Everton aged 16, made his internatinal debut a year later during a 1-3 defeat in a friendly to Australia and never featured in the World Cup 2002. Perhaps his injury against Chelsea was more painful at the thought of potentially missing yet another World Cup.

Owen made his debut for Liverpool aged 17, coming as a sub against Wimbledon away and scoring Liverpool's goal in a 2-1 defeat during the 1996-1997. The next season he was joint top-scorer in the league, remained Liverpool's top scorer every season since then and was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year. He made his international debut against Chile in February 1998, where I believe we lost 0-2, and went on to join the England squad for the World Cup that year, scoring a superb solo goal against Argentina in the second round.

There has been talk of Walcott having pace and scoring, Southampton fans vouch for that and I hear he has been doing well in the reserves. But Walcott hasn't had first-team experience, something which Eriksson is said to base his opinion on when deciding selection. If he isn't at the grounds, he can catch the players live on TV or on highlights, though I would prefer live at the ground. Therefore he could not have and has not seen Walcott play first team football. I do recall Eriksson saying he made his decision to include Walcott yesterday morning. T states Eriksson was in deep consultation with Wenger.

Add to this a comparison of Walcott and those who Eriksson has overlooked for the upfront role. Darren Bent, Jermaine Defoe, Andrew Johnson, Marlon Harewood. Bent has scored 15 in the league, 2 in 5 games in the FA Cup run, 2 in 3 games in the League Cup. Harewood has scored 11 in the league, 2 in 6 FA Cup games, none in the League Cup run. Defoe has scored 8 in the league, none in the FA or League Cup run. Johnson has scored 13 in the Championship, 2 out of 3 FA Cup matches, none in the League Cup and in the play-offs as yet. Surely anyone of these players are more worthy of a call-up than Walcott.

I thought playing in the first team, particularly in the Premiership, would suffice as the source from which the national coach would look to choose his players from. Why else did Owen strive to leave Madrid? Yet Eriksson takes a chance with a player who has yet to grace our eyes and sets, for the nation to have faith in such a selection. Does his selection have a bearing on the squad? Walcott is behind Rooney, Owen and Crouch and so would appear where any of those three cannot play. Could Walcott then hold his own upfront as a lone striker? Does he in such a situation have the strength and determinaton to hold off players and outmuscle them if put through on goal? Maybe, I don't know, I haven't seen him, and we are considering the likes of Gallas, Ayala, Puyol, Nesta, his team-mate Toure.

As for some other inclusions, I have spoken about Downing before. Owen Hargraves has baffled me as to why he has been a regular pick. Some say he is a central midfielder but I've seen him regularly on the wings and I haven't been impressed enough yet. Jenas has been a good player for Spurs but the set-up of England is vastly different and I find he plays more of a holding role than an attacker. King has been overlooked and it can't have anything to do with his metatarsal if Owen and Rooney can be considered. However, comparing the squads of my choice and that of SGE's, I would stick with mine, impartially, except for a change in the number of defenders, releasing either Brown or King. I would keep King and release Brown if King can recover fully in good time, but if not then I'd keep Brown and leave out King. Therefore having one more space available would go to the forwards, so Crouch, Bent, Owen, Rooney/Harewood, and one other, possibly Defoe or Johnson. Eriksson has already put doubt on Owen's condition through barring him from Alan Shearer's testimonial on Thursday, yet if Owen and Rooney can get match fit during the tournament, they are essential inclusions.


5/09/2006 7:10 pm

Blogger EL said...

I'm very surprised not to see a fairly detailed opinion of the Tottenham 'food poisoning' event, the way events unfolded at pitch side at highbury and the obvious cosy relationship between afc and the fa. Of course you're laughing but how that whole situation stinks to its suspicious core. And to think Spurs' integrity was called into question during your 'players bumping into each other but staying down to gain advantage' scenario.
Several key players becoming very ill the night before a final game 'a coincidence'? Yeah right. They're now talking of an airborne virus!!? My wife is a nurse of some experience and the chances of a 'natural' airborne virus affecting a small group of people in a hotel (but no-one else) within a few hours of contamination is virtually nil. I suspect the main reason a replay will not be taken seriously is because of people in general not wanting to bother to disrupt what has already finished, as opposed to fairness. Plus it's always fun to laugh at Tottenham's misfortune. I've absolutely no problem with arsenal taking 4th place under fair conditions but that it was not. Good luck to Levy but I imagine given who he's up against he's wasting his time.

5/10/2006 12:33 am

Blogger EL said...

Sorry Redsman, just saw your write-up on the game. I'm a bit pissed and obviously still more annoyed than I've been admitting to those who can be bothered to listen. All my arsenal mates are laughing heartily. I keep asking them to imagine themselves in our shoes but they're too busy laughing to bother. Some things seem never to change. Grrrrrrr......

5/10/2006 12:40 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

No worries, el, good to have you tuning in. Not much more to add to that written, other than its suspiciousness warrants a criminal investigation, of which nothing has been mentioned yet. The audacity of it smacks me, for I implore for fairness and competition, not for something equivalent to doping to occur. As I said, Arsenal and/or West Ham fans may well be laughing but this is serious and I would like the game to be repeated, though believe Mr Levy is going up an avenue that has been closed off through an avalanche of boulders.

When UEFA looked to flex their rules to accommodate Liverpool last year, it seemed to a majority to be fair and reasonable to do so. I despise the FA, one or two individuals may well have adjudication of the highest level and integrity at heart but others are simply keeping themselves in seats. The FA have no further role, and the Premier League state they will discuss Mr Levy's correspondence, something equivalent to browsing the Guardian over tea and biscuits.

To hear the Premier League state that the game will not be replayed wouldn't surprise me.


5/10/2006 1:03 am

Blogger BlindJak said...

The inclusion of Walcott is utter madness. If he really is that great a talent why has Wenger no played him himself? As they won all of their last four games by two clear goals there has been plenty of opportunity for Wenger to give him five mins here or there. Yet when it comes to England he’s poured honey in Sven’s ear and tells him he’s ready? It seems to me that Wenger wants to use the world cup as a way to blood the young man at no risk or expense to his own clubs ambitions.

And how could Sven fall for it? How can a manager at international level pick a player he’s only seen in videos and has not seen live? Even at reserve level? On the occasions which I have heard a club manager say they signed a player after watching videos of them I always think them utter fools and reserve the same contempt for Sven in this instance.

Sven may trot out the examples of Owen, Rooney and Pele but they had all played club football first and demonstrated tier ability a club level. Why not consider a hot Chelsea prospect Scott Sinclair? 16 years old, scored for fun a Bristol Rovers last season and has this season done well for Chelsea with 19 goals at reserve and youth team levels. Could it be the simple fact that there has not been a very large amount of hype to fall for?

What are the likes of Harwood, Defoe, AJ, Beattie and Bent to think? Weather you rate them or not all have at least played first team football and scored goals at the top level. Not to mention numerous caps at U21 level and in some cases senior level. They must all think they need to play for a big club before they will be considered for a cap. So what will happen if they agitate for a move to the top four clubs? They will be slated by the fans and sections of the media but what other choice do they have?

All in all Sven has picked a player purely on reputation. We have castigated him for playing Beckham on reputation so why not with Walcott? And he also seems to have picked him for his pace. Well Darren Campbell is faster yet I don’t see him in the squad.

Personally I hope that fortune smiles on Sven and that Walcott sets the world alight otherwise what will it does to the lads confidence? Could placing so much expectation and pressure on a player be too much if he fails to produce?

5/10/2006 2:44 pm

Blogger T said...

I share the concern about the pressure getting to Walcott- especially if his inclusion is pin-pointed as the reason for another England exit at a premature stage.

Despite your solid points I still back the inclusion of Walcott because of two things:

1) good judges of football (Wenger, Redknapp, and presumably Mourinho or Arnesen cos Chelsea were in for him) have said that he really is an exceptional talent;


2) I have seen him play for Soton and instantly was highly impressed.

But why not also have one of Defoe (my choice), Bent or Harewood in the squad alongside him- and ditch one of Jenas or Hargreaves? For me this makes sense- because the danger of the current selection is that England may be left exposed with v little forward options if Rooney and Owen remian injury plagued.

I also find it quite unbelievable that Sven has picked Walcott without seeing him live. But I read today that it was not just Wenger that put forward the merits of Walcott... Tord Grip watched him recently (I think it was as recent as Monday!) and advised on his inclusion.

I should point out that Walcott was indeed due to make an appearance in the last week of the season but was out with a knee injury.

5/10/2006 6:27 pm

Blogger T said...

El, I do feel that it was really unfortunate for your team to suffer food poisoning.

5/10/2006 6:44 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I agree with Blindjak, and I am bewildered. To reiterate BJ, Bent, Harewood, Defoe as reserve, does this indicate a reasonable manager would choose Walcott ahead of these strikers, considering how they have all played? Bent the highest scoring Englishman this season? T, I have to say, seeing Walcott for Southampton is a different prospect to facing some of the best defenders and markers in the world.

I cannot believe Eriksson made this decision at the omission of the others, without regularly seeing one selection play first-team football. Had Eriksson chosen Andrew Johnson, at least we have seen him score plentiful 2004-2005 in the top flight. A word in Eriksson's ear? It's as suspicious as the current Rotten-ham conspiracy. It just wouldn't happen at all at international level, but wager on Eriksson to break tradition and lead the nation into either further hope or renewed concern. And as BJ said, how do the other players feel?

It is all very well saying Walcott could come on and set the tournament alight, which would be fantastic to see, no doubt, but other players have gone through the first-team proven barrier and are worthy of a call-up. As I detailed above, mentioned further by BJ, that the likes of Owen, Rooney and Pele played first-team football before their international debut.

I read, amongst other publications, a tabloid that featured Ian Wright's displeasure at SWP's omission, because of his obvious interests. It has done SWP no good his failure to make the first team, and the argument could swing that he should also be included if Eriksson can judge a player without recent or sufficient first-team action. 'Wrighty' considered Eriksson is getting him back for past criticism, so who knows, other than Eriksson, but I recall SWP last providing the cross for Joe Cole to score the winner against Argentina. Such a talent and he could be hit hard from this. Eriksson has made a number of concerning decisions and movements, both publicly and privately, and this is another which has made him that much more unpredictable.


5/10/2006 9:26 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Eriksson is probably being a little tricky...a gamble is a gamble...and since he now has no pressure....he might as well gamble with the hopes of the whole country of England!

Walcott might start out to be a disctraction fact he might not even play if the regulars come back in (IF Rooney and Owen become fit). The biggest gamble, be it Walcott/Bent/ that without Owen and leaves us with only CROUCH as the only recognisable striker! Now THAT should really be the talking point...

I fully endorse that Bent and Defoe should probably be ahead of Walcott, and as Redsman's point was made, probably at the expense of Jenas, Hargeaves etc.

At the end of the day...the distraction is probably it soaks up all the question that should be asked of the other players! Now THAT is probably the PR masterstroke...

5/11/2006 10:27 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the suspicion of Walcotts selection. Does anyone else feel as if David Dein and Arsene Wenger are taking over football in this country!!!
Aside from the conspiracy theories I think its important to consider that if Rooney were fit, Walcott would be nowhere near the England squad. sven would've taken Defoe and that would be that. In the face of rooneys injury Sven has taken a gamble and that gamble is Owen. If owen gets injured or is not fully fit we are completely screwed. Crouch or walcott to start anyone? didn't think so. Agree Hargreaves is a pointless squad player when Jenas is competent midfield cover. Feel for Ledley as if he were fit he'd be a certainty for the WC but even as a spurs fan I'll admit its the position where we have the most cover so fair enough. SWP must be taking a long hard look at his career....

5/11/2006 1:00 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I agree with the King part, Anon (1.00PM), as there is adequate cover his inclusion isn't necessary, though he could hold in midfield as he had done before, but the midfield is sufficiently chosen as well. Otherwise, King may well have been there at the expense of Lennon. Maybe not. But the stark reality at the moment is Owen could start or we will without Rooney and Owen, therefore Crouch and Walcott. Or even Crouch solo in a 4-5-1. Or even Crouch supported by Cole, as Eriksson suggested the Chelsea man can add himself to the frontline. Here is why I say Walcott shouldn't be included, Bent or Harewood should, or even Defoe if five strikers are taken, which is what I say should happen. Owen should be OK come June 10th, as for the 15th and 20th the Paraguay game could determine that.

I hope Owen hasn't been rushed or has been rushing himself to get out just for the World Cup, that would be so ludicrous and a setback on a level we could be witnessing right now with Eriksson prohibiting him from Shearer's testimonial. Rooney will not make the opening game, Owen is likely to and therefore be up with Crouch, that is as realistic as it can possibly be. If Walcott goes, then he would make a suitable sub for Owen in order to keep Owen's fitness in check. As Walcott and Crouch are familiar with each other from St. Mary's, that's a positive.


5/11/2006 4:06 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

redsman - good point about Crouch and Walcott, though I think they were together only about a month
skg - I believe Walcott said he ran 100 metres in 11.5s when he was 14. He recently said he believes Henry is just a hair quicker than him. Allegedly his teammate Clichy is quicker than Henry.

I personally would rather have Nolan and Reo-Coker in place of Jenas and Hargreaves, but I can understand his choices at this stage - he wouldn't want too many players without international/European experience. That said, he could have used one of those meaningless friendlies to try them out instead of making them truly meaningless.

5/12/2006 3:14 am


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