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!