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All Things Footie | Tuesday, May 14 | Jordan

Pear Shaped

As Giles Smith so wonderfully summed up (in Monday's Daily Telegraph);

‘On Saturday, members of the England squad were dropping faster than Ruud Van Nistelrooy under an innocuous challenge in the penalty area.’

To compound the problem they all seemed to be part of Sven's seven selected midfield team. With Steven Gerrard and Kieran Dyer almost certainly out and Nicky Butt looking less and less likely to make it; things are looking decidedly awry in the centre of the park.

From a flat four in midfield to a bizarre emergency christmas tree/rhomboid formation — it couldn't go much worse for England's prospects this summer. All we need now is for Owen to fall down the stairs in training and Beckham to stub his toe on an empty bottle of Champagne. Though it does seem that — more through (bad) luck than judgement — Eriksson may end up using my (and a few others I guess) preferred tactic of Wayne Bridge and Ashley Cole down the left. To take the advice 8000 Arsenal fans offered at Old Trafford and ‘look on the bright side’ this could be a boost to England. Being forced to use two naturally left sided wide players may end up being a blessing in disguise (though not for Kieran Dyer obviously).

Of course the big subject for debate now — after a fairly agreeable squad was announced on Friday — is who to replace the missing pair/trio/fingers crossed it doesn't become a quartet. It seems that Danny Murphy (first standby) and Trevor Sinclair were the names at the top of Sven's list; and it wouldn't be a World Cup build up if a few decisions weren't questioned.

The one baffling omission from squad contention is Real Madrid's Steve McManaman. I've never been his biggest fan, particularly in the workrate department, but there's no denying his talent and ability. He has plenty of experience in big games and can play anywhere across the middle. No offence to Trevor Sinclair but I don't believe he has that certain spark that separates players of International ability from fine domestic performers.

There's something that — despite comparable domestic goalscoring records — separates players like Alan Shearer and Andy Cole. An ability to score against quality defenders and produce your best displays when backs and walls are intimately acquainted. Cole, like Sinclair, is a player who turns it on when every one else does, who takes his chances when all around them are firing on all cylinders (as Ron might say). That's not to say McManaman doesn't possess a great deal of similar traits, but I feel that he has the ability to turn a game and to help kill off one that's about to turn the other way.

No doubt those of you who may have deduced my allegiance to Arsenal will expect a rant about Ray Parlour's exclusion. Sorry to disappoint but I'm not going to lecture on the absence of the Romford Pele from Sven's squad (ironically nick-named, for those of you who don't realise). I'll just say that if it gets to the point where England are desperate for a hard working, experienced, versatile and talented midfielder who's as comfortable holding up play through the middle or running at defenders from the right — it's our own stupid fault that a man who's been instrumental in two double winning Premiership sides isn't even on standby.

Just to let you all know that there'll soon be two brand spanking new rants for you to enjoy, the FA Cup special (at last) and the end of season awards collectors edition. If you have any ideas for bizarre awards or you think someone's contribution deserves mentioning then let me know and I'll try to include it.

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