How we should look to replace the ageing key players
Same old or look to the future?
Following on from yet again, a disappointing turnout at Euro 2012. England are looking at the likes of John Terry (31) and Steven Gerrard (32) in particular, thinking perhaps they can make the squad in Brazil 2014 after the eagle-eyed Pirlo drew a lot of attention to himself and his resurging country after an impressive Euros for the Italians.
However, with John Terry somewhat lacking the pace he did in his earlier years and most country's strikers looking as sharp as ever, would he be able to cope at 33? It's debatable. John Terry, on his day, is a world-class defender. His grit, bravery and determination is something that should be desired by those around him. But for me, I can't help but think this side needs experimentation. Gary Cahill will be 28 come Brazil 2014 and he is looking as though he is a defender in a similar mould to that of Terrys character. (the Bridge and Terry fiasco aside) Cahill possesses composure in possession and tenacity in the tackle. Although they form a formidable pairing when playing alongside one another at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's defensive record still leaves a lot to be desired from the season gone by. The question is, would you rather have a vastly experience 33 year-old in your starting eleven or a 28 year old who should then be in his prime come Brazil 2014?
I'm a big fan of John Terrys, don't get me wrong. However, I just don't think this England squad should be based around the reputable players anymore. And many of people will have echoed this sentiment for years gone by! There is a vast array of centre-backs to choose from; Gary Cahill as previously mentioned, Phil Jagielka of Everton, Ryan Shawcross of Stoke and Joleon Lescott of Manchester City. All consistently solid for their respective clubs and all arguably as good as Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Yet Ferdinand and Terry were constantly the pairing we saw prior to Euro 2012 in the big competitions. It just didn't work, Lescott and Terry were equally as unsuccessful at Euro 2012, crashing out yet again in the quarters, paying the punishing penalty shoot-out. Or perhaps a semi-final is too much to ask of our current crop of players?
Germany have set a nice benchmark for the other teams, their oldest defender being Phillip Lahm at the prime age of 28 and oldest midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger being a mere 27. Just look at how competitive they consistently are in the major tournaments, they play free-flowing attacking football as well as staying responsible at the back and have reached the semi-finals of a tournament yet again. (20th time out of 28 attempts) They also have an arsenal of young guns in their squad which includes the Dortmund trio Mario Gotze, Mats Hummels and Marco Reus - all of which could probably walk into our current starting eleven. England on the other hand, I have seen play some good football; don't get me wrong! But for me, it's not fluid, we're far too rigid and have focused far too much on defensive responsibility when taking a lead as opposed to pushing on for another. The last time we reached a semi-final was in 1996, which was 16 years ago, yes, 16 years! It's hardly a commendable statistic, considering we didn't feature in Euro 2008. Our bright-spark when it comes to our latest Euros squad was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, touted by many as our young knight in shining armour; was only allowed to show glimpses of his potential ability in the tournament, kept on leash when a bit of flair and intent going forward was required against the diligent Italians. With that in mind, Stewart Downing, a questionable selection anyway with his 0 assists and goals in the Premier League in the 2011/12, was left out of every fixture but had much more international experience. This says to me Roy Hodgson believes in the Arsenal wonderkid, which is what we need in our young lads of this generation, belief.
With the days of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard as our centre-midfield pairing withering away, and Scott Parker, again, not getting any younger. This allows for the likes of Jack Rodwell and Jordan Henderson to stake a claim for a starting birth in 2014, providing the former can fight-off injuries which have thus far hampered his club progress. The latter has his fair-share of critics, and the seasons ahead are important for him to prove them wrong and earn a place in that England midfield. Phil Jones continually looks comfortable at such a tender age to cope with the rigours of playing for a reputable club of that of Manchester Uniteds, this is certaintly putting him in good stead to take on that anchor man role by the threshold and make it his own. Calling for change is one thing, but Steven Gerrard is our captain and as the Spanish call it - 'el capitano' will be very hard to budge off his metaphorical throne in that attacking midfield role. He is undoubtedly a game-changer and quality player, but signs of aging and loss of stamina were evident in the Euros for him and Scott Parker. Only time will tell whether the pair are up for the challenge in 2 years time or not.
It's time for a change and if we act now, we can compete more intensely as we've been expected to in the past: brining the youth is the way forward, a ruling of at least 2 Englishman in your starting eleven and bench in a Premier League match would definitely make for increased credible exploitation of young English talent. Expectation has always seen us crash and burn and ignite the media into a frenzy of criticism. It's always hard to take in when countries similarly positioned in the world rankings are constantly out-doing us, but what do rankings and statistics mean when it comes to a vigorous 90 minutes of football, hey? I respect the managerial position is going to be a daunting task for any sane man to take on but as a person who has always been for opportunity; in Roy I trust.