Capello’s Goalkeeping Dilemma
By Dave Gibbons.
Over the coming weeks I will present a position by position breakdown on Fabio Capello’s squad selection. Who will be on the plane to South Africa and who will miss out and be sat alongside Andy Townsend on ITV giving their in depth ‘expert’ analysis?
Firstly I will look at one of Fabio’s biggest headaches: the goalkeepers. With no keepers in the Banks, Shilton, Clemence or Seaman mould who will the Italian turn to? Here are the contenders:
David James is England’s most experienced keeper with 49 caps and more Premier League appearances than any of his peers. James was selected as Capello’s first keeper and many believed him to be the Italians first choice however now there are huge questions over his inclusion. At 39 James has been in and out of a struggling Portsmouth side this season due to injury and has not started for England for over a year, which must leave serious doubts that he can still cope with the strenuous demands of tournament football. Despite being an excellent shot stopper ‘Calamity’ is also undoubtedly prone to making huge mistakes. Liverpool fans will remember watching in horror in April 97 as James dropped the ball at Andy Cole’s feet to gift United the title. Do not believe the hype and Harry Redknapp led propaganda, 13 years later James still makes big mistakes as could be seen with his recent air kick against Chelsea. Could he really be trusted on the world’s biggest stage?
James will make the plane by the skin of his teeth due to the experience he offers but surely due to poor fitness and lack of form he will be England’s third choice keeper in South Africa.
When Sir Alex Ferguson paid Stoke £1million for the services or Ben Foster it was predicted that he would establish himself as United and England’s first choice and become one of the top keepers in the world. Unfortunately for Foster not all has gone to plan as injury and poor form has plagued him and he now finds himself as Man Utd’s third choice making only 9 appearances this season. Although not all is lost for Foster as Capello has consistently selected Foster in his squads and started the keeper against Belarus and Brazil ahead of in form Joe Hart. However Capello has himself stated that players must consistently be playing for their club sides to be considered for his World Cup squad and this will surely see Foster missing the cut.
Foster will stay at home on the basis that he is not playing regularly for his club side. Surely his only hope of making the squad would be an injury to another keeper and even then there are other players in better form. I believe Foster’s England time will come but not until he leaves Man Utd.
When Fabio Capello overlooked Rob Green in his first England squad the keeper humorously responded by sporting gloves with ‘England’s number 6’ embroidered on them. How times have changed for the West Ham keeper who now finds himself as the Italian’s fist choice keeper having started 7 of the last 9 internationals. The only halt in Green’s progress to the English goalkeeping summit was his sending off in the 1-0 defeat to Ukraine however the incident is likely to have little affect on the keeper’s selection. Green is an excellent shot stopper; making 108 saves this season and stopping 65% of shots coming his way in a difficult season for West Ham. Green however is susceptible to errors when claiming high balls but he is not alone with David James suffering the same Achilles heel. Many will also point out that Green has performed well in comfortable qualifiers but in more strenuous tests against Holland and Ukraine he was far from convincing which leaves question marks over the keeper’s ability to perform in the big games.
Robert Green will undoubtedly be on the plane to South Africa and it is more than likely that he will take his place in England’s starting 11 on the 12th of June against the USA.
Two of England’s top goalkeeping prospects began the season at a Manchester club facing the prospect of spending the season as being second choice. Ben Foster decided to stay with Man Utd and has watched his World Cup hopes evaporate. In contrast Joe Hart took a loan move to unfashionable Birmingham and has established himself as one of the top keepers in the Premiership and surely now stands on the brink of World Cup selection. After a shaky start to the 09/10 season Hart’s form rapidly improved and he is now integral to Birmingham’s impressive defence, which has led to such a strong season under Alex McLeish. Hart has saved an incredible 74% of shots fired at him this season and therefore arguably has been the main reason that the Blues have conceded a relatively low 38 goals thus far. Despite Hart’s form this season his selection may be in question due to his lack of experience. During Capello’s reign Hart has not always been included in each squad and has only won one cap against Trinidad and Tobago in 2008. Many expected Hart to be selected in the recent friendly against Egypt but his absence in the starting line up may suggest that Capello does not see him as a potential number 1.
As arguably the most in form English goalkeeper Joe Hart will make the squad for South Africa. However unless he features in the friendlies against Mexico and Japan Hart will have to make do with being England’s second choice.
With 40 caps in form Paul Robinson offers the experience that Green, Hart and Foster lack. Robinson is also the only goalkeeper in contention that has appeared in a previous World Cup which could provide invaluable expeirence that the other keepers cannot offer. However Robinson has not played for England since defeat to Russia in 2007 and he is unlikely to force his way back into the squad.
Robinson’s form and experience should put him well ahead of James and Foster. Capello is unlikely to agree and Robinson will stay at home and his fledgling punditry career will continue to flourish.
A talented keeper with who promised so much until his international career was destroyed by Steve McClaren and Niko Kranjčar. Carson has been in good form for West Brom this season but Capello is unlikely to take much notice of a Championship keeper.
Despite being named in previous Capello squads and appearing as a substitute against Germany in Berlin, Scott Carson will be staying at home this summer.
A decent keeper playing in a poor side. When Spurs put 9 past Wigan this season Kirkland actually played ok but these hammerings do not fill you with the confidence needed to perfrom at the highest level. Kirkland is also injury prone and is unlikely to be able to deal with the demands of tournament football.
Kirkland has not played for England since 2006 and his second cap will not be coming any time soon.
So in summary I believe Rob Green, Joe Hart and David James will make the squad for the World Cup. Not exactly an enviable list which doesn’t even come close to the depth of keepers available to Spain manager Vicente del Bosque. In contention for their number 1 shirt is the world’s best goalkeeper Iker Casillas, arguably the Premier League’s top stopper Pepe Reina, the impressive Diego Lopez and the hugely promising Sergio Asenjo. Unbelievably Barcelona’s European Champion Victor Valdes is unlikely to be anywhere near the Spanish squad. With all these talented Spanish keepers around how did we end up with Manuel Almunia offering his services?!?
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