I'd like to start off by saying that I am in no way patriotic. I am about as English as hating the French, but that's about it. That said though, I have, of late, gotten into football. Here's my views after today's match against Montenegro.
England 0 - 0 Montenegro
It's a sad state to be in when your returning captain has been entirely eclipsed by his Executive Officer, but such is the case tonight. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe in Rio Ferdinand's abilities as a central defender, but you don't lead a team from central defense. You lead a team from the front, which was exactly what Steven Gerrard always tried to do. The man is a born leader, and every fan in the house has always responded to him beautifully. Nobody wanted Rio back. We were happy with Phil Jagielka covering our arses in central defense, we just wanted Rio to help him out. He has a big head. That's awesome.
I am yet to find anybody with something bad to say (performance-wise) about Ashley Cole. Let's not even start there. Though he seems to prefer a long ball game, I'm also quite happy with the way Glen Johnson has been performing. In fact, defensively, we're doing well. I saw Joe Hart playing in the friendly against Japan before the world cup, and he was just as stunning then as he is now.
It's at the midfield where we start to unravel for one simple reason. We're simply too good with box-to-box players in the middle. Gerrard is, quite obviously, a star. From his first goal to his latest, his goals come from nowhere through a sea of bodies. Personally, I would likely have him farther forward, and keep Frank Lampard back to hold the middle. I'd be much happier with an attacking midfielder to leave the pack than a defensive one like Gareth Barry. It just seems like a defensive move that's only weakening our attack and thus giving our opposition time to regroup.
Adam Johnson is awesome. He doesn't link up fantastically, and at times he's a little too hungry to fire one in, but as midfield strikers go, I'm incredibly impressed. Like Gerrard, he can fire it in through a crowd. Like Lampard, he can appear in the box with a kick of legend when nobody's even noticed him sneaking up. He just needs to put these things together. He plays the wing well. For the left side I'm not all that sure. Walcott seems to run out of steam a little too quickly. You know what? Let's go a little mad and line Johnson and Johnson opposite Ashley Cole and Joe Cole. Joe Cole isn't suited to playing right behind the attack because he needs a little room to manoeuvre, but he's a tricky little bastard when he wants to be.
In the attack, I'm unsure. With Gerrard supporting, and Cole and Johnson on the wing, I feel confident that they'll get plenty of chances, but I've never been that big a fan of Wayne Rooney to be completely honest. The name that springs to mind most is always going to be Michael Owen. You've all seen what he can do, even though age and injury might be having an affect now. I would like to see him back in action. I would.
Jermain Defoe has earned the other spot methinks. He needs the ball to be basically planted either at his feet or on his head in front of the goal, but when that happens it's going to go in, no questions asked.
That's who I'd pick. Just for the sake of it.