With the 2010 World Cup just over a month away, I analyse who I believe Fabio Capello will name in his England squad and look at some of the options available to him, this first post is about the defenders.
Which Defenders Will Capello name in his England 2010 World Cup Squad?
I think we can all agree that Capello will name 8 defenders in his squad and his first choice back four will be Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Glenn Johnson, if all are fit.
While Terry and Ferdinand haven't been in the greatest form of their careers, I can't see Capello making any drastic decisions and changing them at this late stage.
Glenn Johnson has been Capello's first choice right back for a while now, while Ashley Cole's position in the team is without doubt, as he is one of the best left backs in the world.
This leaves four spaces to fill as cover. Personally I hope Capello takes only three extra defenders including a utility player to cover two spaces so that he can take an extra striker, after all, goals win World Cups. I can't see that happening though, so I will base this article on there being 8 defenders.
The first covering player would appear to be Matthew Upson. I don't agree with this selection as he has had an average season at best for West Ham, even when he is in form I believe there are better English defenders in the Premier League, and he hasn't convinced me at international level either.
But he has been in most of Capello's recent squads and it is hard to see him being left out now. So I am going to assume that Upson will be one of the two covering central defenders in the squad.
But what of the other England World Cup squad centre-half candidates?
Phil Jagielka, he has now played around 10 games since coming back from the knee injury that kept him out for 10 months, and such is his good form he looks like he has never been away. A big plus point in his favour is that he should still be feeling fresh come the summer.
Another strong candidate could be Ledley King. There has been a lot of strong rumours in the papers that Capello has already told King he in the squad.
My only concern with King is given the situation with Rio's troublesome back problem, could England afford to take a risk on two players in the same position who don't ever seem fit enough to play two games in three or four days?
Apart from that Ledley is class, and would walk into any squad if it wasn't for his knee problems.
Michael Dawson is now staking a late claim for his inclusion. At the moment he must be the most improved, and the most in form defender in the country. Capello would have noted his recent good performances against Arsenal and Chelsea, he has to be in with a chance.
Sol Campbell has showed lately at Arsenal that he has still got what it takes. The recent passage of play that seen him keep up with Gareth Bale and then dispossess him was as surprising as it was magnificent, showing he can still do a job. If Capello wants a man who has been there and done it, then maybe Sol could go.
Ones for the future?
Of some of the other candidates, Gary Cahill and Ryan Shawcross are two names that have recently been named in England squads. Cahill has only recently returned from injury for Bolton. While Shawcross' form appears to have stuttered since the incident with Aaron Ramsey.
I believe the world cup has come too soon for these two, but they are definitely a pair worth keeping an eye on for the future.
One man I hope that Capello definately won't take is Joleon Lescott. Since moving to Manchester City he has been too inconsistent. Injuries have also contributed towards his up and down form this season.
Would staying at Everton have earned Lescott a World Cup place? Probably, as in my opinion he was playing well enough when he was there.
What about Utility players?
Wes Brown is another name in the mix. Could Wes be that utility player that I hope Capello picks? He can play centre half or right back. And I'm sure at a push he could also play at left back.
All these assets must improve Brown's chances of making the plane. And that leads us nicely into the next positions......the full backs.
If Brown dosen't make the squad as a centre half, he will have a chance of going as cover at right back. There is no obvious cover for Glenn Johnson, and right backs aren't jumping out at Fabio demanding to be picked.
Of the candidates there is Micah Richards. It would appear that Capello isn't currently a fan of Richards as he has overlooked him for some time now. This would appear to rule him out.
There is one other name to throw into the mix, and that is Gary Neville. Neville, like Sol Campbell, is another one of the been there and done it candidates. I would be surprised if Capello took him though as he struggles to hold down a regular place in Manchester United's first team these days.
Such is the shortage of right backs though, his name is surely going to be up for discussion.
With Wayne Bridge, Capello's preferred choice as cover at left back making himself unavailable (at present), that leaves Leighton Baines or Stephen Warnock in the running to be the second left back.
Baines appears to be in pole position after playing the full 90 minutes in the recent friendly against Egypt. While Warnock won't have helped his chances after his high profile blunder against Man City on Saturday.
Is average Phil Neville worthy of a call up?
One name (or grenade) to throw into the mix is the one and only Phil Neville. I can't believe I'm writing this, but he is consistent(ly average) for Everton and he always does a decent job. ? You could say he is a solid steady pro. He could also be cover for both the full back positions, allowing for my extra striker to be taken!
So there we have it, the runners and riders for the 8 defensive places in Fabio Capello's World Cup squad.
For the record I think the 8 he takes will be
Leighton Baines (assuming he can't get Wayne Bridge to change his mind).
I’m not totally convinced on Phil Jagielka’s inclusion. I think it will be a tight call between himself and Ledley King for the 4th centre half position.
But I'm sure whoever misses out between the two will be put on stand by. Just in case Capello decides that he can’t take Rio Ferdinand because of his on going back problems.