Theo - I'd still be leaving him out
After his excellent cameo the other night it seems likely that Theo Walcott is to be rewarded with a starting slot on the right-wing for England this evening. I have to say I’m a bit surprised. If Friday night proved anything it is that Theo has the chance to destroy any tiring defence with his searing pace. On his previous starts for England (with the obvious exception of the Croatia game) Walcott has struggled to make any impact whatsoever. I am also surprised on the grounds that Wayne Rooney will be back tonight, and anyone that has watched England this past couple of years can’t have failed to notice that Rooney will simply not pass to Theo. I will be very interested to see how that particular part of a new found team dynamic unfolds for England tonight. Could it be that the return of England’s best player upsets the ethos that has been there to see in Roy Hodgson’s matches so far?
With Rooney back it appears that Andy Carroll will be the man to miss out. Again that’s not a move I would have made. I believe the physicality of Carroll and Rooney together would disrupt any defence in international football. Put simply, they don’t like it up ‘em, and no defence in Poland/Ukraine would relish taking on that pairing. I can see why Hodgson would play Welbeck and Rooney as they developed reasonably well at Manchester United towards the end of the season. However, I think Welbeck could, like Walcott, be even more effective coming off the bench. If I was picking the England team tonight then it would look like this:
Hart – Johnson, Lescott, Terry, Cole – Young, Parker, Gerrard, Oxlade-Chamberlain – Rooney, Carroll.
I can see no point in playing James Milner again, so I would be bringing in The Ox to take over on the right. On form I would drop Ashley Young but, as I said, I think Theo is a great option from the bench so that’s why Young would keep his place for the time being.
A win tonight sees England in the quarter-final. It is likely that they will finish second in the group and have to play Spain in the next round. If last night showed England anything then it is that Spain can be beaten. Croatia were incredibly unlucky not to beat them. Refereeing decisions again went with the fancied team and the Croats missed a great chance to make it 1-0. Spain’s late goal was not a deserved winner. I may be in a minority but I find Spain’s passing game incredibly frustrating. It is not an exciting way to play the game unless played at pace. If Lionel Messi was Spanish we would see a “Barcelona” style, but Spain do not have Messi. The decision to play large chunks of matches without a centre-forward is not an inspiring tactic. If England do win their group they will play Italy, and they have every chance of winning that one too.
Arsenal have finally managed to get me a seat move for next season. I currently sit in row 23 of the upper tier at Ashburton Grove. I sit in line with the edge of the 18 yard box at the North end of the stadium. This is the same line I sat on at Highbury, but that was in row 5! When we moved to the new ground Arsenal gave priority on seat choice to their new season ticket holders. This meant people like me being shunted to the back of the stand, if we wanted to stay with the same kind of view. Being 23 rows back has made watching Arsenal like watching Subbuteo down on the pitch. It is simply too far away as far as I’m concerned. You can always identify your own players, but working out who is on the ball for the opponent is not easy. It is also impossible to see who is warming up to come off the bench on the far side of the pitch. Thankfully a move some 19 rows further forward, on the same line, will make watching the game an altogether more pleasurable experience.
I was going to use this piece to praise Arsenal for getting me the move nearer the front. However, this has taken since we moved in to happen. The fact that we are finally getting a move some six years after leaving Highbury shows how Arsenal are now seeing their “new” fans deserting them. Seven years without a trophy, and selling the best players year on year, has seen a lot of the Johnny-Come-Lately types failing to renew their season tickets. Those of us that have always been around, will always be around I think. Those that bought in to the whole thing because we were winning trophies are starting to move away.However, Arsenal annoy their traditional fans at their peril, because if the likes of us did walk away, there would be nothing left.